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New school year rejuvenates educators

As August rolls to a close, it is time for thousands of Ohio children to go back to school.

Although it is never easy for kids to trade in summer fun for No. 2 pencils, three-ring binders and textbooks, there is always excitement in the air among students and educators as they begin the journey of another academic year.

On Aug. 18, I had the privilege of giving the keynote address for the White Coat ceremony at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine. This is an event where first-year medical students receive their white coats as they study to become doctors.

I watched as each student received their white coat with wide-eyed anticipation. In addressing these doctors-to-be, I talked about my experience at Ohio University in the 1970s and the tremendous impact OUCOM has had on health care in southern Ohio.

I also explained that as a state legislator, I want to continue to help improve the health and well-being of the people in our region and across the state, but the real differences come when individuals in each family and each community strive to be healthier.

Also, while the legislature has made tremendous strides in improving health care access and affordability in recent years, it will be the dedication of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals that will have the biggest influence on the health of Ohioans. Education is much like health care in this regard.

Recently, I visited with my sons’ teachers and could feel the enthusiasm and anticipation in the air of a new beginning. The start of a new school year also marks an important time in a child’s growth and development. With so much at stake, we often focus on what the state has done for education whether it be preschool or postsecondary.

In this drive to achieve success and keep schools accountable for the education of our children, we have the “tests.” They are part of federal legislation and are here to stay.

Earlier this month, the Ohio Department of Education released data from its annual state report card, which grades school districts based on the performance of students on these standardized tests.

Unfortunately, while these tests are supposed to be a way to measure benchmarks to help the student, they are often used to make one school appear better than the other. There are a number of factors that can influence a student’s performance on standardized tests, including test anxiety, and they should not be the only measure of the success of the student, teacher or parent. I have spoken with the DOE, and they say the focus should be on learning the curriculum and not the test. I agree.

In the ongoing effort to improve the lives of Ohioans and maximize Ohio’s success in education, health care and other areas, government can only do so much.

The real difference will be made in the work of everyday Ohioans—doctors, teachers, parents, students, policemen, firemen, community leaders, etc. As another school year is set to begin, I wish every student good luck and thank all the parents and teachers across Ohio for their hard work, dedication and commitment.

Sen. John A. Carey represents the 17th District.