Kentucky is continually working to improve of P-12 education. Below are some of the major accomplishments that mark the state's educational progress.
- Implemented Senate Bill 1 (2009). This legislation raised the bar on public education in Kentucky in an effort to better prepare students for success in college and postsecondary endeavors.
o Adopted and implemented new academic standards in English/language arts and mathematics (2011) and science (2013). The new
Kentucky Core Academic Standards define the minimum that Kentucky students are expected to know at every grade level. These
standards are more rigorous than previous standards and are aligned with college/career-expectations. They promote creative and
critical thinking over rote memorization, and prepare students with the problem solving, collaboration, creativity and
communication skills that today’s jobs demand.
o Created a system of Leadership Networks. The networks are designed to support the high-quality implementation of Senate Bill 1
(2009). By involving teachers and leaders from every district in the state along with staff from the Kentucky Department of
Education, education cooperatives and higher education, the regional networks build the capacity of each school district as it
implements the Kentucky’s Core Academic Standards and aligned assessments, develops assessment literacy among all educators
and works toward ensuring that every student is college- and career-ready.
o Implemented new assessments, Program Reviews and a balanced accountability system. New, more meaningful assessments
aligned with college/career-readiness standards include both formative assessments that inform instruction as well as summative
assessments of student performance and progress. Program Reviews in arts and humanities, practical living/career studies and
writing ensure student learning opportunities in subjects critical to a well-rounded education and support program improvement.
The Unbridled Learning Accountability System more accurately reflects all the major elements that define school and district success
and ultimately impact student success.
To see the most current data related to school and district performance, visit the Open House
- Increased student achievement.
o In 2013, overall student performance improved from 2012 with the percentage of proficient and distinguished students increasing
in nearly every subject at every grade level on state assessments.
o On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Kentucky 4th graders and 8th graders continue to outperform their peers
nationally in reading even with the inclusion of more students with special needs. In science, 4th and 8th graders score significantly
above the national average.
o More students, including more minority students, are taking Advanced Placement tests and scoring higher.
o High school graduates’ overall composite scores on the ACT increased as did their performance in every subject; the percentage of
students meeting Council on Postsecondary Education benchmarks is also up in all subjects.
- Increased the percentage of students graduating from high school. In 2013, Kentucky moved to a cohort graduation rate, the same as what most other states use and a more accurate way to measure the number of students who graduate. Kentucky’s rate of 86 percent is among the highest in the nation.
- Increased the percentage of students ready for college and careers. More than half of graduating students (54 percent) are now considered ready to take credit-bearing college courses or a postsecondary training program. The rate is up 20 percent from 2010. In cooperation with the Department of Workforce Development, KDE designed and implemented Operation Preparation, a community-based advising program for 8th- and 10th-grade students. KDE also partnered with the Lt. Governor’s office to expand “Close the Deal” to more districts across the state. The program is aimed at challenging high school seniors, especially in districts with low college-going rates, to pursue additional education after graduation.
- Created an online School Report Card. In an effort to increase transparency and encourage improvement, an online data base provides key performance and other school, district and state education information to parents and the public
- Earned national recognition for education improvement.
o In Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report of key education indicators, Kentucky ranked 10th, moving up from 34th place in
2010. This reflects efforts to improve teaching, raise student achievement and many other variables related to public education.
o A Harvard study ranked Kentucky eighth in student performance improvement in the last two decades.
o According to the Data Quality Campaign, Kentucky has implemented all but one of ten actions to ensure effective data use among
teachers, policymakers and parents -- making it among the state leaders in effective educational data use. The average among
states was 6.6 actions; only two states had implemented all ten.
- Piloted and implemented a common Kindergarten readiness screener statewide. Kentucky’s public schools and teachers use the screener results to ensure that all children receive the support they need to be successful in school. Communities use the data to help support parents and the development of high quality early learning opportunities for young children.
- Implemented a statewide working conditions survey of school-based educators. Results from the biennial Teaching Empowering, Leading, and Learning Survey (TELL) are used to improve working conditions for educators which directly impact learning conditions for students. In 2013 more than 44,000 educators took part, about an 87 percent response rate.
- Developed, field tested and piloted a new Professional Growth and Effectiveness System for teachers, principals and superintendents. The system defines effectiveness, uses multiple measures and focuses on educator support, professional learning and continuous improvement to ensure every student is taught by an effective teacher, every school is led by an effective principal and every district is run by an effective superintendent. The superintendent system also provides the public with additional transparency of local board of education decisions and district operations.
- Created a process to encourage innovative approaches to raising student achievement. “Districts of Innovation,” created by House Bill 37 (2012), offers Kentucky public school districts the opportunity to come up with new or creative alternatives to existing instructional and administrative practices, while providing relief from certain administrative regulations and statutory provisions in an effort to improve student learning.
- Secured flexibility (federal waivers) on some provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Federal waivers allow Kentucky to have a single accountability system that is based on more than just proficiency and promotes continuous improvement rather than labeling schools and districts pass or fail. It reveals student learning gaps that were unintentionally masked under No Child Left Behind. Waivers provide districts more flexibility in the use of federal dollars for school improvement and promote increased educator effectiveness through professional growth and development.
- Won a $17 million Race to the Top grant. The money was used for professional learning and to support implementation of new standards (see next item on CIITS) and to expand AdvanceKentucky sites, which provide access to, preparation for and successful student participation in Advanced Placement (AP) Courses.
- Developed and implemented the Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System (CIITS). This online technology platform brings together academic standards, instructional materials, formative assessments, student performance results, educator evaluation and prescriptive professional learning into a one-stop shop to support student and educator improvement. The system is registering more than one million logins each month.
- Established the Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky. This independent 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation is designed to help support innovative strategies in Kentucky public schools, promoting creative and collaborative solutions by conducting research, spurring dialogue, incubating innovative ideas, brokering partnerships and scaling promising practices. The Fund seeks dollars to provide support to school districts outside of traditional state, federal and local sources.
- Implemented a comprehensive system of school and district improvement and support. House Bill 176 (2010) provided much-needed interventions in the state’s lowest-performing schools. Now, Kentucky is able to offer school districts more options to help them improve. The process of improvement planning for all schools is used as the means of determining how schools and districts plan to ensure that all students graduate college- and career-ready. A best practices website provides a platform for sharing what works best.
- Implemented a fair and consistent way to assess school facilities. The Kentucky Facilities Inventory and Classification System assesses the physical condition, educational suitability and technology readiness of the schools to guide funding decisions.
- Raised the compulsory school age to 18. Senate Bill 97 (2013) cleared the way for districts to adopt a policy raising the compulsory school age to 18 starting in the 2015-16 school year. To date, 149 of the state’s 173 school districts have done so.The new compulsory school age policy will become mandatory statewide in the 2017-18 school year.
- Reforming Career and Technical Education. Kentucky is in the process of developing and implementing a new model of secondary career and technical education with an emphasis on innovation and integration of core academics, 21st-century skills, project-based learning and the establishment of full-time career and technical education (CTE) programs. This effort recognizes career and technical education as a viable alternative career pathway for students.
- Implemented a statewide electronic transcript service. eTranscript, makes it easier for students to submit high school transcripts to colleges. The system is free to students attending all in-state and many out-of-state colleges.
National Rankings - Kentucky
While there is no single overall ranking of states in P-12 education, there are rankings based on a number of specific variables.
(Please note that the rankings below do not reflect current-year data, but rather the most recent year available. Information for these rankings was gathered from the National Education Association and the National Center for Education Statistics.)
NEA National Rankings - Kentucky (2012-13)
• Number of public school students: 27th
• Number of public school teachers: 28th
• Pupil-teacher ratio: 16th highest
• Per-pupil expenditures: 33rd28th
• Average teacher salary: 27th
• Percentage of public school revenues from local sources: 38th
• Percentage of public school revenues from state sources: 15th
• Percentage of public school revenues from federal sources: 14th
• Per-capita spending on P-12 education: 40th [based on 2010-11 figures]
NCES National Rankings – Kentucky
• Percentage of high school dropouts: tied for 13th lowest of 50 states and the District of Columbia (2009-10 – national average: 3.4%; Kentucky average: 3.2%)
• Percentage of freshmen who graduate from high school: 23rd highest of 50 states and the District of Columbia (2009-10 – national average: 78.2%; Kentucky average: 79.9%)
• Percentage of student ethnicity: (Fall 2010)
- Asian: 31st
- Black/African American: 25th
- Hispanic: 39th
- White: 6th
- Two or more races: 22nd
• Percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals: 8th (2010-11)
• Percentage of Title I schools: 16th (2010-119
• Percentage of Title I schools with schoolwide services: 11th (2010-11)
• Percentage of teachers who hold master's degrees: 7th (2007-08)
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is also known as "The Nation's Report Card." NAEP has been conducting assessments since 1969. NAEP's 2011 reading and math assessments showed that Kentucky's 4th graders have made progress since 1998 in those subjects.
From 1998 to 2013, Kentucky’s average scale score in 4th-grade reading rose from 218 to 224. Nationally, the average 4th-grade reading scale score rose from 213 to 221 during the same period.
In 4th-grade mathematics, Kentucky’s average scale score increased from 221 to 241 from 2000 to 2013. Nationally, the average 4th-grade mathematics scale score rose from 226 to 241 during the same time period.
Kentucky 8th graders also have made progress. In reading, Kentucky’s average 8th-grade reading scale score improved from 262 to 270 from 1998 to 2013. Nationally, the average 8th-grade scale score in reading moved from 261 to 264 during the same period.
In 8th-grade mathematics, Kentucky’s average scale score increased from 270 to 281 from 2000 to 2013. The national average scale score in 8th-grade mathematics rose from 272 to 284 during the same period.
NAEP also assesses science, with the most recent administration for 4th grade in 2009. That year, Kentucky's 4th graders' average score of 158 was 9 points above the national average. Kentucky 8th graders took the most recent NAEP science test in 2011 and scored an average of 153 in science, six points above the national average.
NAEP assessments follow the subject area frameworks developed by the National Assessment Governing Board and use the latest advances in assessment methodology. NAEP assessments include multiple-choice and constructed-response questions. NAEP does not report scores for individual students or schools.
NAEP bases its results on a sample of students and provides data at the state and national level. States and districts receiving Title I funds are required to participate in state NAEP in reading and mathematics at grades 4 and 8 every two years. State participation in other state NAEP subjects (science and writing) remains voluntary.
To learn more about Kentucky's progress, visit the State Profile for Kentucky on the National Center for Education Statistics website
. Education Week - "Quality Counts"
In 2012, Kentucky’s ranking in an annual grading of all states on key education indicators rose dramatically, placing the state 14th in the nation for its work on academic standards, the teaching profession and many other variables related to public education.
Each year, Education Week (a national publication that focuses on P-12 education) produces a special issue, “Quality Counts.” The report tracks key education indicators and grades states on their policy efforts and outcomes. In 2013, Kentucky ranked 10th in the nation in this annual report.
“Quality Counts” provides data and information about states’ efforts in six areas:
• K-12 Achievement
• Standards, Assessments & Accountability
• Teaching Profession
• School Finance
• Transitions & Alignment
• Chance for Success (an index that combines information from 13 indicators that cover state residents’ lives from cradle to career)
States were assigned overall letter grades based on the average of scores for the six categories. In 2013, Kentucky’s overall grade was B-, an improvement over 2012's year’s grade and a higher grade than the national average, which was a C+.
No states received a grade of A in the 2013 edition of “Quality Counts.” The highest-ranking state was Maryland, with a B+. Three states received B grades; eight states (including Kentucky) received B- grades.
Nationwide, Kentucky ranked 13th in K-12 Achievement; 20th in Standards, Assessment and Accountability; 5th in Teaching Profession; 34th in School Finance; 4th in Transitions and Alignment; and 38th in the Chance for Success index.
“Quality Counts” also provides detailed scoring for each major area, and on a 100-point scale, Kentucky scored at 90 or above in five areas: School Accountability (Standards, Assessment & Accountability), Building & Supporting Capacity (Teaching Profession), Early Childhood Education, College Readiness, Economy and Workforce (Transitions and Alignment). The state’s lowest score was in the area of Spending (School Finance), in which Kentucky’s total was 53.4 points.
ACT Scores – Public School Graduates
Kentucky Averages (on a 36 point scale)
NOTE: 2009 was the first year for which data was reported for Kentucky public school students only. ACT’s national-level data includes both public and nonpublic school students.
*includes only students taking the test in the standard time given
ACT Scores – All High School Graduates
Kentucky’s SAT scores have improved over the past few years. In 2013, the average Critical Reading score was 587 (compared to 566 in 2008); the average Math score was 591 (compared to 573 in 2008); and the average Writing score was 571 (compared to 550 in 2008).
A very small percentage of Kentucky public school students take the SAT -- only 3 percent of graduating public school seniors participated in the test in 2013.
Advanced Placement Data
The number of Kentucky public high school students taking Advanced Placement (AP) examinations and scoring at high levels continues to rise. Since 2008, the number of Kentucky public high school students taking AP examinations has risen by 48 percent. The number of tests scored at 3, 4 or 5 has increased by about 50 percent.
In 2013, 28,147 students took 45,553 AP exams, and of those exams, 21,922 were scored at 3, 4 or 5. This is an improvement over 2008, when 14,664 students took 23,280 exams, and 10,925 of those were scored at 3, 4 or 5.