Kentucky's P-12 Achievements

Published: 1/9/2013 1:38 PM
​How does Kentucky stack up against the nation? Find details on tests and rankings below.
State-Mandated Assessment and Accountability
Senate Bill 1, legislation passed in the 2009 session of the Kentucky General Assembly, dismantled the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) and directed the Kentucky Department of Education to develop a new system of assessment and accountability. The new system was implemented in the 2011-12 school year, and the results will be available in mid-October 2012.
To see the most current data related to school and district performance, visit the Open House portal.
National Rankings - Kentucky
When rankings of states in the area of public education are discussed, Kentucky is often noted as being ranked near the bottom overall. That is misleading.
While there is no single overall ranking of states in P-12 education, there are rankings based on a number of specific variables. For example, the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) at the University of Kentucky ranks states based on an education index that includes variables such as National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, ACT composite scores and dropout rates. Based on CBER’s analysis, Kentucky ranked 33rd among states in July 2011.
(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 (2010-11)
• Number of public school students: 27th
• Number of public school teachers: 28th
• Pupil-teacher ratio: 15th highest
• Per-pupil expenditures: 33rd
• Average teacher salary: 29th
• Percentage of public school revenues from local sources: 34th
• Percentage of public school revenues from state sources: 29th
• Percentage of public school revenues from federal sources: 3rd
• Per-capita spending on P-12 education: 48th [based on 2008-09 figures]
NCES National Rankings – Kentucky
• Percentage of high school dropouts: tied for 12th lowest of 50 states and the District of Columbia (2008-09 – national average: 4.1%; Kentucky average: 2.9%)
• Percentage of freshmen who graduate from high school: 22nd highest of 50 states and the District of Columbia (2008-09 – national average: 75.5%; Kentucky average: 77.6%)
• Percentage of student ethnicity: (2009-10)
- Native American: 41st
- Asian/Pacific Islander: 44th
- Black/African American: 25th
- Hispanic: 42nd
- White: 7th
- Two or more races: 33rd
- Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander: population too small to rank
• Percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals: 10th (2009-10)
• Percentage of Title I schools: 29th (2010-11)
• 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 2011, Kentucky’s average scale score in 4th-grade reading rose from 218 to 225. Nationally, the average 4th-grade reading scale score rose from 213 to 220 during the same period.
In 4th-grade mathematics, Kentucky’s average scale score increased from 221 to 241 from 2000 to 2011. Nationally, the average 4th-grade mathematics scale score rose from 226 to 240 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 269 from 1998 to 2011. 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 272 to 282 from 2000 to 2011. The national average scale score in 8th-grade mathematics rose from 274 to 283 during the same period.
NAEP also assesses science, with the most recent administration in 2009. That year, Kentucky's 4th graders' average score of 161 was 12 points above the national average. Kentucky 8th graders scored an average of 156 in science, seven 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 2011, Kentucky ranked 34th 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. This year, Kentucky’s overall grade was C+, an improvement over last year’s grade and a higher grade than the national average, which was a C.
No states received a grade of A in the 2012 edition of “Quality Counts.” The highest-ranking state was Maryland, with a B+. Three states received B grades; five states received B- grades; and five states (including Kentucky) received C+ grades.
Nationwide, Kentucky ranked 13th in K-12 Achievement; 20th in Standards, Assessment and Accountability; 5th in Teaching Profession; 35th in School Finance; 14th in Transitions and Alignment; and 36th 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 three areas: School Accountability (Standards, Assessment & Accountability), Building & Supporting Capacity (Teaching Profession) and Equity (School Finance). The state’s lowest score was in the area of Spending (School Finance), in which Kentucky’s total was 52.2 points.
The full report is available at

ACT Scores – Public School Graduates
Kentucky Averages
2012: 19.5
2011: 19.2
2010: 19.0
2009: 19.1
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.

ACT Scores – All High School Graduates
Kentucky/National Averages
2008: 20.9/21.1
2007: 20.7/21.2
2006: 20.6/21.1
2005: 20.4/20.3
2004: 20.3/20.9
2003: 20.2/20.8
2002: 20.0/20.8
2001: 20.1/21.0
2000: 20.1/21.0
1999: 20.1/21.0
1998: 20.2/21.0
1997: 20.1/21.0
1996: 20.1/20.9
1995: 20.1/20.8
1994: 20.1/20.8
1993: 20.1/20.7
1992: 20.0/20.6
1991: 20.0/20.6
1990: 19.9/20.6
SAT Scores
Kentucky’s SAT scores have improved over the past few years. In 2011, the average Critical Reading score was 578 (compared to 562 in 2007); the average Math score was 580 (compared to 566 in 2007); and the average Writing score was 563 (compared to 547 in 2007).
A very small percentage of Kentucky public school students take the SAT I -- only 4 percent of graduating public school seniors participated in the test in 2011.
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 2007, the number of Kentucky public high school students taking AP examinations has risen by nearly 44 percent. The number of tests scored at 3, 4 or 5 has increased by about 75 percent.
In 2011, 23,547 students took 37,977 AP exams, and of those exams, 17,404 were scored at 3, 4 or 5. This is an improvement over 2007, when 13,208 students took 20,742 exams, and 9,889 of those were scored at 3, 4 or 5.
Rebecca Blessing
Office of Guiding Support Services/General Counsel
Division of Communications
500 Mero Street, 6th Floor CPT
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 564-2000
Fax (502) 564-3049