A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Prichard Committee: Student performance results are declining, achievement gaps widening in KY schools

Results from the Kentucky Department of Education show student performance declining in most subject areas and achievement gaps widening in many Kentucky schools and communities.

Our public schools have made great progress in the last generation and today that progress is at risk. To stem the decline and chart a course of renewed progress, citizens must come together at the local level to understand the needs of students in their own communities and be willing to commit time and energy to realizing stronger performance for all students.

Three primary areas of concern rise to the top as we analyze the latest data:

• Every student is not on a path to proficiency:

For Kentucky’s early learners, we see only tiny gains over last year in elementary reading and declining results in elementary mathematics.  This pattern applies across nearly all student groups, with signs of better progress only for English learners.

• Fewer students are meeting college readiness benchmarks on the ACT:

Results show an alarming drop in the number of students meeting Kentucky’s college readiness benchmarks on the ACT, including 5 percent declines in English and mathematics and a 7.5 percent decline in reading.  In the data released this morning, ACT is the only academic readiness measure that can be fully compared to last year’s results.

• Even in schools performing relatively well overall, some groups of students are performing no better than the lowest 5 percent of schools in the state:

For schools at all levels, 2018 is the first year of identifying schools for targeted support and improvement (TSI). This identifies schools based on having one or more student groups with performance like the lowest 5 percent of schools. This data show 418 schools have group results at that disturbingly low level, including 320 schools with very low results for students with identified disabilities.

“Today’s results are everyone’s business,” said Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director. “For the Commonwealth’s system of public education to continue to improve and build on the progress in the last generation, citizens must be aware of the results for their schools and districts and begin to have courageous conversations about how to serve more students well. This is a moment of opportunity, a time to begin co-designing solutions with educators, students, parents, community and business leaders – side-by-side at the local level.”

As citizens across the state begin to grasp the reality of where we stand in education and step up to be part of the improvement, it’s important to note that since 2008, Kentucky schools and districts have been under three separate and distinct accountability models and teachers have been implementing three different sets of standards.

“While any system must be updated to meet modern demands, and some disruption is necessary in that process, growth and sustained improvement require a degree of certainty and confidence born of deepening expertise,” said Blom Ramsey. “It is imperative that our leaders stabilize the policy environment that has been marked by constant churn for the better part of the last decade. As we move into the first full year under a new accountability system, citizens and policymakers alike must commit to providing the stability and the resources necessary for deep and continuous improvement to take root.  This is the system-level leadership our students deserve and desperately need now.”

The Prichard Committee stands ready to support citizens across the state as they mobilize at the local level to improve outcomes for students. In addition to multiple resources on our website and blog, we are actively seeking to support citizens who want to take a leadership role in their community. For support and resources, contact Kim Drummond, Director of Engagement at 859-233-9849 or kdrummond@prichardcommittee.org.

We encourage each Kentuckian to take time to understand the issues in your own community by searching for your school’s results here. Examine the data (keeping in mind the numbers you see are NOT percentages, but scores on a range), ask questions, and have local conversations to better understand the issues.

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