Kentucky got a B minus compared to the rest of the nation in a national education ranking released Friday. Local educators said the grade is a good start toward realizing a vision where well-prepared students have an array of career choices when they graduate.
Kentucky jumped into the top 10 in the annual report compiled by Education Week magazine and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, according to a release made available Friday. Maryland was first with a B plus, and no state achieved an A, a release from Education Week said.
Kentucky was 14th last year. In 2010, the state was 34th in the Education Week ranking, said a release from Kerri Richardson, spokeswoman for Gov. Steve Beshear.
The news was lauded by local education officials who have witnessed incremental successes in public education since Kentucky’s first reform movement in 1990. That movement saw an increase in funding for public education. In more recent years, new tests for students and new accountability standards for educators have been implemented. Still, the “Quality Counts” report gave Kentucky a C minus when it came to school finance. An A minus was reported for the standards, assessments and accountability category, and an A was received for transitions and alignments.
“I have gradually seen improvement through the years,” Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Tim Murley said. “I feel good with what we are trying to do.”
Kentucky is moving in the right direction, according to Bowling Green Independent Schools Superintendent Joe Tinius. “Across the state, bold steps have been taken for our children,” Tinius said. “It sends a message that you are trying to move forward.”
Simpson County Public School District Superintendent James Flynn appreciates the improvements over the years. “We’re making a lot of progress toward our vision,” he said. “Behind that data are the real faces of the children that we serve. We should celebrate, but at the same time we don’t need to be satisfied.”
Murley said change can make people in the education community a bit leery, but the changes instituted since 2009 with the passage of Senate Bill 1 and Kentucky’s lead role in adopting the common core educational standards – the first state in the nation to take that step – have led to improvements. The Education Week report “Quality Counts” affirms that progress, he said.
“I’m proud of the state for what we’ve done,” Murley said.
Tinius said for years Kentucky was near the bottom when states were ranked as to quality of education. “It’s taken several years to overcome that,” he said.
Now when Tinius encounters school administrators in other states discussing new approaches they are going to try, Kentucky has already implemented those approaches, he said. “We’ve got more work to do,” said Flynn, “in both Kentucky and nationally.”
Wanda Faulkner, president of the Bowling Green Education Association, said: “I’m excited for the improvement. It’s wonderful for our students. I wish the recognition was passed onto the educators,” lamenting that teachers in Kentucky haven’t received a pay raise in the past five years.
The Education Week report is an annual assessment of all states on key education indicators such as school accountability, teachers, college readiness and dollars put into public education, according to the governor’s office. Kentucky received a perfect score in school accountability and also in a parameter that looks at how students transition into the workforce, the governor’s release said.
“Kentucky has made dramatic progress in (preschool through 12th grade) education in recent years, and we should be proud of that,” Beshear said in the release. “This Quality Counts report recognizes all the hard work of teachers, administrators, parents, business and community members to educate our young people which will result in stronger workforce and improved quality of life for the people of the Commonwealth.”
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said in the release:
“Kentucky is emerging as a leader in education. 2009’s Senate Bill 1 mapped the course with rigorous academic standards aligned to the demands of college and career; assessment and accountability that drives improvement; and a focus on educator training and effectiveness that results in greater student achievement and readiness. We would not have come so far, so fast, without the support of Governor Beshear, legislators, business and community members; and the hard work of teachers, administrators, parents, students and staff.”