More Kentucky students are graduating from high school and earning two-year degrees, but the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is raising “grave concern” about too little progress on eighth grade math proficiency and lost ground on fourth grade reading.
That’s one major takeaway from the education reform group’s latest report, which compares Kentucky’s progress relative to other states in 13 key areas. As the latest version of the Prichard Committee’s decade-spanning Top 20 by 2020 report, it tracks indicators across early childhood, K-12 and higher education, quality of life and Kentucky’s digital divide, now magnified by the coronavirus pandemic.
Prichard Committee President and CEO Brigitte Blom Ramsey said the latest edition aims to better capture factors outside the classroom that influence student success.
“The committee has always believed that education is the way that we achieve a better quality of life for Kentuckians,” Ramsey said.
New in the report is a look at the percentage of Kentuckians who’ve earned an associate degree or higher, voter turnout and median household income, all metrics that seem to be improving or holding mostly steady in recent years.
Kentucky’s median household income, for example, remains low but has shown modest improvement, jumping from roughly $45,000 in 2015 to about $50,000 in 2018.
“All of these metrics should lend themselves to a higher quality of life for Kentuckians and for our state as a whole,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey noted that there continue to be several areas of major concern, however.
The indicators for early childhood all rank in the bottom third among the states, along with the state’s eighth grade math results, postsecondary enrollment and median household income, Ramsey said.
Kentucky has actually lost ground on fourth grade reading proficiency in recent years, the report said. Just 40 percent were at grade level in fourth grade reading in 2015, and that slipped to 35 percent in 2019.
The percentage for proficiency in eighth grade math hovered around slightly less than 30 percent during that time span. Meanwhile, Kentucky’s four-year high school graduation rate hovers at 90 percent.
Kentucky is also failing its students of color, with Black and Latino students representing the lowest proficiency rates for fourth grade reading and eighth grade math, according to the report.
“We see that we have failed to deliver for African Americans in our state historically and part of the problem is our system’s responses. So we need to ensure as we move forward that, as an example, our accountability model for education outcomes in the state disaggregates the data and shines a light on how we are doing relative to the performance of African American students, relative to their white peers,” Ramsey said.
Going forward, Ramsey said the Prichard Committee will pay close attention to the state board of education’s ongoing conversations about Senate Bill 158, which redefines how achievement gaps are defined.
“We’re watching closely … to ensure that the definition of an achievement gap and the levers in the accountability model actually provide real transparency,” as to how Kentucky is serving different populations of students, Ramsey said.
– The entire report Big Bold Future Report can be viewed online at prichardcommittee.org.