Progress, Concern Evident in National Measures
‘Top 20 by 2020’ Update Shows Mixed Picture for Ky. Since ’08

A new look at national education indicators across a range of education issues shows uneven progress in Kentucky toward moving into the top tier of states.

In more than half of the categories the Prichard Committee has been tracking since 2008, the state is on track to be in the top 20 nationally by 2020. Highlights include fourth-grade reading and science scores on the test known as “the nation’s report card,” where Kentucky students place in the top 10. The state is also in that class when it comes to the high school graduation rate. Even in an area like teacher salary, where Kentucky is now at the national average, progress over the past 12 years — Kentucky was 34th in 2008 — is promising. Still, in that category, average pay would have to rise about 10 percent to over $56,000 to reach the top 20.

In other categories, the challenge is even greater. In per-pupil funding for K-12 education, Kentucky ranked 41st in 2008 and is now 39th. Postsecondary graduation at four-year institutions has remained flat, with Kentucky now ranked 38th. Meanwhile, preschool enrollment of children ages 3 and 4 continues to slide. Kentucky was 24th in 2008 but now ranks 40th.


In 2008, the Prichard Committee challenged Kentuckians to move the education system to the Top 20 among the 50 states by 2020. Eight years later, results make it clear that Kentucky can make this important move forward, but increasing effort will be needed across the remaining four years.

The newest data find Kentucky students already in the Top 20 in reading, science, graduation rates, and completion of associate degrees, and on track for top 20 in fourth grade mathematics and high school graduates going on to college.

Kentucky has lost ground to other states in preschool enrollment, eighth- grade mathematics, and bachelor degree completion. Those results are disturbing: Kentucky’s economic future depends on investment in high-quality early learning options, rigorous and aligned mathematics instruction, and effective strategies to improve postsecondary completion.

The preschool result is grounds for special concern because the percentage of three-year-olds and four-year-olds in pre-school is lower now than in the original 2008 report.

Results are also improving too slowly in AP credits earned in high school, adults with high school diplomas and bachelor degrees, and the percent of bachelor degree recipients with science, technology, engineering, or math majors.

Education support results are mixed, with teacher salaries on track to reach top 20, funding for P-12 education improving too slowly, and higher education funding and family higher education costs moving in the wrong direction.

Top 20 rankings are still within Kentucky’s reach, but getting there by 2020 will require renewed and deepened efforts across the Commonwealth.

The charts in this report show trends and data sources for all 19 indicators used to track Kentucky progress toward the top tier of states in educational achievement.

A key offers in- formation on reading the charts, which show where Kentucky has stood at each two-year period since 2008. At that time, Kentucky had moved from the bottom of the nation in many academic measures to a level nearing the national average. Top 20 status was the next logical step for a state eager to redefine its educational image.


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