Our goal is to move Kentucky to the top tier of all states by 2020.


In 2008, the Prichard Committee challenged Kentuckians to move the education system to the Top 20 among the 50 states by 2020. In the early years of that challenge, new results suggested that goal was attainable, This year’s report is different, raising concern that our educational improvements seem to have hit a plateau and some have even begun to slip backward.

The first warning bell is about our youngest learners. The most recent data puts Kentucky 41st of the 50 states in preschool  enrollment, with only 41 percent of our three-and four-year-olds participating in public or private preschool.

That’s a decline from our ranking of 24th in the original 2008 Top 20 report.

Kentucky has also lost ground to other states recently on eighth grade reading and mathematics, and the state’s rankings have slipped for higher education funding and the share of that funding that must be paid by students and their families since our 2008 report.

On many other indicators, Kentucky has seen some progress, but the results are improving too slowly to reach the ambitious Top 20 level.

That slow movement can be seen in fourth grade mathematics, AP credits earned in high school, adults with high school diplomas and bachelor degrees, bachelor’s degree completion, and the percent of bachelor degree recipients who majored in science, technology, engineering, or math.

Teachers’ average salaries are also improving too slowly.

Finally, there’s room for pride in six ratings: Kentucky places in the top ten for high school graduation and fourth grade science and in the top 20 states in fourth grade reading, eighth grade science, high school graduates going to college, and associate degree completion.



Previous Reports

Supporting Documents: Top 20 Detail (Download) 10 Step Detail (Download) 10 Challenges Detail (Download)

  • 7th in high school graduation rate
  • 9th in fourth-grade science
  • 17th in fourth-grade reading
  • 18th in eighth-grade science
  • 18th in high school graduates going to college
  • 19th in two-year postsecondary graduations


  • 26th in average teacher salary
  • 28th in students earning AP college credit in high school
  • 29th in fourth-grade mathematics
  • 29th in adults 18 to 24 with high school diploma or equivalent
  • 35th in four-year postsecondary graduations
  • 38th in adults 25 to 34 with a bachelor’s degree
  • 38th in per-pupil funding for K-12 education
  • 42nd in STEM share of bachelor’s degrees


  • 23rd in share of higher education funding paid by families
  • 30th in per-pupil total higher education funding
  • 31st in eighth-grade reading
  • 37th in eighth-grade mathematics
  • 41st in preschool participation

Where are we today?  What does our progress look like?

Each category below shows Kentucky’s current standing among the 50 states n the most recent data, highlighted with the blue bar.  The green bars show Kentucky’s position in our 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014 reports.  the red dot and dotted line mark the goal of reaching the Top 20.  Gray dotted lines mark 10th, 30th, and 40th position.

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