Data Shows Kentucky Must Act Now to Improve Student Success in the Early Grades – Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

Data Shows Kentucky Must Act Now to Improve Student Success in the Early Grades

Recent data shows Kentucky going the wrong way to ensuring student success in the early grades. From 2015 to 2019, the percentage of students scoring proficient or above in our KREP reading and math assessments by the end of third grade declined overall, as well as for most student groups – including black, Hispanic and low-income students.

You can see statewide trends – between 2015 and 2019 – for third grade reading and math performance in the charts below.  Also, to see individual district trends for this same time period click on this file.

Kentucky needs a course correction in the early grades.  Fortunately, the General Assembly has two opportunities this session that would move the state forward in improving reading and math skills for our young students.

House Bill 271, along with a $1 million appropriation in the budget, would create the Kentucky Early Entry Initiative, a partnership with the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and a proven way to strengthening teaching and learning for Kentucky’s young students. This effort would invest in the capacity of our teachers to improve student success in third grade reading and mathematics by advancing greater opportunities for National Board Certification.

Senate Bill 115, the Read to Succeed Act, would improve upon Kentucky’s long-standing efforts in early literacy: including diagnostic assessments and screening, intervention and student supports, and family engagement – including at-home learning strategies. Moreover, as teaching matters most, the bill would strengthen both teacher preparation and professional development relative to early literacy, ensuring critical resources get to schools and students most in need of support.

Both of these measures reflect recommendations of a task force facilitated last year by the Prichard Committee comprised of educators, college and university faculty, and legislative leaders which studied the impact of teacher preparation and development on early literacy and numeracy. These meetings resulted in a report entitled Teaching Matters Most: Student Success in the Early Grades which provides recommendations for both state and local action.

The early years of education build the foundation students need to do well in middle and high school and to be successful in college and the workforce. Building these foundational skills before students enter fourth grade requires a sustained focus on equipping teachers with the sharpest literacy and numeracy tools, as well as supports to students and schools in most need.

We do not yet know the extent of the learning loss caused by COVID. But we do know that Kentucky needed a course correction even before the pandemic. We urge the Kentucky General Assembly to support both House Bill 271 and Senate Bill 115 to ensure Kentucky charts a path toward success for our youngest students. It is a small ask for a BIG return, and a step towards a big, bold future for our students and our state.

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