New Report from UK Center and Prichard Committee Highlights Kentucky Education “Bright Spots” – Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

New Report from UK Center and Prichard Committee Highlights Kentucky Education “Bright Spots”

September 24, 2019

For more information, contact:
Brigitte Blom Ramsey, Executive Director
(office) 859-233-9849
(cell) 859-322-8999

New Report from UK Center and Prichard Committee Highlights Kentucky Education “Bright Spots”

LEXINGTON, KY (September 24, 2019) – Kentucky schools districts that are educational bright spots are identified in a new report from The Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) at the University of Kentucky conducted with support from and in partnership with the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

The analysis identified twelve school districts as bright spots: Barbourville Independent, Fleming County, Grayson County, Hazard Independent, Hickman County, Jenkins Independent, Monroe County, Paintsville Independent, Pineville Independent, Robertson County, Somerset Independent and Woodford County.

Researchers from the Center—the applied economic research branch of the Gatton College of Business and Economics – analyzed 2012 to 2017 education data from the state’s 173 school districts. They identified key factors affecting academic achievement and constructed statistical models to predict an expected level of performance on state assessments given student, community and district characteristics. Districts that perform at significantly higher levels than predicted are considered “bright spots.”

“We looked at elementary and middle school performance on the K-PREP reading and math assessments,” said CBER’s Michael Childress, “as well as the performance of high school students on the ACT.” All Kentucky public school students participate in annual testing by taking the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) test. The ACT is a standardized test used for college admissions in the United States.

Located in a high-poverty region within eastern Kentucky, Jenkins Independent School District in Letcher County is one of the educational bright spots. Although the district faces significant obstacles, such as a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students, about 66 percent of its elementary students performed at a high level—proficient or distinguished—on the 2017 reading K-PREP assessment. That is substantially higher than the state average of 54 percent and the predicted performance of 42 percent. Moreover, the percentage of economically disadvantaged students who performed at a high level increased from 39 to 66 percent from 2012 to 2017—a significant increase and much higher than the state overall.

Two key findings of the analysis, consistent with others across the nation, are that teacher experience and the socio-economic status of students have a significant impact on achievement levels. “We know that teachers and teaching matter, and these results can offer insight into how Kentucky can continue to improve education while also breaking the cycle of deep poverty in our state,” said Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee. She also noted these results “can inform additional research designed to reveal best practices that facilitate better-than-expected educational outcomes, given that Kentucky remains near the bottom of the nation for families living in poverty.”

Dr. Simon Sheather, Dean of the Gatton College of Business and Economics, said that “a strategic priority of the Gatton College is to increase external engagement and promote economic growth in Kentucky.” Further, he noted, “by understanding how to leverage educational investments in the most effective ways, which this study helps us do, we can work to improve household incomes, individual health and the overall well-being of our citizens.”

This report and its findings will be showcased at the Prichard Committee’s annual meeting on September 27, 2019 in Lexington, KY. For more information about the meeting contact

Digital copies of the Kentucky School Districts as Educational Bright Spots can be obtained at the CBER web site at, by calling 859-257-2912 or sending email to

The Center for Business and Economic Research performs research projects for federal, state and local government agencies, as well as for private-sector and non-profit clients nationwide. The report is one of the many ways CBER fulfills its mandated mission as specified in the Kentucky Revised Statutes to examine various aspects of the Kentucky economy, and the factors affecting it—like educational achievement.

The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is an independent, nonpartisan, citizen-led organization working to improve education in Kentucky – early childhood through postsecondary.


MEDIA CONTACTS: Lindsey Piercy; Ann Mary Quarandillo, 859-257-0750/

Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence; Brigitte Blom Ramsey, Executive Director, 859-233-9849,

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