Kentucky student performance, college or career-readiness, and the number of students graduating from high school are showing improvement, according to test results released Friday by the Kentucky Department of Education.
The Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress test, or K-PREP, showed overall student performance improved in 2014.
Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, during a news conference Thursday to discuss test results, pointed to "phenomenal growth in elementary reading and math."
"The numbers show, without a doubt, that we are making progress," he said.
In addition to being judged on how well they score in academics, students are evaluated on how well they progress compared with their peers; how well socioeconomic and ethnic groups score; and, at upper-level schools, how many students graduate and how many are ready for college and careers.
This year, schools also received points (on a scale of 0 to 12) for program reviews in arts and humanities, practical living and career studies, and writing.
Mandated by the General Assembly in 2009, program reviews are an ongoing, year-round process in which school personnel assess the characteristics of an instructional program.
In 2013-14 at the elementary level, the strongest gains were in reading, mathematics, science and writing on demand. At the middle school level, the percentage of students performing at the proficient/distinguished levels increased in all content areas — including a nearly five-point gain in math — except for language mechanics. High schools also made gains in mathematics, science and social studies.
Overall student performance showed improvement from 2013, with the percentage of proficient and distinguished students increasing in most subjects at every grade level. Students in groups that historically had achievement gaps — which includes ethnic minorities, special education students, those considered to be in poverty and those with limited English proficiency — also are performing at higher levels across multiple content areas and grade levels, state education officials said.
Stu Silberman, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, said the results showed great progress overall.
"This confirms that Kentucky kids and Kentucky teachers can work at substantially higher levels and deliver quite rapid improvement," he said.
Silberman said he was "especially happy to see that in elementary and middle school, the achievement score for all kids went up and the gap group score went up more. That's how gaps get closed."
Silberman said he wanted to understand more about declines in high school reading and writing. He said those declines do not match gains he saw in reading and English on ACT tests.
High school juniors taking the ACT exam last spring recorded the highest scores since all juniors started taking the test in 2008, state education officials said.
Meanwhile, state education officials said the college/career readiness rate for 2014 rose to 62.3 percent — up from 54.1 percent last year and 47.2 percent in 2012. The four-year graduation rate also improved, going from 86.1 percent in 2012-13 to 87.4 percent in 2013-14.
For at least the second year in a row, Jefferson County's Dupont Manual was the highest-scoring high school in the state.
Anchorage Independent in Jefferson County remained at the top of school districts.
Red River Elementary in Wolfe County was among the schools that showed progress, increasing its overall score from 44.2 in 2012-13 to 69.9 in 2013-14.
Principal Brian Creech said the school's efforts to raise scores included an after-school mentoring and tutoring club aimed at individual students, and a collaboration with a 4-H agent who held programs on writing, arts and humanities, and practical living, which includes consumer classes.
Teachers underwent training, more technology was used, and students were rewarded for their progress, Creech said.
"We were constantly challenging the students to do better," he said.