Kentucky's eighth- and 10th-graders slightly raised their scores on two academic assessments last fall, nearing or exceeding national norms in some subject areas, state Department of Education officials said.
The results are from the EXPLORE and PLAN tests, which eighth- and 10th-graders in public schools across Kentucky took in September.
Just more than 48,300 Kentucky eighth-graders took the EXPLORE exam, and 49,589 10th-graders took the PLAN assessment.
The exams assessed students' skills in English, mathematics, reading and science.
Education officials noted that while Kentucky students' average scores improved in almost every subject area, the increases were not large.
They attributed this to the large pool of students taking the tests.
But Susan Weston, an educational analyst for the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, said she was struck by the fact that Kentucky students came close to, or even exceeded, national norms in many subjects that were set in 2005.
"We're so used to being behind," Weston said. "But I'm impressed by the extent to which Kentucky is lining up with the rest of the country.
"For example, if you look at composite score for EXPLORE, we're right there with the top of the country."
Kentucky eighth-graders' 2009 composite score of 14.9 on the EXPLORE test equalled the 14.9 national norm. Their English score was 14.0 compared to a national norm of 14.2, while their scores of 14.2 in reading and 16.1 in science exceeded national norms of 13.8 and 15.9, respectively, in those subjects.
The state's 10th-graders didn't do quite as well. But their reading score of 16.2 was only slightly behind the national norm of 16.9. Their composite score of 16.7 trailed the national norm of 17.5.
Weston said she was puzzled by the discrepancy between Kentucky's eighth- and 10th-grade scores.
"We're caught up in eighth grade but still way behind in 10th grade, which isn't that big a space," she said. "That to me is a puzzle."
Scores for African-American students and other minorities in Kentucky were slightly below overall scores.