Kentucky has hit plateau and slipping backward in some educational improvements

Prichard Committee Executive Director Brigitte Blom Ramsey.
Prichard Committee Executive Director Brigitte Blom Ramsey.

Fewer children are enrolled in preschool, and Kentucky has also lost ground to other states on eighth grade reading and mathematics.

Those are just two of the findings from a new Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence report released Monday.

In 2008, the committee challenged Kentuckians to move the education system to the Top 20 among the 50 states by 2020. But this year’s report raises concern that Kentucky’s educational improvements seem to have hit a plateau and some have even begun to slip backward.

The most recent data puts Kentucky 41st of the 50 states in preschool enrollment, with only 41 percent of 3-and 4-year-olds participating in public or private preschool. That’s a decline from the ranking of 24th in the original 2008 Top 20 report.

The report also states that Kentucky is:

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; and

38th in per-pupil funding for K-12 education.

Kentucky’s rankings have slipped for higher education funding.

“It is imperative that our state leaders, legislators and the Kentucky Board of Education stabilize the policy environment and properly resource the system to allow continuous improvement to take root,” Prichard Executive Director Bridget Blom Ramsey said in a statement.

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

That 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. Kentucky places in the top 10 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, the report states.

Kentucky is 30th in per-pupil total higher education; 7th in high school graduation rate; 9th in fourth-grade science; 17th in fourth-grade reading; 18th in high school graduates going to college ;31st in eighth-grade reading; and 37th in eighth grade mathematics, the report states.