Kentucky jumps 20 places in national ranking of education quality

Kentucky has moved up 20 places in a national ranking on educational quality and innovation.

The Quality Counts report published Thursday by Education Week magazine recognized Kentucky for its efforts to assess student progress, improve teacher quality and hold schools accountable.

Although it only got a C+ overall, the report was still good news for state education officials as Kentucky moved from 34th place to 14th.

State Education Commissioner Terry Holliday traced the results directly to Senate Bill 1, the 2009 legislation that revamped the state's core curriculum and assessment program.

"That legislation set us on a course to become a leader nationwide," Holliday said in a statement.

Kentucky received a score of 100 for school accountability, and scores in the 80s for its educational standards and testing. The state also got high scores for teacher quality, including a 90 for "building and supporting capacity," such as ongoing training for teachers.

No states received a grade of A in the 2012 edition of Quality Counts. The highest-ranking state was Maryland, with a B+. Three states received B's; five states were rated B-; and five states (including Kentucky) received grades of C+.

Stu Silberman, director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, said he thought Kentucky's improved rank also was due to ongoing plans to revamp teacher evaluations, using a host of criteria including student and peer feedback. In addition, the General Assembly is considering a bill that would tie teacher evaluations to student performance.

The Council on Postsecondary Education also is trying to strengthen standards in teacher education programs.

"So many of the kinds of things measured here go back to the adoption of common core standards, end-of-course exams and the new accountability system," Silberman said.

As it has since the Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990, Kentucky received a high grade for the equity of its school financing, which balances out funding between wealthy and poorer districts.

Kentucky's only F was for the amount of actual education funding.

A group of education groups called Kentucky Education Action Team, which includes the Prichard Committee, has estimated that K-12 education would need at least $323 million this year just to restore basic funding to 2008 levels when adjusted for inflation.

The new consortium of education groups is supporting efforts to snare more state revenue. Gov. Steve Beshear has appointed a task force on tax reform and is pushing expanded gaming, but it's unclear what success he will have with either measure.

David Karem, a former lawmaker who supported KERA, is now chairman of the state Board of Education.

"From the original Kentucky reform act to Senate Bill 1, these things suggest that Kentucky has made significant strides in education," he said. "But speaking personally, back in 1990, we made significant commitments to KERA that had financial implications, and we have not kept complete faith to the kinds of commitments we made. We need to do a better job in that regard."