Kentucky tied for fifth place nationwide in the improvement of its students’ performance in assessments of reading, mathematics and science since 1992,  according to a report from Harvard University,

The report, Achievement Growth: International and U.S. State Trends in Student Performance, was produced by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and presented in Education Next, the program’s journal. It was designed to determine the extent of the United States’ progress toward closure of the international education gap and offers estimates of gains from 1995 to 2009 for the U.S. and 48 other countries. The report also looked at changes in student performance in 41 states between 1992 and 2011 and compares states’ rates of improvement, among other items.

Based on results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 4th- and 8th-grade reading, mathematics and science, Kentucky was noted as having a 2.7 percent gain (as an average of the standard deviation) from 1992 to 2011. This ranked the state fifth among 41 states that participated in NAEP during the same time period.

 Kentucky also fared well in other measures outlined in the report.

  • The state tied for third place in the greatest percentage of reduction of students scoring Below Basic on NAEP at the 4th-grade level. (69 percent)
  • Kentucky tied for ninth place in the reduction of students scoring Below Basic on NAEP at the 8th-grade level. (42 percent)
  • The state tied for eighth place in the reduction of the percentage of 4th-grade students scoring below Proficiency on NAEP. (30 percent)
  • Kentucky tied for tenth place in the reduction of the percentage of 8th-grade students scoring below Proficiency on NAEP. (20 percent)

“These rankings reinforce what we’ve seen in Kentucky’s NAEP performance, particularly at the 4th-grade level,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “Our students are scoring at higher levels on NAEP, and more of them are moving from the lower categories to the higher ones. While this is good news for Kentucky, the state comparisons and the data on U.S. performance contrasted with other countries remind us that we have much more work to do to get all students college- and career-ready.”

The gains within the United States have been middling, not stellar, according to the report. While 24 countries trail the U.S. rate of improvement, another 24 countries appear to be improving at a faster rate. Nor is U.S. progress sufficiently rapid to allow it to catch up with the leaders of the industrialized world.

 The full report may be seen at