Achievement remains flat, gaps persist in Kentucky schools


(Frankfort, KY) – The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released 2017-2018 student assessment results, and also identified the state’s lowest performing schools as well as those struggling to meet the needs of specific groups of students.

In all, KDE identified 51 schools for Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI), meaning they are in the bottom 5 percent of schools at their level (elementary, middle or high) in the state or had a graduation rate below 80 percent.

“CSI schools are, by definition, the lowest performing schools in the state,” said Interim Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis. “Being on this list means that a significant shift must be undertaken to better address student learning. This is not about shaming schools, leaders or teachers, but these schools can neither continue doing what they have always done, nor make only minor adjustments.”

CSI schools will receive state support in the current school year to help them improve.

Another 418 schools were identified for Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) as a result of having at least one student group performing as poorly as schools in the bottom 5 percent. Schools not identified as CSI or TSI are identified as “Other” this year.

Lewis said being identified as TSI allows schools to focus on raising achievement for groups of students who have been underserved, and may have previously been hidden by overall school achievement data.

“It is an imperative that we ensure every group of students is performing at high levels. We can’t leave groups of students behind,” he said. “This is a moral issue. Our expectation must be that all of our students can learn at high levels, regardless of income, gender, race/ethnicity, or disability status. It is schools’ responsibility to identify approaches, curricula, and strategies for meeting students’ needs. Our students and their families depend on it, and our Commonwealth depends on it.”

Lewis said while KDE will provide resources for TSI-designated schools to improve, ultimately it is the responsibility of schools and districts to use the accountability results to chart a course that continuously improves achievement for all their students.

Kentucky is in the process of phasing in a new accountability system, which is scheduled to be fully implemented in the 2018-2019 school year and conforms to requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Senate Bill 1 (2017). Once implemented fully, school and district performance will be classified using Kentucky’s 5-star rating system.

Under this new system, accountability determinations are only made at the school level. Determinations are based on student performance on state assessments and other school quality indicators or measures, such as growth or graduation rate, depending on the grade level. Additionally, per Senate Bill 1 (2017), the new accountability system does not provide a single summative score that ranks schools against each other.

The assessment results released Sept. 26 show academic performance has remained largely flat in Kentucky public schools, including foundational subject areas like reading and mathematics. Achievement gaps persist for different groups of students, including students with learning disabilities and students of color. Writing on-demand scores did make gains at the middle and high school levels.

“There are not a lot of positives here. For the past five years there has been virtually no movement. We are not improving,” Lewis said. “And achievement gaps between student populations continue to be incredibly disturbing.”

ACT scores, which are based on all public school juniors taking the test last spring, also mimicked a national downturn, with across the board performance declines in English, mathematics, reading and science.

Lewis said the results reinforce the KDE’s current efforts to address lagging student achievement in critical subject areas like reading and mathematics. For example, proposed graduation requirements would require students to demonstrate basic competency on 10th-grade reading and mathematics assessments in order to earn a diploma.

“This is a daunting moment of truth for our state. We cannot lie to ourselves about what these scores mean any longer. While the data are sobering, it allows us to get an accurate picture of where our schools are and strengthens our conviction in what is needed in the months and years ahead,” Lewis said. “Instead of being discouraged, this is a call to action for schools, districts, educators, parents, students, and community and business leaders. We must take bold and immediate action for the benefit of our students.”

Comprehensive Support and Improvement
A school is identified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) if it meets any one of the following categories:

  • CSI I: Bottom 5 percent of Title I or non-Title I schools (by level – elementary, middle or high):
  • CSI II: Less than an 80 percent graduation rate for Title I or non-Title I high schools

Beginning in 2021-2022:

  • CSI III: Title I or non-Title I schools previously identified for Tier II Targeted Support for at least 3 years and have not exited.

While non-Title I schools can be identified for CSI under Kentucky law, for 2017-2018, the only schools that met the established profile and cuts cores were Title I schools. Of the 51 schools identified as CSI, 33 are elementary schools, 12 are middle schools and six are high schools.

Targeted Support and Improvement
A school is identified for Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) if it meets the following criteria:

  • Tier II Targeted Support – Low performing Subgroup(s): One or more student groups performing as poorly as all students in any lowest performing 5 percent of Title I schools or non-Title I schools (by level – elementary, middle or high school) based on school performance.

Beginning in 2020-2021:

  • Tier I Targeted Support (Early Warning): Consistently Underperforming Subgroup(s): One or more student groups performing as poorly as all students in any of the lowest performing 10 percent of Title I schools or non-Title I schools (by level – elementary, middle or high school) based on school performance for two consecutive years.

Many schools were identified as TSI schools because of achievement gaps that exist between students with disabilities and their peers.

“Other” designation
Schools that were not identified as CSI or TSI received the “Other” designation. Of the state’s 1,272 schools, 63 percent were identified as “Other.”

Accountability Indicators and Measures
Accountability is based on three indicators at each grade level. Elementary and middle schools use proficiency, separate academic indicator and growth. High Schools use proficiency, transition readiness and graduation rate.

Unlike the previous accountability system, Kentucky’s new system is prohibited under Senate Bill 1 (2017) from using a single summative score to rank schools. As a result, accountability comparisons with previous years are not valid. Accountability comparisons, however, can be made between schools at the indicator level. For example, reading and math scores can be compared to previous years.

Proficiency Indicator
Proficiency is defined as reaching the desired level of knowledge and skills as measured on state-required academic assessments. It is designed to measure how students achieve on Kentucky’s Academic Standards (KAS) in reading and mathematics.

  • Schools earn points based on student performance levels: Novice (0 points); Apprentice (.5 point); Proficient (1 point); and Distinguished (1.25 points)
  • Reading and mathematics are weighted equally
  • Student performance is aggregated to school, district and state levels

Separate Academic Indicator
The Separate Academic Indicator is designed to measure how students achieve on Kentucky’s Academic Standards (KAS) in science, social studies and writing.

  • Schools earn points based on student performance levels: Novice (0 points); Apprentice (.5 point); Proficient (1 point); and Distinguished (1.25 points)
  • Highest proportion of weights are attributed to science and social studies
  • Student performance is aggregated to school, district and state levels

Growth Indicator
The focus of the growth indicator is the progress (or lack thereof) the student has made in the current year and the projection of that path toward proficiency. The trend may indicate the student’s performance is going up, moving down or staying the same.

Students are reported in relation to the likelihood of them achieving proficiency within the next two years:

  • “less than catch up” (not on track to make it to proficiency)
  • “catch up” (on track to make it to proficiency),
  • “keep up” (maintaining proficient or distinguished levels) or “move up” (moving to distinguished).

Transition Readiness Indicator
The new accountability system promotes the development of students who are well-rounded, transition-ready – prepared with knowledge, skills and essential dispositions to succeed in the next educational setting or career pathway. Students ready for the next level are transition ready.

Transition ready high school students should be able to enter and succeed in entry level postsecondary courses without remediation or enter the workforce possessing the knowledge and technical skills needed for employment in their desired career field. To be transition ready, a student must earn a high school diploma by meeting/exceeding the Kentucky Minimum High School Graduation Requirements and meet one type of readiness (Academic or Career).

In addition, for English Learners, performance on the English Language proficiency assessment as measured by WIDA ACCESS must be met for any student who received English Language Services during high school.

This year’s results show that 60 percent of students were transition ready, with widely varying rates of readiness between different groups of students.

2017-2018 Transition Readiness – High School

Demographic GroupNumber of Graduates plus English LearnersStudents Who Are
Transition Ready
% Students Who Are
Transition Ready
All Students 47,68728,70460.2
White 37,36124,44565.4
African American 5,1791,67232.3
Hispanic 2,8571,26244.2
Asian 1,03964662.2
American Indian or Alaska Native 703651.4
Native Hawaiian or
Other Pacific Islander
Two or More Races 1,12562055.1
English Learners plus Monitored 2,50071128.4
Free/Reduced-Price Meals 24,82812,07248.6
Disability-with IEP (Total) 3,88395324.5

These same achievement gaps persisted when comparing percentages of students who were academically ready or career ready.

2017-2018 Transition Readiness – High School by Type of Readiness1

Demographic GroupNumber of Students Academic Ready% Students Academic ReadyNumber of Students Career Ready% Students Career ReadyNumber of EL Students English Proficient% EL Students English Proficient
All Students 21,27844.615,98933.548739.0
White 18,44649.414,15037.95546.2
African American 1,11521.576214.77629.7
Hispanic 69224.254519.126541.0
Asian 52250.216515.98840.6
American Indian or Alaska Native 3144.31927.10--
Native Hawaiian or
Other Pacific Islander
Two or More Races 45340.334130.3250.0
English Learners plus Monitored 1275.11265.048739.0
Free/Reduced-Price Meals 7,45530.07,48830.239538.0
Disability-with IEP (Total) 3529.169217.81316.5
1Students may be counted more than once if they meet multiple readiness criteria.


Graduation Rate Indicator
The Graduation Rate is the percentage of students completing the requirements for a Kentucky high school diploma compared to a cohort of students beginning in Grade 9. The cohort is “adjusted” by adding any students who transfer into the cohort and by subtracting any students who transfer out of the cohort to a legitimate educational setting or situation (for example, transfer to an out-of-state school; enroll in a private school; emigrate to another country; or death). The Graduation Rate is reported for all students and all student groups and based on the students’ final enrollment.

Kentucky’s Graduation Rate indicator averages the 4- and 5-year rates. The 5-year rate recognizes the persistence of students and educators in completing the requirements for a Kentucky high school diploma.

Both the 4-year and 5-year adjusted cohort formula uses the number of students who graduate in four and five years divided by the number of students who form the adjusted cohort for the graduating class.

For several year’s Kentucky has had among the highest graduating rates in the nation; the rate reported for last year was 91 percent. Lewis said while that is appears very positive, the challenge is to ensure graduation can be equated with a student’s ability to be successful in postsecondary education and/or the workplace. At present, about 40 percent of students who graduate in Kentucky do not have the skills or knowledge to make that successful transition, he said.

“It is critical that we prepare our students for success in college and the workforce,” Lewis said. “One of the priorities I spelled out for the KDE earlier this summer was to increase the number of students completing career and technical education (CTE) pathways and earning industry-recognized credentials in high-demand sectors. Further, the revised high school graduation requirements we have proposed to the Kentucky Board of Education would make transition readiness a requirement for graduation in our new school accountability system.

“We cannot continue to issue high school diplomas to students we know have not been prepared for success after high school.”

Graduation Rate

Demographic GroupTotal Number of Students in 4-year cohortNumber Students who Graduated in 4-years4-Year Graduation Rate
(shown as %)
Total Number of Students in 5-year cohortNumber Students Who Graduated in 5-years5-Year Graduation Rate
(shown as %)
All Students 49,64944,81190.348,80144,55491.3
White 39,32936,14491.939,27136,31792.5
African American 5,6074,59181.95,4484,62184.8
Hispanic 2,5222,092832,1571,87086.7
Asian 83779695.169065695.1
American Indian or Alaska Native 716388.7604880
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander 393384.6433479.1
Two or More Races 1,2441,09287.81,1321,00889
English Learners plus Monitored 1,4221,09677.11,13789979.1
Free/Reduced-Price Meals 25,98422,78387.725,57122,90589.6
Disability-with IEP (Total) 4,4463,31974.74,2753,34478.2

State Assessments
Kentucky administers state tests known as K-PREP – Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) – tests. The tests were developed by Kentucky teachers and align with the Kentucky Academic Standards in each content area.

All students in grades 3 through 8 take reading and mathematics tests in the spring of each year. The other subjects are tested once per grade level (science in grades 4 and 8; social studies and on-demand writing in grades 5 and 8.)

For 2017-2018, with the exception of writing, high school scores come from the junior administration of the ACT college entrance exam given to juniors in spring 2018.

Students with disabilities who qualify take Alternate K-PREP tests. English language learners take ACCESS 2.0, which serves as the basis for English proficiency determinations.

Student performance on these tests serves as the basis for several indicators in Kentucky’s accountability system.

Student performance on K-PREP assessments fall into four categories (from low to high) of Novice, Apprentice, Proficient and Distinguished (NAPD). The goal is to move all students to a higher performance category and ultimately to the proficient performance level or above on K-PREP tests.

Student performance on the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) was for the most part flat.

At the elementary level, performance held steady in reading, but dropped in mathematics, social studies and on-demand writing.

2017-2018 Elementary Performance Level Percentages by Content Area

Social Studies201411.730.143.514.758.2
Writing On-Demand201417.543.835.03.838.7
1 Elementary students were assessed with the new Kentucky Science Academic Standards. Performance levels and scores are not reported for students in prior years as the assessments measured old standards which are not comparable.


At the middle school level, scores were flat with the exception of on-demand writing, which saw a significant improvement.

2017-2018 Middle School Performance Level Percentages by Content Area

Social Studies20149.331.242.616.859.4
1Middle school students were assessed with the new Kentucky Science Academic Standards. Performance levels and scores are not reported for students in prior years as the assessments measured old standards which are not comparable.


High school scores in previous years were based on end-of-course exams in Algebra II, English II and Biology. This year they are based on the ACT, so this year’s scores cannot be compared to previous years.

2017-2018 High School Performance Level Percentages by Content Area

SubjectYearNoviceApprenticeProficientDistinguishedProficient/ Distinguished
Writing On-Demand2201816.431.837.814.051.8
1Reported Performance Level Percentages are for the ACT and Alternate K-PREP assessment.
2Writing On-Demand is administered to grade 11 students only.


Since 2008, all Kentucky’s public school juniors have taken the ACT, which assesses English, mathematics, reading and science and is scored on a scale of 1 to 36. The cost of the exam is paid for by state funds.

The 2017-18 results show a drop across the board in most subject areas for Kentucky public school juniors who took the test. The same trend on the ACT is nationally this year.

ACT Subject Area Scores, Kentucky Public School Juniors

YearEnglishMathematicsReadingScienceCompositeTotal Tested

Disaggregated scores between different groups highlight the achievement gap between white students and students of color, low-income students and students with disabilities.

Students attending a Kentucky public college or university and who meet the Kentucky systemwide standards of readiness are guaranteed access to credit-bearing college coursework without the need for developmental education or supplemental courses.

Half of the juniors tested last year met CPE benchmarks in English. The percentage who met the benchmarks for mathematics and reading were lower.

Percentages of Public School Juniors Who Meet CPE Benchmarks for College-Level Readiness


All data for the 2017-2018 assessment and accountability reporting are publicly available in Open House  on the Kentucky Department of Education website. All the data will be available later this year in the new and improved online Kentucky School Report Card.


  1. I am confused and concerned that disabled students in Kentucky schools are assessed in the same manner and with the same measures as their non disabled peers. The extensive list of literally hundreds of schools in Kentucky that are in need of assistance and guidance because their disabled students are not performing at the same level as their peers is appalling. Is it not enough that these children have physical, mental and or emotional disabilities but now the state is demanding they jump for a bar that is out of their ability to grasp. Currently in Kentucky an individual with an IQ at or above 50 is given the exact same test as their non disabled peers. These are individuals that most likely will never drive a car, live independently or support themselves but the state has decided they are LESS THAN because their assessment results are not up to par! What an incredible abuse of power, not to mention the waste of money and resources that could be better spent educating children with disabilities rather than shunning them for their differences. These children are voiceless in their abuse. If parents, educators and the community won’t protect them who will?

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