Standards and Accountability: Kentucky is one of 12 states earning A’s in this section. Clear and specific standards exist in mathematics and science in all grade spans. Social studies/history standards are clear and specific at the middle and high school levels. But the state’s English standards are clear and specific solely for elementary schools.
Kentucky is also one of only a dozen states that offer standards-based exams in all grade spans—elementary, middle, and high school—for each core subject. Another strength is that the state tests incorporate a variety of items, including multiple-choice and extended-response questions and student portfolios.
The state also puts its test data to good use. It publishes achievement data on school report cards. It assigns ratings to schools and identifies low-performing ones. Such schools receive help and are subject to sanctions if they fail to improve. Kentucky also rewards improved or high-performing schools.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Kentucky continues to score in the top five states for its efforts to improve teacher quality.
Its high school teachers do not have to complete majors or a set amount of coursework in the subjects they plan to teach. Instead, the state requires prospective teachers to meet state-set standards and competencies in those subject areas. Teacher-candidates then must pass subject-knowledge and subject-specific-pedagogy tests to earn initial licenses.
Kentucky also has a well-developed performance assessment, the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program, for determining whether teachers further along in their careers are eligible for a more advanced stage of licensure. The assessment includes evaluation by a local team, classroom observations by state-trained assessors, and teacher portfolios.
The state adds an overarching layer of support by financing professional development and mentoring for novices.
The state also performs extremely well in accountability for teacher quality. Kentucky’s school report cards include a significant amount of teacher-qualification data, such as the percentages of classes taught by fully licensed teachers, of teachers prepared for the subjects they teach, and of teachers who participated in content-focused professional development.
The state assigns scores to each teacher education institution based on passing rates on the Praxis teacher-licensure tests and on the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program, as well as on surveys of program graduates and their employers. The ratings appear on program report cards and are incorporated into the institutions’ accreditation process.
School Climate: Kentucky’s relatively low grade for school climate stems largely from the absence of any provisions for public school choice. Only Kentucky and Alabama have neither a charter school law nor a system of open enrollment. Kentucky also loses points because students are more likely to attend schools where administrators surveyed by the National Assessment of Educational Progress report that classroom misbehavior and a lack of parent involvement are problems than are students in other states.
On the plus side, school report cards in Kentucky include information on school safety, parent involvement, and class size, making the state one of only five to include all of those indicators.
Equity: Kentucky earns an average grade in equity mostly because of its wealth-neutrality score, which ranks 27th among the 50 states.
The state also scores low on its McLoone Index, ranking 33rd. Kentucky’s wealth-neutrality score is positive and shows a moderate relationship between state and local revenue and a school district’s property wealth.
Kentucky also has a coefficient of variation of 10.5 percent, which indicates moderate disparities in funding across districts.
The coefficient of variation places the state 12th in the nation.
Spending: Kentucky spends less than the national average per pupil, ranking 36th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The state spent $7,296 per pupil in the 2001-02 school year, but increased spending by 7.3 percent from the previous year. The state ranks 17th in the percentage of students in districts that spend at or above the national average. Almost 80 percent of Kentucky students attend schools in such districts.
Kentucky ranks 22nd on the spending index, a comparative measure across the 50 states and the District of Columbia that considers both the percentage of students in districts spending at or above the national average and how far other districts are below that point. Kentucky spends 3.5 percent of its total taxable resources on education, which is below the national average.