Home » College/career-readiness rate among Kentucky students jumps 20 points to 54.1 percent

College/career-readiness rate among Kentucky students jumps 20 points to 54.1 percent

Kentucky schools improve in second year of Unbridled Learning assessment and accountability

More Kentucky students are getting a high-school diploma.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 27, 2013) – Student performance, college/career-readiness and the number of Kentucky students graduating from high school are improving, according to data released Friday by the Kentucky Department of Education.

“The statewide data clearly show we are making progress, though slower than we would like,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “We’ve raised expectations and aligned them with what students need to be successful; we are moving in the right direction toward the goal of providing a world-class education for every Kentucky student and ensuring all children graduate college/career-ready,” he said.

Overall student performance showed improvement from 2012 with the percentage of proficient and distinguished students increasing in nearly every subject at every grade level; students in groups that have historically had achievement gaps are also performing at a higher level.

Since Senate Bill 1 passed in 2009, the state has focused on better preparing Kentucky students for life after high school. In 2013, the college/career-readiness rate jumped to 54.1 percent – up from 34 percent in 2010.

“In just three years we’ve gone from only a third of our students being ready for college and career to more than half,” Holliday said. “That’s around 8,000 students who now have a much better shot at getting a good job, paying taxes and becoming self-sufficient Kentuckians,” he said.

Also, more students are getting a diploma. The state is using a new, more accurate way to measure graduation rate that shows 86 percent of students are graduating from high school in four years.

This is the second year the state has reported results from Kentucky’s Unbridled Learning for All Assessment and Accountability System.

Based on an improvement in overall scores from 2012, 114 more schools and 31 more districts are performing at the highest levels — classified as either proficient or distinguished. A total of 641 schools and 63 districts met the requirements to be considered progressing, a new label under the system this year.


Public schools and districts earn points, on a scale of 0 to 100, based on how well they do on up to five components of this year’s accountability system. The points are weighted to determine an overall accountability score. On average, the statewide score improved slightly more than two points to 57.3 in 2013.

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In 2012-13, five components contribute points to the overall score; each is weighted.

· Achievement – Student performance on tests of reading, mathematics, science, social studies and writing

· Gap – comparing performance (percentage of proficient and distinguished) of students who are members of traditionally underperforming groups (ethnic minorities, special education, poverty and limited English proficiency) to the goal of 100 percent proficiency in all five content areas

· Growth – comparing an individual student’s score to the student’s academic peers to determine if typical or higher levels of growth have occurred in reading and mathematics

· College/Career-Readiness – high school graduates who have successfully met an indicator of readiness for college and/or careers

· Graduation Rate –the percentage of on-time graduates as measured by a Four-year Adjusted Cohort formula. Graduation rates in 2012 were based on the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate formula.

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In 2012-13 overall scores (in points) for elementary schools range from 24.0 to 83.1; middle schools, from 27.9 to 82.8; and high schools from 32.7 to 86.8. Overall scores for districts range from 41.6 to 80.0. Schools are rank-ordered by overall score and by level – elementary, middle or high. Districts are rank ordered without dividing by level. Based on their percentile rankings, schools and districts are placed in one of three classifications:

·     Distinguished – At or above the 90th percentile

·     Proficient – 70th to 89th percentile

·     Needs Improvement – Below the 70th percentile

Specific overall point scores associated with the percentiles are:

·     Elementary: Proficient – 62.5; Distinguished – 69.8; School of Distinction – 72.5

·     Middle: Proficient – 58.7; Distinguished – 64.9; School of Distinction – 68.2

·     High: Proficient – 58.0; Distinguished – 64.4; School of Distinction – 67.7

·     District: Proficient – 58.4; Distinguished – 63.3; District of Distinction – 65.2

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To promote continuous improvement, each school/district has an Annual Measurable Objective (AMO) it must meet – for the 2012-13 school year the AMO was a one point improvement in the overall score. A school/district also must meet its annual graduation goals and test at least 95 percent of its students in every student group.

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If a school/district meets its AMO, graduation goal (this year still based on Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate), and student test participation rate, it may earn an additional designation of progressing.  Since goals were set last year, 2013 is the first year schools and districts could meet their goals and earn this designation.

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Schools and districts are placed in rewards or assistance categories based on overall score and other data.

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Accountability components


Overall student performance on the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) improved in 2013 with the strongest gains coming at the high school level in social studies and science, and at middle school in language mechanics.

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In 2010, Kentucky was the first state to adopt more rigorous common standards known as the Kentucky Core Academic Standards (KCAS) in English/language arts and mathematics. The standards are aligned with college expectations and set the minimum for what students should know and be able to do by the end of each grade. Kentucky implemented the KCAS in the 2011-12 school year with students first tested on the new standards in spring 2012.

“We expect that as students acquire more foundational learning and teachers become more comfortable with teaching the new standards, scores in this area will continue to gain ground,” Holliday said. “The KCAS are harder, more in-depth than previous standards and challenge students to think critically, creatively and to problem solve rather than memorize for a test,” he said.

Public school students in grades 3-8 take K-PREP tests in reading, mathematics, science, social studies, writing and language mechanics. Their performance is categorized as novice, apprentice, proficient or distinguished.

The assessments for science and social studies in grades 3-8 are based on standards in the Kentucky Core Content for Assessment 4.1, which was last revised in 2006.

High school students take K-PREP tests in writing and language mechanics plus end-of-course assessments in English II, Algebra II, Biology and U.S. History.


Kentucky’s goal is 100 percent proficiency for all students. The distance from that goal or gap is measured by creating a student Gap Group – an overall count of student groups that have historically had achievement gaps. Student groups combined in the overall count include ethnicity/race (African American, Hispanic, Native American), special education, poverty (free/reduced-price meals) and limited English proficiency.

To calculate the combined student Gap Group, non-duplicated counts of students who score proficient or higher and are in any of the student groups are added together. This yields a single gap number of proficient or higher students in the Student Gap Group, with no student counting more than one time and all students included in groups being counted once.


The growth category uses a Student Growth Percentile, comparing an individual student’s score to the student’s academic peers. It recognizes schools and districts for the percentage of students showing typical or higher levels of growth in reading and mathematics. For elementary and middle schools, growth is based on annual reading and mathematics tests in grades 3-8. At high school, the same model of recognizing student performance uses the PLAN (grade 10) and ACT (grade 11) composite scores in reading and mathematics for comparison. Points are awarded for the percentage of students showing typical or higher growth rate, which is defined as being in the 40th percentile.

“We didn’t see a lot of movement in growth this year because it is a comparison of peers and if most students are improving, growth will not change much,” Holliday said.

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Graduation rate

In 2013, Kentucky changed the way it calculates graduation rate to a more accurate method mandated by the federal government.

The Four-Year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate takes the number students in a high school freshman class and then accounting for those students who move in and out of the system, looks at how many students get their diploma four years later.

For 2013, the graduation rate is 86.1 percent.

For the Unbridled Learning accountability model, a graduation rate for each high school and district that contains one or more high schools is reported annually, and the rates receive a weighted point total, just as the other four components do.


The cornerstone of the Unbridled Learning Accountability model is college/career readiness. In 2010, Kentucky reported college/career readiness rates for schools and districts for the first time; that data serve as a baseline.

Since 2010-11, the percentage of students who are considered ready for college and careers has risen by more than 20 percent.

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ACT data (public school juniors)

Scores on the ACT administered to all high school juniors made modest gains. Since 2008, as mandated by KRS 158.6453, all Kentucky’s public school juniors participate in the ACT, which assesses English, mathematics and science and is scored on a scale of 1 to 36. The cost of the exam is paid for by state funds.

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The percentage of students who meet the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) statewide benchmarks continues to increase. This means those students are college/career-ready and guaranteed entrance to a credit-bearing entry-level course in that subject at a state-run university without the need for remediation.

For more details, including the data broken down by student group, visit the School Report Card on the Kentucky Department of Education’s website. These electronic report cards provide information about each school and district including test performance, teacher qualifications student safety, awards, parent involvement and much more. The School and District report cards were established by statute KRS 158.6453, and regulation 703 KAR 5:140. Additionally, the Report Cards must incorporate the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.