12 Kentucky Schools Districts Named 'Bright Spots' in Kentucky

Lexington, KY. - Twelve Kentucky school districts have been labeled "bright spots" in a new report released by The Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) in the Gatton College of Business and Economics at the University of Kentucky.

Researchers from CBER, with support from and in partnership with the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, analyzed 2012-2017 education data from the state’s 173 school districts. They identified key factors affecting academic achievement and constructed statistical models to predict an expected level of performance on state assessments.

The 12 districts below performed at significantly higher levels than predicted and are considered “bright spots.”

  • Barbourville Independent

  • Fleming County

  • Grayson County

  • Hazard Independent

  • Hickman County

  • Jenkins Independent

  • Monroe County

  • Paintsville Independent

  • Pineville Independent

  • Robertson County

  • Somerset Independent

  • Woodford County

Eight of the twelve school districts are located within the SOAR service region: Barbourville Independent, Fleming County, Hazard independent, Jenkins Independent, Paintsville Independent, Pineville Independent, Robertson County, and Somerset Independent.

“We looked at elementary and middle school performance on the K-PREP reading and math assessments, as well as the performance of high school students on the ACT," Michael Childress, research associate with CBER, explained. "Student, community and district characteristics were also taken into consideration."

Noted in the list above, Jenkins Independent School District in Letcher County has been named a "bright spot." Located in a high-poverty region, the district faces significant challenges. Despite being economically disadvantaged, 66% of its elementary students performed at a high level on the 2017 reading K-PREP assessment ⁠— substantially higher than the state average of 54% and the predicted performance of 42%.

Additionally, the percentage of economically disadvantaged students who performed at a high level increased from 39% to 66% from 2012 to 2017 ⁠— a significant increase and much higher than the state overall.

Two key findings of the analysis, consistent with others across the nation, are that teacher experience and the socio-economic status of students have a significant impact on achievement levels. “We know that teachers matter, and these results can offer insight into how Kentucky can continue to improve education, while also breaking the cycle of deep poverty in our state,” Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee, said. "These results can inform additional research designed to reveal best practices that facilitate better-than-expected educational outcomes ⁠— given that Kentucky remains near the bottom of the nation for families living in poverty.”

“A strategic priority of the Gatton College is to increase external engagement and promote economic growth in Kentucky," Simon Sheather, dean of the Gatton College of Business and Economics, added. “By understanding how to leverage educational investments in the most effective ways, which this study helps us do, we can work to improve household incomes, individual health and the overall well-being of our citizens.”

This report and its findings will be showcased at the Prichard Committee’s annual meeting on Sept. 27, in Lexington.

Copies of the Kentucky School Districts as Educational Bright Spots report can also be found online.