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Study shows there is room for growth

Guest commentary, The Winchester Sun

While there’s reason to celebrate a recent ranking of Kentucky schools as 20th in the nation, there’s also plenty of room for improvement.

Thankfully, the Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis sees it that way, too.

WalletHub, a personal-finance website, released its “2018’s States with the Best and Worst School Systems” report Monday. According to the report, “Unlike other research that focuses primarily on academic outcomes or school finance, WalletHub’s analysis takes a more comprehensive approach. It accounts for performance, funding, safety, class size and instructor credentials. To determine the top-performing school systems in America, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 25 key metrics.”

The study looks at things like dropout rates, math and reading test scores, ACT and SAT scores and student-teacher ratios. There is also information about safety, including student injuries and bullying incidence rates.

Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont ranked among the top five, respectively, with Arizona, Alaska, District of Columbia, Louisiana and New Mexico in the bottom five.

Kentucky ranked at 20th, with a score of 54.34, with a quality ranking of 20 of 80 points and safety ranking of 19 of 20 points. Delaware barely edged the Commonwealth with a score of 54.36 at 19 and Illinois nudges our score with 54.20 at 21st.

While there is optimism in that score, the truth is our state ranks barely above average, and it’s safe to say no one aims at “average” when it comes to their child’s education.

For most families, public education is the only option and that means it is crucial our public schools be dedicated to graduating the highly-educated college- and career-ready students.

Offering a quality education for these students is the key to a bright future for our communities and state. There is room to celebrate the successes of our public schools in Kentucky, but as Lewis noted, there is room for improvement.

“It is clear that Kentucky’s high ranking is the result of Wallethub’s relatively heavy weighting of factors that Kentucky has done a very good job with, including but not limited to high school graduation rate, dropout rate, share of students completing a college entrance exam, and share of certified teachers,” Lewis said. “Areas where we desperately need to improve include proficiency in reading and mathematics, closing achievement gaps, and ensuring that Kentucky’s high school diploma is meaningful. Unfortunately, our improved high school graduation rates have not translated well into greater success for students in postsecondary education or the workforce.”

Studies like this, and many others, allow us to acknowledge our weaknesses and open room for programs, policy shifts and more that can help improve outcomes for students.