- Associated Press - Thursday, October 1, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky’s public high schools continue to produce more graduates deemed prepared for college or careers, with nearly seven out of every 10 members of this year’s statewide graduating class meeting the benchmark, state education officials said Thursday.

It’s a big jump from just three years ago, when less than half of Kentucky’s graduates met standards for college or career readiness.

The statewide college/career readiness rate rose to 66.8 percent this year, up from 62.5 percent in 2014, according to the state’s latest education assessment and accountability results. In 2012, just 47.2 percent of graduates were prepared for their next phase of life in college or careers.

The multiyear improvement translates into 12,500 more students graduating from high school during the past four years ready to enter college or postsecondary career training programs without the need for remedial courses, education officials said.

“Kentucky schools are to be congratulated for their continued progress on graduating more students with the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed,” said interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown. “The gains we are seeing are the result of a lot of hard work by our teachers, administrators and our students, with the support of parents, community members and our education partners.”

Of the more than 43,900 high school students who received diplomas last spring, 25,683 were deemed college ready and 9,107 career ready.

That’s up from 24,322 found to be college ready and 7,865 career ready the previous year, when more than 43,700 students graduated.

In 2012, 18,766 were considered college ready and 3,429 career ready among 43,121 graduates.

Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, said the continued upswing in college and career readiness is “positive news for Kentucky’s students and our shared future.”

“This good news is coupled with the fact that scores for high school students in groups who have historically struggled to meet state standards have improved at a quicker pace than the achievement results for all students,” she said.

Meanwhile, the report showed mixed results in other key benchmarks for Kentucky’s education system.

The state’s four-year high school graduation rate inched upward to 87.9 percent, compared with 87.5 percent the prior year.

Swings in the percentage of students receiving high marks of “proficient” or “distinguished” varied, depending on grade level and subjects.

The percentage of elementary school students performing at those levels increased from 2014 to 2015 in social studies, writing-on-demand and language mechanics. Declines occurred in reading and mathematics. In 2015, 54.2 percent of elementary students were “proficient” or “distinguished” in reading, compared with 54.7 percent in 2014. In math, 48.8 percent of students were at those levels in 2015, down from 49.2 percent in 2014.

Among middle school students, higher percentages scored “proficient” or “distinguished” marks in reading and language mechanics. Declines occurred in math, social studies and writing. In math, 42.8 percent of students attained those levels in 2015, down from 44.8 percent the prior year.

Ramsey raised concerns about declines in overall scores for elementary and middle school.

“Student outcomes in the early grades must continue to improve as they lay the essential foundation for later success,” she said.

In high school, percentage gains occurred in the number of students reaching “proficient” and “distinguished” levels in reading, math, writing and language mechanics. Declines occurred in science and social studies. In math, 38.1 percent of high school students in 2015 were “proficient” or “distinguished,” compared with 37.9 percent the prior year. In science, the percentage slipped to 39.6 percent in 2015 from 39.8 percent in 2014.

“While we would like to see big gains in achievement every year, it is not uncommon to see some ups and downs from year to year,” Brown said. “Overall, we are moving in the right direction from where we started.”

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