Academic Achievement

Despite significant improvement since our last report, student performance in Kentucky is middling. It ranks just above the national average in the percentage of 4th and 8th graders who score at or above the proficient level on the NAEP reading exam.

Academic Achievement for Low-Income and Minority Students

Kentucky earns a mediocre grade on academic achievement for low-income and minority students. Twenty-nine percent of Hispanic 4th graders score at or above the proficient level on the NAEP reading exam, 9 percentage points above the national average of 20%. However, only 16% of low-income 8th graders perform as well on the NAEP math exam.

Return on Investment

Student achievement in Kentucky is average relative to state spending after controlling for cost of living. 

Truth in Advertising: Student Proficiency

Kentucky posts middling marks on the credibility of its student proficiency scores. The grade is based on the difference between the percentage of students identified as proficient in reading and math on the 2011 state exams and the percentage identified as proficient on the 2011 NAEP reading and math tests.

Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness

Kentucky earns an average grade preparing its students for college and careers. The Bluegrass State’s high school graduation rate, at 82%, is just over the national average.

21st Century Teacher Force

Kentucky does a mediocre job of creating a strong teacher workforce. Its performance is average for identifying and retaining effective teachers but poor for exiting ineffective ones. 

Parental Options

Kentucky does a very poor job providing parents with strong school choice options. It is one of only eight states with no charter school law. 

Data Quality

Kentucky earns an excellent grade collecting and reporting high-quality education data. Parents have access to student-level data, and the state funds a longitudinal data system.


Kentucky receives a low grade employing technology to provide quality instruction and personalized learning. Students have access to some high-quality digital content, but the state does a very poor job at funding digital providers. 

International Competitiveness

Kentucky earns a low grade preparing its students to compete in a global economy. Only 28% of students are proficient in reading and math compared with an international standard. 

Fiscal Responsibility

Kentucky receives very low marks on fiscal responsibility. A meager 47% of the state’s pension is currently funded.