A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand October 3, 2016

A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand October 3, 2016

Not long after the start of each school year, Kentucky begins getting report cards on the overall progress our students are making. These annual updates give the public the chance to learn if we are still heading in the right direction academically.
The good news is that, in several critical areas, we are seeing the kind of sustained progress our students need to make to thrive in today’s economy. Their test scores have steadily increased in nearly every subject and grade since 2012, according to the Kentucky Department of Education, while the state’s college and career readiness rate has jumped significantly over the same timeframe.
That rate, which looks at how many students are ready for college without having to take expensive remedial classes, has risen from about 47 percent then to more than 68 percent now. In raw numbers, that increase means more than 10,000 additional high school graduates over the past five years were better prepared for life after high school.
Another good comparison of college readiness, the ACT, has also shown sizable improvement, with the composite score moving up more than a full point since the state began requiring all high school juniors to take the test in 2007-08. ACT officials say last year’s graduating class ranked 10th out of the 18 states that have the same test requirement for their students.
In a related matter, our scores on Advanced Placement tests are also continuing to move up. These tests generally count as college credit if the student scores at least a three out of five, and while the number of Kentucky’s test-takers dipped last year, those earning the highest marks went up about five percent when compared to the previous year.
It’s important to emphasize that, when taking the long view, Kentucky has truly excelled over the last quarter-century, to the point that rankings once among the bottom tier of states before 1990 have moved to or exceeded the national average
A good example of just how far we have come arrived early this year, when Education Week ranked us 27th among the states in its annual “Quality Counts” study. That was actually an average of several different categories, including school finances and the percentage of adults with a college degree, so when the focus was just on academics in elementary and secondary education, we came in 16th.
We shouldn’t be satisfied until we’re number one, of course, but that is still a ranking we can be proud of. If we can find a way to close persistent achievement gaps, our biggest challenge looking ahead, there is no doubt we would crack the top 10.
Not all of the recent report cards for our schools deal with academics. Another released last month by the Kentucky Center for School Safety highlights the work we are doing to protect our students and staff.
Although the number of elementary and secondary students involved in law-breaking incidents is small – less than one in 100 – the center found two disturbing trends when comparing the 2014-15 school year with 2013-14.
First, assaults in the third degree – which occur when a student attacks a school employee – went up more than 50 percent. The number of cases involving alcohol use and possession went up almost as much, increasing 46 percent.
These are relatively small numbers, so fluctuations from one year to the next can skew the percentages. Still, the number of attacks on school employees went from 150 to 227, while alcohol possession/use rose from 359 cases to 527. Those are findings we need to reverse.
On the positive side, several other categories – from fights among students to vandalism – stayed the same or went down.
Beyond these reports, there was other good news for our schools recently, when the administration announced last week that it would be providing $4.6 million to our schools to cover higher-than-expected per-pupil costs they had last year. This was as the General Assembly intended and as the House had been pushing for since the first of August. For our schools’ sake, I’m certainly glad to see this come to a positive resolution.
As always, I would like to hear from you if you have any questions or concerns involving the state. You can write to me at Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at Rick.Rand@lrc.ky.gov.
To leave a message for me or for any legislator by phone, please call 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.

Paid for by Rick Rand for State Representative, Regina Rand, Treasurer