The Kentucky Education Department released report cards for all school districts in the commonwealth today, but none of the western Kentucky systems qualified for the highest honor called District of Distinction.
The District of Distinction should not be confused with distinguished school districts. Our listening area had seven distinguished school systems: Murray Independent, Marshall County, Lyon County, Calloway County, McCracken County, Daviess County and Logan County.
Districts of Distinction fall within the top 5 percent of school and must meet all graduation and achievement goals set the previous year. Distinguished districts are those in the top ten percent of Kentucky school systems and are not required to meet all those benchmarks.
While Murray Independent and Marshall County schools were in the top five percent in the state, they each failed to meet benchmarks set the previous year.
Murray Independent, the top school district in our listening area, also ranked No. 1 last year. Murray Superintendent Bob Rogers attributed the district’s continued success to holding students to high standards.
But Rogers said being a high performing school creates some difficulties with the way the education department measures success.
“One of the really, really tough challenges when you’re a school that does so well is to continue to perform at that level and improve,” he said. “So every year we try to identify areas where we can improve.”
In past years Rogers said Murray Independent Schools has focused on specific subject areas at Murray High School, which led to an improvement of 30 points.
The bottom three school districts included Russellville Independent, Fulton Independent and Webster County. Fulton County Schools moved out of that group this year and was the most improved district in our region, with a score 10 points higher than the previous year.
However, Fulton County Superintendent Aaron Collins said the district still has a long road of growth ahead of it.
“We’re glad about the improvement,” he said. “But we’re still not proficient and our desire is to get there. Our motto has been ‘We’re moving on up to proficiency.’ That’s our goal.”
Collins credited a high school dual credit program called the Pilot Academy for significantly increasing college and career readiness in Fulton County students. Last year, the district’s high school was in the bottom 5 percent of schools. This year, it leaped more than 55 percentile points.
Collins said moving the school system to proficiency requires help from the whole community.
“It takes administrators. It takes teachers. It takes classified staff. It takes our cafeteria ladies. It takes our bus drivers for us to have good relationships together to look after out students,” he said.
More information about specific schools and districts can be found in a searchable database from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.