Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says while Kentucky students improved their overall test results from last school year, the state still needs to do a better job with math.

“We’re extremely concerned about math. We have made math our number one focus this year especially in middle schools,” he says.

The Education Department released its annual data measuring individual school and district success Friday. This is the first year Kentucky has comparable results since the state underwent education reforms and changed its accountability system last year. 

(Curious how a Kentucky school performed? Go to our searchable, sortable database with 2013 results for every school in Kentucky.)

Kentucky met its annual goals as a state, but more than 40 percent of schools fell short (Just a quick note, schools can still be very high-achieving but not have met their goals, see duPont Manual High School).

“While we did make improvement, we would have liked to have seen it go a little bit faster and so we’ve gone back in and we’re going to be working really hard with schools and districts over the next school year to support them,” Holliday says.

The No. 1 focus for this next year will be math, he says, specifically targeting teachers and students at the middle school level, which Holliday sees as a gateway to prepare students for the tests they'll take in high school. This could include updating or changing the teaching requirements at the middle school level, he says. 

This year, the rate for Kentucky students meeting benchmarks on the End-of-Course Exam in Algebra II sank to from 40 to 36 percent. In JCPS, it went from 46 to 36 percent.

Holliday says this is cause for concern despite gains made at most other levels.

In JCPS, 75 schools—or 55 percent—met their annual goals. Statewide that number is about 57 percent. Both JCPS and Kentucky met their annual objectives overall.

Holliday says Kentucky’s 86 percent graduation rate was among the top nationwide, but it should be paired with the fact that just 55 percent of students who graduate are prepared for college or career.