FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Public education in Kentucky is strong, but with room for improvement.
That's the bottom line of the first report card issued by the state's new education commissioner.
Stephen Pruitt has been on the job for three months. What he's calling his "first annual" State of Education report contains both good news and bad.
“I did not come to Kentucky because I felt like I needed to fix it,” Pruitt told those gathered at the Dept. of Education.
Pruitt says, despite the popular notion, Kentucky schools, as a whole, are not failing.
"Kentucky has certainly led the nation in improving our education system," he said.
Pruitt points to the latest Quality Counts report from the publication Education Week.
It tracks 39 indicators and gives Kentucky a "C," ranking it 27th among the 50 states.
"We have to be honest about where we are," said Pruitt.
Kentucky ranks near the top in graduation rates.
But the state receives a failing grade in education spending, about $1,200 per student less than the national average.
"I have no control over that, but I do know that the governor and the legislature are working hard," said Pruitt.
Pruitt says the wide achievement gap between white and minority students must be closed.
"This is a moral and ethical imperative. Since the chances of these students graduating college and career ready is reduced, the chances of incarceration are increased." he said.
Pruitt says the department is working on revamping curriculum standards and assessment testing, pledging public input.
But his hour-long speech made no mention of one of Gov. Matt Bevin's top priorities: charter schools.
Pruitt was measured when WDRB raised the issue.
"I don't believe that they are a panacea, but at the same time, given the right conditions, they have shown some quality improvement for students," said Pruitt.
And Pruitt acknowledged the special challenges facing Jefferson County, the state's largest school district.
"Making change in a district that large is quite difficult. So I look forward to partnering with Superintendent Hargens and working with her. It's going to be a challenge, though," said Pruitt.
Commissioner Pruitt’s entire State of Education in the Commonwealth report is available here.
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