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'Disappointing but expected.' The first statewide report card since the pandemic reveals effects of pandemic on learning in Kentucky

Josh James

A statewide report card — the first of its kind released since the beginning of the pandemic — shows Kentucky schools falling behind and achievement gaps growing. The trend is similar in Lexington, but Fayette County did outscore the state average.

It's difficult to compare the data from 2019 with the new round of scores, for a number of reasons. First, there were the unprecedented interruptions caused by the pandemic and then the state's test system was overhauled, going from a five-star rating to a color-coded arrangement.

But the overall direction is clear — with state Education Commissioner Jason Glass calling it disappointing but expected.

In Fayette County, scores placed the district above the state average, with the bulk of schools — 48 — ranking in the middle categories of green, yellow, and orange. Superintendent Dr. Demetrus Liggins noted the numbers show students in marginalized communities falling even further behind their peers.

"Peeling back the layers of the data reveals absolutely unacceptable achievement disparities," he said.

Liggins did highlight one encouraging result that had nothing to do with academics, but has become an important measure given health and safety concerns in schools.

"One of the bright spots for sure is the fact that our students across the board, regardless of which ethnic background or population they belong to, on average, all of them agreed that they felt safe in their schools," Liggins added.

While underwhelming, school officials are calling the new test scores at the very least a baseline for improvement as districts hope to return to something approaching a pre-pandemic environment.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.