Every year a select group of Kentucky school districts perform better than expected on measures of educational achievement. These measures include things like the percentage of elementary students who achieve proficiency or distinguished in reading, or the proportion of less‐advantaged middle school students who show a similar level of competency on the math assessment.

There are wide differences in the learning environments, finances, and student outcomes among and within Kentucky’s 173 school districts. This is not surprising given that the largest school district in the state, Jefferson County, has 97,000 students and 165 schools, while the smallest, West Point Independent in Hardin County, has one school with 120 students. Since school districts are likely to reflect the underlying economic conditions of their surrounding communities, the socioeconomic characteristics of Kentucky’s school districts are as diverse as the state itself. Similarly, student outcomes are also widely distributed across the state’s 173 districts. From this broad range of student outcomes, family and community backgrounds, and school district characteristics, we identify districts that have performed better than expected—which we refer to as “bright spots.”

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Research assistance provided by Xiaozhou Ding

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