Successful communities have many important ingredients, but perhaps none is more essential than good public schools.

Frankfort is blessed with some fine ones, according to the latest accountability rankings by the Kentucky Department of Education.

Frankfort High School, Second Street School’s middle school and the county school district’s Peaks Mill Elementary earned four stars out of a maximum five in the rankings released last week. For perspective, fewer than 25% of the 1,250 public schools in Kentucky received four or five stars. Frankfort High barely missed joining an elite list of 56 schools in the commonwealth rated five stars.

The factors that go into a school’s rating in the new accountability system are reading and math proficiency; social students, science and writing proficiency; students’ academic growth and progress over one school year; transition readiness, which was formerly college and career readiness; and graduation rate.

One star is defined as a "novice," two is "apprentice," three is "proficient," four is "distinguished" and five is "above and beyond." The ratings are based on test scores from the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress, or K-PREP, from the 2018-19 year.

Having two of its three schools rated four stars is a feather in the cap of Frankfort Independent Schools, which has shown steady progress in recent years under the leadership of Superintendent Houston Barber, an FIS alum. The recognition couldn’t come at a better time for downtown Frankfort, which as City of Frankfort Community Engagement Project Manager Blair Hecker notes elsewhere on this page, is undergoing a renaissance. First-rate public schools will only enhance community efforts to entice more people to live downtown and in South Frankfort, the areas served by FIS.

“Overall, we are in a growth phase,” Barber told State Journal reporter McKenna Horsley when the rankings were released. “Our success is really as a result of our teachers and staff and the dedication they have in the classroom and the leadership we have at the school building that I’m very excited about because they are directly connected to that growth.”

At Peaks Mill Elementary in Franklin County Schools, administrators, staff and students aren’t resting on their laurels.

According to Principal Cassie House, one of the first questions that teachers asked when they heard that they were a four-star school was, “What do we need to do to be five stars?”

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