GRAYSON Carter County is one of 16 school districts named districts of distinction this week by the Kentucky Board of Education.

The designation connotes the district is in the state’s top 5 percent based on overall accountability scores in the 2015-2016 academic year and also met certain annual objectives.

It also requires that the district not have any focus or priority schools, which are schools that have been identified as low achieving.

The distinction is particularly remarkable in Carter because the district in 2011 was at a low ebb — East Carter High School had just been designated a persistently low achieving school and several of its other schools were struggling.

“We’re a long way from where we used to be,” Superintendent Ronnie Dotson said.

The district as a whole was in the bottom 10 percent at that time but jumped past the 60 percent mark the following year and continued to move up to the proficient and distinguished levels.

One key was reading — “We’ve become known through the state as a district that teaches reading to everybody,” Dotson said.

For example, teachers in all grades and in all classes using a textbook will incorporate activities before, during and after reading, Dotson said.

Another is teacher academies, in which teachers gather regularly to share strategies.

Among the tougher criteria to meet was the annual measurable objective, Dotson said. The objectives vary from district to district and one of them in Carter is graduation rate — the objective in Carter is 98 percent, Dotson said.

The district has been meeting the objective but it would take only a few students dropping out to take it out of contention.

All district schools — two high schools, two middle schools and six elementaries — have made significant improvements and the result is that educators from districts across Kentucky visit the district to observe, he said.

Other districts of distinction include:

- Anchorage Independent

- Ballard County

- Beechwood Independent

- Calloway County

- Corbin Independent

- Cumberland County

- East Bernstadt Independent

- Floyd County

- LaRue County

- Lee County

- Murray Independent

- Oldham County

- Paintsville Independent

- Rockcastle County

- Taylor County

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