Rift Valley counties took half of the top 10 positions in last year’s Standard Eight national exam results released on Monday.
But Kirinyaga still topped all 47 counties, retaining its first place with a mean of 273 marks out of the maximum possible 500.
In the 2011 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations, Kirinyaga topped the standing with a mean score of 274 marks.
The drop in the mean mark was also reflected nationally when the leading candidate Joy Kathure Kinothi who scored 430 marks was 12 marks less than the leading candidate in 2011. That year, Christine Kagiri of Tender Care Junior was top with 442 marks.
Elgeyo Marakwet County emerged second with just one mark less, recording a mean score of 272, and jumping five places from seven where it was ranked in the previous exams.
Nandi, which had been placed second in the 2011 exams dropped to third with a mean score of 271, followed by neighbouring Uasin Gishu and Baringo, both with means of 270.
Uasin Gishu has retained its fourth position over the last two years.
Eastern’s Makueni dropped down the charts from position three in 2011 to six this year.
Busia County in the western region rose from position seven to five, recording a mean score of 260 marks.
But Vihiga and Kakamega, which took position nine and 10 in 2011 were all pushed out of the top 10 standing. Instead the counties slid to position 11 and 13 respectively.
But Nyanza’s Kisumu County retained its eighth position with a mean score of 264, five points more than last year.
Neighbours Nyamira and Kisii counties rose in the ranking, taking positions 31 and 34 respectively. They had been ranked 38 and 42 in the 2011 standing when the Kenya National Examinations Council introduced county ranking.
Tharaka Nithi County from upper Eastern, which has not been ranked among the top 10 in the 2011 exams romped to position nine allowing West Pokot, another visitor, to close the top 10 standings.
Tharaka Nithi was ranked 17 in 2011 while semi-arid West Pokot had taken position 14 in the same exams.
Leading from the bottom of the counties standings was Mandera which had a mean of 182 points. The county inexplicably dropped from position 20 in 2011 when it had a mean score of a massive 250 marks.
Wajir and Garissa, all from the northern Kenya were ranked 45 and 46 respectively. Wajir was also recording one of the greatest slides, from position 13 the previous year, while Garissa dropped from 22 in 2012.
Tana River which brought up the rear in 2011 rose three places to position 44 although its mean mark was two points less in 2012.
The county was in the news most of last year following inter-clan fighting that led to the killing of more than 300 people. More than 200 candidates from the area were displaced and had to sit exams in alternative centres.
Education minister Mutula Kilonzo said gender parity had been achieved in 36 counties.
“This is an indication that interventions put in place by my ministry towards gender parity have borne fruit,” he said.
Additional reporting by James Kariuki