The Annie E. Casey Foundation* released the 2012 Kids Count data this week, and Alabama shows improvement in education, despite the increased numbers of kids in poverty.
“While ranking 45th in child well-being is not cause for celebration when viewed alone, the fact that the state is making progress is encouraging,” said Linda Tilly, executive director of VOICES for Alabama’s Children. “This report, coming on the heels of the Southern Regional Education Board report, ranks Alabama as the leader in the nation for improvements in reading scores. This indicates that the work of child advocates, community programs, and policy makers who make children a priority, is paying off.”
Most notably, 12% fewer fourth-grade students were lacking in reading proficiency skills in 2011 than in 2005, although the same time frame showed a 12% increase in children living at or below the poverty level. Math proficiency also improved, and there was a slight increase in children enrolled in pre-K, outpacing the national trend.
“The report shows both progress and challenges for Alabama,” stated Tilly. “We have made positive strides in several areas. Because of the new Data Book format, we can’t compare overall rankings to past years when only 10 measures were used. Using more complete data, however, shows that, relative to other states, Alabama compares more favorably than many expected.”
Alabama improved in all four indicators of children’s well-being and showed its highest ranking since the first Kids Count data was published in 1990.
While the researchers discovered some improvements, particularly in healthcare and education for kids nationally, there are still concerning gaps for racial and ethnic minority groups, according to an Education Week article posted July 25th by Sarah D. Sparks. The article also notes that regionally, the southern states remain significantly behind the rest of the country in all 16 measures of health, education, economic well-being, and family and community support.
“If I had to make one big bet, I’d ensure every child is reading proficiently by 3rd grade,” said Patrick T. McCarthy, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s president and CEO. He explained that research shows that achievement gaps are relative to school readiness, attendance and summer learning loss, which are all controllable factors.
“You put those three things together and they are all things we can do something about,” he said.
VOICES for Alabama’s Children will release in the fall the state data book measuring comparable numbers for child well-being for all 67 counties.
*The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private charitable organization, dedicated to helping build better futures for disadvantaged children in the United States. It was established in 1948 by Jim Casey, one of the founders of UPS, and his siblings, who named the Foundation in honor of their mother. VOICES for Alabama’s Children is a statewide non-profit, multi-issue organization whose mission is to ensure the well-being of Alabama’s children through research, public awareness and advocacy. VOICES is a member of the national network of state KIDS COUNT projects and produces the state Data Book as well as assisting Annie E. Casey with release of the national KIDS COUNT Data Book.