- The U.S. child population continues to increase and grow more diverse — especially in California, Florida and Texas. But the overall rate of 3- and 4-year-olds not attending preschool — 52% — hasn’t changed since 2010, according to the 2019 Kids Count Data Book, which has been tracking child well-being at the state level since 1990.
- Other education indicators covered by the report include 4th-grade reading proficiency, where Massachusetts ranks the highest with just over half of students reaching the proficiency level, and New Mexico ranks last with 25% scoring in that range. The nationwide percentage of 8th-graders proficient in math — about a third — has also remained stagnant since 2009.
- The report also highlights the steady upward trend in high school graduation rates, but notes racial disparities, with only 11% of white students not graduating in four years, compared to 28% of Native American students, 22% of African American students and 20% of Latino students. “Students who graduate from high school on time have many more choices in young adulthood,” the authors write. “They are more likely to pursue postsecondary education and training, make healthier decisions and engage in less risky behaviors.”.
The Kids Count Data Book, an ongoing project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has been a useful resource for educators and policymakers because it puts indicators of academic achievement in a broader context, covering topics of economic well-being, health, and family and community issues, such as growing up in a single-parent family or living in a high-poverty area.
The report provides data on how such factors influence academic outcomes. For example, among children in low-income homes, 78% of 4th-graders score below the proficient level in reading, compared to 48% of children in moderate- and high-income families. Researchers have long looked at the intersection of family income and student outcomes, and the federal government is currently funding a study that will track whether giving low-income mothers of young children an additional $333 per month — about $4,000 per year — leads to better outcomes in children’s cognitive and emotional development. Early results are expected in 2021.
The report also comes as the nation is preparing for next year's census, which will provide even more updated information on the status of children and youth in the nation. But in the report, Lisa Hamilton, president and CEO of the foundation, notes the challenges of counting all children, especially in rural and tribal communities, and urges the U.S. Census Bureau’s complete count committees to reach out to families that are less likely to be counted.
“The 2010 census missed more than 2 million children younger than 5, many of them kids of color or in low-income families,” she writes. “If we as a nation don’t make a concerted effort to count every child in 2020, we could miss even more.”
Meanwhile, the Census Bureau is experimenting with how people will react to a citizenship question on the census forms — which the Trump administration wants to include. Educators argue that including a citizenship question will lead to undercounting, which would have negative impacts on funding streams for schools that rely on census data, such as Title I for schools serving low-income students and the National School Lunch Program.