Last month the Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book highlighting state trends in child well-being and celebrating their 25th edition of the book by going back to 1990 and looking at changes in America’s children since then. Voices for Children in Nebraska is featuring a series on the data book and how Nebraska did this year in relation to ourselves from past years as well as other states in the nation. Typically, Nebraska fares quite well in the report with rankings near the top every year, and 2014 was no different. This year our state ranked number 10, meaning that children in Nebraska have higher measures of well-being than 80% of states in the U.S. The last post in this series examined our worsening economic well-being. This week’s post in the KIDS COUNT Data Book series will highlight the education data, the only section of 4 where Nebraska’s ranking actually improved from last year.
Nebraska was ranked 9th in the nation this year in the education indicators, up from 17th last year. We also improved in each of the 4 indicators compared to pre-recession years. These improvements are fantastic because they show that we are doing better than most states in the nation as well as ourselves from previous years where education is concerned. The 4 indicators featured in the report tell us that:
- More Nebraska children are attending preschool – 41% attended in 2005-07 and 47% attended preschool in 2010-12
- Fourth graders are improving at reading – 34% of fourth graders tested as proficient or better in reading in 2005 and 37% tested proficient or better in 2013
- Eight graders are improving in math – 35% of eighth graders tested proficient or better in math in 2005/06 and 36% tested proficient or better in 2013
- More high school students are graduating on time – in the 2005-06 school year 13% of students didn’t graduate on time, by the 2011-12 school year that was down to 7%
As you can see, while we have been improving, the improvements are small. No more than a few percentage points improvements were seen in any indicator. These data points also fail to tell the whole story. We know from our KIDS COUNT in Nebraska 2013 Report that there are disparities in each of these indicators based on race and ethnicity and family income. Until all Nebraska children have an equitable opportunity to succeed in school and beyond, Voices for Children will continue to tirelessly work to make Nebraska the best place in the country to be a kid.