Last month the Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 2015 KIDS COUNT Data Book highlighting state trends in child well-being and providing state rankings. Typically, Nebraska fares quite well in the report, with rankings near the top every year. 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.. Last week we examined Nebraska’s 3rd place ranking in economic well-being, this week we continue the National KIDS COUNT Data Book series by looking at the education data.
This year, Nebraska was ranked 11th in the nation in the education indicators, down from 9th last year. Despite our drop in the overall ranking, we improved in each of the 4 indicators compared to 5-8 years ago. These improvements are fantastic, but our drop in rankings illustrate that while doing well overall, there are states that are doing even better. The 4 indicators featured in the report tell us that:
- More Nebraska children are attending preschool – 44% attended in 2007-09 and 45% attended preschool in 2011-13.
- Fourth graders are improving at reading – 35% of fourth graders tested as proficient or better in reading in 2007 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 2007 and 36% tested proficient or better in 2013.
- More high school students are graduating on time – in the 2007-08 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 point improvements were seen in any indicator. These data points also fail to tell the whole story. We know from our Kids Count in Nebraska 2014 Report that the opportunity gap is wide, as evidenced by 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.