Two weeks ago the Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book, providing an annual snapshot of how America’s children and families are faring in every state and across the nation. In it, Nebraska received an 11th place ranking in overall child well-being. Today marks the second post further investigating the Data Book and how Nebraska kids are fairing in each domain. We kicked off Monday with the Economic Well-being of Nebraska kids and continue today with Education.
The early years of a child’s life lay the foundation for future success. Establishing the conditions that promote educational achievement for children is critical, beginning with quality prenatal care and continuing into the early elementary school years. With a strong and healthy beginning, children can more easily stay on track to remain in school and graduate, pursue postsecondary education and training and successfully transition to adulthood. Yet the United States and Nebraska continue to have significant gaps in educational achievement by race and income. Addressing the achievement gap will be key to ensuring our future workforce can compete on a global scale. Nebraska ranks well in the education domain with a 10th place ranking of best education well-being among children.
Of the four indicators in this domain, Nebraska saw improvement in three from five years ago with the percent of young children not enrolled in school being the only with worse numbers.
- Young children not in school: 59% (31,000 children) in 2015 – The foundation of brain architecture and subsequent lifelong developmental potential are laid down in a child’s early years. High-quality prekindergarten programs for 3- and 4-year-olds play an important role in preparing children for success and lead to higher levels of educational attainment, career advancement and earnings. Although Head Start and the expansion of state-funded programs since the 1990s have greatly increased access to preschool and kindergarten, many children — especially 3-year-olds and children living in low-income families — continue to be left out, exacerbating socioeconomic differences in educational achievement.
- Fourth graders not proficient in reading: 60% in 2015 – Proficiency in reading by the end of third grade is a crucial marker in a child’s educational development. By fourth grade, children use reading to learn other subjects. Therefore, mastery of reading is critical for them to keep up academically. Children who reach fourth grade without being able to read proficiently are more likely to become frustrated and drop out of school. Low reading proficiency also reduces their earning potential and chances for career success as adults. Although improvements in reading proficiency have occurred since the early 1990s, progress has been slow, and race and income gaps remain.
- Eighth graders not proficient in math: 62% in 2015 – Competence in mathematics is essential for success in the workplace, which increasingly requires higher-level technical skills. Students
who take advanced math and science courses are more likely to graduate from high school, attend and complete college and earn higher incomes. Even for young people who do not attend college, basic math skills help with everyday tasks and improve employability. Ensuring that children have early access to high-quality mathematics education is critical for their success in school and life.
- High school students not graduating on time: 11% in 2014/15 school year – A high school diploma opens doors that lead to long-term career opportunities. Students who graduate from high school on time have many more choices in young adulthood. They are more likely to pursue postsecondary education and training, make healthier decisions and engage in less risky behaviors. They are also more employable and have higher incomes than students who fail to graduate. In 2015, median annual earnings for someone without a high school diploma ($21,300) were 73 percent of those of a high school graduate ($29,000) and 42 percent of the median earnings of someone with a bachelor’s degree ($50,900).