Report Measures Trends in Child Well-Being

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released its annual Kids Count report evaluating child well-being in the United States.

The report delves into areas such as economic security, education, health, and family and community. The online resources are comprehensive — offering the national and state-by-state perspective, in addition to data broken out by race and ethnicity.

According to the report, small gains have been made in the areas of education and health. However, income inequality and high unemployment are hurting well-being.

The report stresses that high-quality preschool programs can improve academic outcomes for children. However, only about 46 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds are in preschool.

The child poverty rate was about 23 percent in 2011, with the youngest children being the poorest. The report defined the poverty line as $22,811 for two adults and two children.

According to the report, child well-being can be improved with more programs that teach parents how to be their child’s first teacher and offering more high-quality preschool programs.

The report reported further data, and here are some interesting statistics about Latino children:

– ABout 63 percent of Hispanic three- and four-year-old children were not attending preschool — more than any other group.

– About 34 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty in 2011.

– About 39 percent of Hispanic children had parents lacking secure employment in 2011.

– About 11 percent of Hispanic teens were not in school or not working in 2011.

– About 29 percent of Hispanic high school students did not graduate on time in 2009-10.

– About 42 percent of Hispanic children were in single-parent homes in 2011.

The states were also ranked based on well-being, with New Mexico ranked last overall. Other states with significant Latino populations included Arizona (47), California (41), Florida (38), Illinois (23), New York (29) and Texas (42).

Related Links:

2013 Kids Count Data Book, Annie E. Casey Foundation

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States Vary in Preparedness for Common Core Standards’ Impact on Latinos

Sates have widely varying degrees of preparedness for the implementation of common core standards — and in particular their impact on low-income, Latino and black students.

A new report by the Education Trust, “Uneven at the Start,” identifies the best- and least-prepared states at  phasing in the more rigorous reading and math standards to serve different student populations. The group used performance data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam to predict how states will fare. It examines both improvement and performance of each state on NAEP exams, including in fourth- and eighth- grade reading and math performance, compared against the national average.

With Latino students, Texas and Massachusetts performed best. Florida also performed well.

Meanwhile, Oregon  and California had the weakest record with Hispanic students. The two states are improving slowly when compared against other states, and have performed worse than the national average across several subject areas and age levels. According to the analysis, neither state in any category is above the national average for Hispanics.

The analysis found that no state had above average performance and improvement for Hispanic students across all the subject and grade levels.

“…Instead of just pretending that the same amount of effort will be required everywhere to get children to the new standards, we need to make sure that the lessons from states that have improved the most for all groups of children inform implementation work more broadly and ensure that struggling states have the extra help they will need to build the forward momentum that is already present elsewhere,” said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, in a news release.

The report has charts that break out where each state falls within the spectrum of performance.

Related Links:

– “Uneven at the Start: Differences in State Track Records Foreshadow Challenges and Opportunities for Common Core,” The Education Trust. 

– “New Analyses Examine State Track Records in Performance and Improvement,” The Education Trust.

Kids Count Report Measures Hispanic Children’s Well-Being

Latino children still have the lowest preschool attendance rate of any racial or ethnic group, The Annie E. Casey Foundation annual 2013 Kids Count report has found.

Between 2009 and 2011, about 63 percent of Hispanic children did not attend preschool, compared with 50 percent of white children.

The annual report measures the well-being of children across the nation, and provides a wealth of additional information on key indicators. It provides state-by-state information. Between 2005 and 2011, the child poverty rate increased from 19 percent to 23 percent.

The Associated Press reported that while education and health indicators are improving, economic indicators worsened.

“We hope as we go forward we’ll see continued improvement,” Patrick McCarthy, president of the Casey Foundation, told The Washington Post. “But we’re concerned about the longterm impact of the recession. Research suggests that children who spend extended periods of time in poverty are more likely to drop out of school, become pregnant and are less likely to [find permanent] work. Over the long term, they have a tough time transitioning to adulthood.”

Some additional information provides further context on the population:

– In 2011, about 34 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty, compared with 14 percent of white children. The national average was 23 percent.

– Hispanic children were by far the most likely of any racial or ethnic group to have a head of household who lacked a high school diploma, as of 2011. About 37 percent of Hispanic children fell under this category, compared with 6 percent of white children.

– About 29 percent of Hispanic students did not graduate on time in 2009-10, compared with 17 percent of white students.

– In 2011, about 13 percent of Hispanic children did not have health insurance, compared with 5 percent of white children.

– About 42 percent of Hispanic children lived in single-parent homes in 2011, compared with 25 percent of white children.

Additionally, some states with significant Hispanic populations struggled. For the second year in a row, Nevada was ranked dead last in education. Additionally, New Mexico ranked worst in the nation in child well-being, after it was found that about 30 percent of children there are living in poverty.

Related Links:

KIDS COUNT 2013 Report

– “Report: Economic well-being of US children slips,” Associated Press. 

– “Children living in poverty longer, putting their futures at risk,” The Washington Post.

Many California Children Live in Poverty

A new study finds that 30 percent of Hispanic children ages zero to six years old in California live at or below the poverty line–threatening the state’s economic strength in the years to come. The rate is higher than the average of 23 percent for all California children.

The report, Prosperity Threatened, was released by the non-profit group The Center for the Next Generation, which focuses on improving opportunities for children and families.

The researchers highlight the stark differences in poverty rates by age, reporting that fewer than one in ten of the state’s senior citizens live in poverty.

They also looked at data by county, finding that Merced County had the highest overall poverty rates and San Mateo County, the lowest.

The group recommends increasing funding to the highest poverty school districts, and urges the state to create a new school financing system. They also say that family income stability can be improved by strengthening benefit programs.

The argument that childhood poverty now threatens economies of the future is becoming a common theme elsewhere in the country. Former Texas state demographer Steve Murdock testified that the challenges facing Latino children require greater investment from the state during a school funding trial last October.

How have you framed this discussion in your own state?

Related Links:

– “Childhood Poverty Threatens California’s Economic Prosperity.” National Journal The Next America. 

– “Prosperity Threatened: Perspectives on Childhood Poverty in California.” The Center for the Next Generation. 

– “We can’t abandon the next generation.” The Sacramento Bee. 

Latino Students Play Pivotal Role in Texas School Funding Case

As Texas’ school funding system went on trial this week, former state demographer Steve Murdock testified in court on Tuesday that the significant challenges ahead facing Latino children require a greater investment from the state.

The Legislature cut more than $5.4 billion from the education budget last year, representing a cut of $500 per student, reported the Dallas Morning News. At the same time, the state has phased in more rigorous standards and tougher exams.  Hundreds of districts sued the state, demanding more adequate funding.

About 53 percent of Texas public school children are now Latino. They also are much more likely to come from poor families, requiring greater investment from the state, Murdock argued.

“Our future is increasingly tied to the minority population–how well they do in terms of education will determine how well Texas does in the future” Murdock said, according to a report in the Morning News.

Murdock listed off the demographic changes the state is experiencing: over the last decade the white student population dropped by 10 percent and the Hispanic population increased by 50 percent. By 2050, he estimates that Texas public school students will be about 64 percent Latino and 15.5 percent white.

As Texas students become more Hispanic, they also are becoming poorer and more in need of academic and financial support. About 27 percent of Texas Latinos live below the poverty line–compared with 9.5 percent of whites.

Murdock has played a key role in Texas for years as a figure who has called attention to the fact that the educational outcomes for Latinos must improve for the state to stay economically strong in the future. He once told the Texas Tribune that given the state’s demographics, “the Texas of today is the U.S. of tomorrow.”

Related Links:

– “Educating Hispanics crucial for state, demographer testifies in lawsuit.” The Houston Chronicle.

– “Demographer warns of increasing education costs as Latino population rises.” Austin American-Statesman.

– “Texas public schools require more funding to serve Hispanics, expert testifies in finance trial.” The Dallas Morning News.

– “Texas, school districts square off in finance trial.” The Dallas Morning News.

Latino Children Hurt by Chicago Teachers’ Strike

With her two daughters kept out of school because of the Chicago teachers strike, Patricia Rodriguez was left with no other option than to take them with her to her job at a local laundromat this week. The Chicago teachers’ strike affected nearly 180,000 Latino children enrolled in the school district, many from disadvantaged families, Fox News Latino reports.

“I’m lucky that I can take them to work with me because they can sit in the chairs, but I know that families had to leave kids home alone today or stay home and miss work to be with them and that’s not fair,” Rodriguez told Fox, of her 8- and 13-year old daughters. “The teachers want more and more money and while they fight for that, it’s us, the parents, that are spending money today that we don’t have either. It’s not a big thing today but what about tomorrow and next week if they don’t go back?”

The news outlet reported that both girls said they’d prefer being at class to hanging out at the laundromat.

Many education policy experts are lamenting the negative impact on the mostly low-income Latino and black families missing out on school. Every day counts for such children.

Matthew Chingos of the Brookings Institution wrote that poor students couldn’t afford to miss class. He noted that research has shown that teacher absenteeism–leaving students with substitute teachers– has a negative impact on academic performance. Being out of the school during the summer can also put students behind.

“In other words, the consequence of being out of school is to increase the already unacceptable large achievement gap between low-income students and their affluent peers,” writes Chingos.

The Education Trust also released a statement from Vice President Amy Wilkins calling the effect on the district’s poor, mostly Latino and black students, “tragic.”

“This strike needs to end now,” she wrote. “And the agreement that ends it needs to be one that creates conditions to boost Chicago’s dismal achievement, particularly among its low-income students.”

An article in The Huffington Post noted that the strike could prompt more Latino families to consider enrolling their children in charter schools, which are still open during the strike.

However, up until this point not as many Hispanics have chosen charter schools, said Juan Rangel, the CEO of the United Neighborhood Organization. UNO runs a group of charter schools in Illinois, and serves more than half of Latino children attending Illinois charters. Many are English language learners.

“”I think part of the problem is charters across the country have not been able to attract a lot of Hispanic students and English language learners,” Rangel said.

Related Links:

– “Chicago Teachers Strike Hits Latino Families Hard.” Fox News Latino.

– “Charter School Options for Latinos Gain Attention Due to Chicago Teachers’ Strike.” The Huffington Post. 

– “In Chicago, Latino students and families brace for teachers’ strike.” NBC Latino.

Study: Federal Loophole Means Minority-Majority Schools Get Less Funding

A recent report by the Center for American Progress asserts that the promise of equality made by the landmark Brown. v. Board of Education ruling has been broken. Latino and black children tend to be clustered in schools that receive substantially less per-pupil funding than schools with primarily white students. The result is that black and Latino students often receive a separate and unequal education.

CAP places the blame for this disparity on a federal loophole. To receive Title 1 money, the federal government requires districts to provide “comparable” services between poor and wealthy schools. But teacher salaries are excluded from complying with the requirement. As a result, less experienced, lower-paid teachers are clustered in poorer, high-minority schools.

As Ary Spatig-Amerikaner, the author of the CAP report, writes:

“School districts across the country routinely tell the federal government that they are meeting this requirement. But the law explicitly requires districts to exclude teacher salary differentials tied to experience when determining comparability compliance. This is a major exclusion because experience is a chief driver of teachers’ salaries. This misleading process leads to a misleading result—districts think they are providing equal spending on high-need schools and low-need schools, even though they aren’t. This problem has been frequently called the comparability loophole.”

CAP recommends closing the loophole, and wants to see TItle 1 schools receiving at least as much money as other schools when taking into account teacher salaries. The group backed up their conclusion of inequality with some striking numbers. Researchers analyzed 2009 data from the U.S. Department of Education and found that schools with a white population of more than 90 percent spent $733 more per student than schools with a 90 percent or more non-white enrollment. Across the entire country, schools spent an average of $334 more dollars on each white student than non-whites. While several hundred dollars may not appear to be a huge funding gap, it’s important to remember that this is a per-student dollar figure. When you take into account a school’s total enrollment the numbers become significant.

The study’s authors point out a scenario in which a 90 percent minority school would see a $440,000 increase if funding was equalized. The researchers say this could represent 12 more first-year teachers or nine veteran teachers. It could also mean the difference between being able to afford technology, counselors, or more teachers. Less funding also often means lower-paid and less experienced teachers and staff.

If you are searching for local data, the group has compiled a state-by-state analysis. Some states were outliers in which a larger minority population meant more funding. But the states with the most Latino and black students–Texas and California–showed funding disparities. However, this study makes me pose the question: Even if the loophole is closed, will more experienced higher-paid teachers be willing to teach in the poorer, more challenging schools?

Writing for Voxxi News, former teacher Cammy Harbison said teacher pay must shift to a merit-based system to attract talented teachers to poorer schools. Would higher pay for teachers in poorer schools make any difference in teacher quality?

Related Links:

– “Students of color still receiving unequal education.” Center for American Progress.

– PDF of CAP Report.  – “Unequal education: low funding is not the only problem with high-minority schools.” Voxxi. 

– “Study: No Child loophole can mean fewer dollars for poor schools.” McClatchy Newspapers.

Children of Immigrant Parents More Likely to Fall Behind in School Early

Children with immigrant parents are much more likely to live in poverty, lack health insurance and drop out of high school than children of U.S.-born parents, a recent study concluded.

The children face these challenges even though their parents’ employment rates are similar to those of American parents and they actually are more likely to live in two-parent homes.

The Foundation for Child Development in New York examined the gaps between the groups in a recent policy brief.

The children’s academic performance was also affected by their status as English language learners. According to the study, only about 7 percent of ELL students were proficient in reading in English by the end of third grade, compared with 37 percent of children who spoke English as a first language.

In addition, about 14 percent of ELLs were proficient in mathematics by the end of third grade, compared with 44 percent of children who spoke English as a first language.

“This is the canary in the coal mine for dropping out,” Richard Fry of the Pew Hispanic Center told the Wall Street Journal.

Children of immigrants from Mexico and Central America tend to fair the worst in education measures. Many of those parents don’t have an education beyond elementary school, and are unable to help their children with school work. Those parents also don’t know how to navigate the American school system.

The Journal spoke with Karen Arroyo, 14, a student at the Aspiring Centennial College Preparatory Academy in Los Angeles, about how her parents encouraged her to get a good education. “[R]ight now, my parents don’t know much about what I am doing because they didn’t go to high school,” she told the newspaper.

“Studies have found that those who are unable to read by the fourth grade are unlikely to ever catch up, and are  four times more likely to drop out of school,” the report’s author, Daniel Hernandez, said in a press release. “These data show us that our education system is failing nine out of ten Dual Language Learner students in the U.S., and even a substantial majority of children whose first language is English.”

The organization makes a number of policy recommendations, including the suggestion that the government must make greater investments in Pre-K programs, provide adequate funding for ELLs and expand programs that seek to improve the job skills of immigrant parents.

The other numbers in the report are broken down here:

–  30 percent of the children of immigrants live below the federal poverty level, compared with 19 percent of those born to non-immigrant parents

– 25 percent of the children of immigrant parents don’t graduate high school, compared with 18 percent of those born to non-immigrant parents

– 15 percent of children in immigrant families lack health insurance, compared with 8 percent of those of American-born parents

Related Links:

– “Children in Immigrant Families: Essential to America’s Future.” Foundation for Child Development.

– “Immigrant Children Lag Behind, Posing Risk.” Wall Street Journal.

– “American Children born to Immigrant parents trailing behind, new study finds.” New American Media. 

Study Evaluates How Well California School Districts Educate Latino Students

An annual report by The Education Trust-West that grades California school districts on how well they educate Latino, black and low-income students finds shortcomings in many districts.

The “district report cards” evaluated 147 districts for the 2010-11 school year and assigned letter grades in four separate areas: performance, improvement, achievement gaps and college-readiness. For the most part, districts received the same grades they had the previous year.  The measures were pretty tough: The highest overall average grade in 2011 for a district was a B+, with most districts receiving Cs and Ds.

The ratings were based in part on state testing data and the California Academic Performance Index (API). College-readiness was based on how many students completed coursework required for admission to the University of California and California State University systems.

There were some good scores in the subcategories, though. “Overall, ‘A’ grades are found in each indicator category and in high-poverty and low-poverty districts alike, dispelling the myth that poverty and low performance are inexorably connected,” the organization’s press release said. Four districts with enrollments that are more than 40 percent low-income and that serve a population that is more than 55 percent African-American or Latino ranked in the top ten: Corona-Norco Unified, Lake Elsinore Unified, Covina-Valley Unified and Baldwin Park Unified. Researchers point out that many wealthier districts ranked lower in the study.

In Southern California, about 15 percent of the districts earned an overall grade of “D,” while in Northern California about 72 percent of districts earned a “D.” You can look up specific reports here.

Education Trust-West Executive Director Arun Ramanathan said that many parents and other groups used last year’s grades as a resource. “Once again, the report cards reveal the important role that districts play in focusing attention on their highest need students and improving results,” he said.

Many media outlets covered the study. The San Jose Mercury News reported the surprising finding that the affluent Palo Alto Unified district in Silicon Valley scored next to last with a grade of “D.” “We need to teach differently,” the district’s school board president, Melissa Baten-Caswell, told the newspaper. “Just doing the same thing over and over isn’t going to change things.”

Palo Alto parent Ken Dauber, a Google software engineer and member of the group We Can Do Better Palo Alto, also told the paper the outside study is useful in highlighting the achievement gap. “Embarrassment is often a good impetus for change,” Dauber said.

The San Francisco Examiner wrote that the San Francisco schools earned “horrible” grades, including an overall grade of “D” and a “F” for the size of the achievement gap between Latino and white students. The district received a somewhat stronger “C” grade for college readiness of black and Latino students. “This just illustrates how much more work there is ahead of us,” SFUSD superintendent Carlos Garcia said in a statement.

Meanwhile, The Fresno Bee reported that the Fresno Unified district’s director of research, Dave Calhoun, called the study’s grades “somewhat arbitrary” and that large districts with high populations of English language learners such as Fresno struggle to score well on tests. The district received a grade of “D” overall.

Does your state or an outside organization offer similar report cards for the school districts you cover? If so, how do your schools measure up? If comparable report cards for your schools aren’t available now, would you or your publication be able to generate some using data and methodologies similar to Education Trust-West’s?

Less Affluent Schools, Lower Physical Education Scores?

Latino children from low-income families face more than just academic struggles. As this story in the New York Times points out, they may also face health problems, which in turn, can contribute to lower school achievement.

The story, produced by the Bay Citizen for the Times, examined state data of student performance in California’s statewide physical fitness test. It found that students from more affluent schools scored higher than students from low-income schools.

At the affluent Sycamore Valley Elementary, for example, 83 percent of  fifth graders received healthy scores on six different measurements. However, at Cesar Chavez Elementary, where many students speak Spanish as their first language and more than 85 percent of  students receive free or reduced-price school lunches, no fifth-graders received six healthy scores. About 25 percent received a “need improvement” score on every measure.

Differences between the schools may contribute to the inequity:  Sycamore Elementary has “physical education specialist” who helps students train for the test. Cesar Chavez doesn’t. Sycamore does not allow cupcakes or other unhealthy treats for classroom celebrations, and fund-raising helps pay for movement classes and other fitness activities.

At Cesar Chavez, a fenced-in blacktop lot, where the basketball rims have no nets, serves as the setting for physical education classes. The school’s parents, many of whom are immigrants and some homeless, cannot afford to give money to the school.

Dr. Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, a nonprofit organization, told the reporter:  “It comes as no surprise whatsoever that such enormous inequities would be present. It is grossly unjust and will have health and economic impacts on the state of California for generations to come.”

The Bay Citizen investigation highlights an interesting, and under-reported, inequity between affluent and poor schools. With an undeniable correlation between health and school achievement, are students in lower-income schools at a disadvantage on tests and classroom performance because of a lack of adequate physical education programs?

Every state requires students to take physical fitness tests. Ask for the data from your state. Do less affluent schools score lower? If they are, what is making that difference?