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July 23, 2014

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State’s ranking still abysmal in Kids Count report, but Nevada showing improvement

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Leila Navidi

A student studies in the StarOn classroom at Mojave High School in North Las Vegas on Feb. 2, 2012.

For the second consecutive year, Nevada is ranked last in the nation for education, according to the 2013 Kids Count report.

For nearly a quarter-century, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has been reporting national and state trends in child well-being. The Maryland-based nonprofit group ranks states on 16 indicators that measure a child's economic, educational, health and family well-being.

Nevada ranked near the bottom on many indicators, which contributed to its overall ranking of 48th nationally — outpacing only Mississippi (49th) and New Mexico (50th).

Although the rankings paint a grim picture, Nevada improved on 11 of the 16 indicators since 2012. Those improvements give Rennae Daneshvary, director of Nevada Kids Count, hope for the Silver State’s future.

“Improvement comes slowly,” Daneshvary said. “We have seen some progress. There’s hope for Nevada. We can’t give up.”

Here is how Nevada fared, according to the Kids Count report released today:

    • Education

      Although it has seen academic improvement, Nevada is ranked 50th in education for the second year in a row.

      Nevada has the highest percentage of toddlers ages 3 and 4 who aren't in preschool (70 percent) and the highest percentage of students who fail to graduate in four years (42 percent).

      Three-quarters of Nevada fourth-graders are not proficient in reading, and 71 percent of eighth-graders are not proficient in math.

      Third-grade reading proficiency — the catchphrase was “Read by Three" during the past legislative session — is a critical indicator for school success. Studies have consistently shown children who can read by the end of third grade are less likely to drop out of high school.

      The eighth-grade math proficiency is also a crucial indicator for educational success. Students who take advanced math and science courses by the end of middle school are more likely to attend and finish college.

      Nevada has improved from the 2005 Kids Count study in all four education indicators measured by the Casey Foundation. Test scores have gone up, and there are 3,000 more children in preschool and 5 percent more students who are graduating on time.

      However, Nevada is not improving quickly enough to make a difference in the overall rankings. That’s because other states are seeing similar improvement, as well, Daneshvary said.

      Nevada ranks 50th in the nation in its graduation rate and preschool participation rate, and 46th in third-grade reading proficiency.

    • Economic well-being

      The devastating effects of the Great Recession are still lingering among Nevada's youngest residents, particularly those in minority communities.

      The state ranks 48th in the nation when it comes to its children's economic well-being.

      About a third of Nevada children reported their parents lacked a secure job and steady income, up from about a quarter of children five years ago.

      There were about 144,000 Nevada children living in poverty in 2011, an increase of about 54,000 children since 2005. Over the course of the recession, Nevada's child poverty rate jumped from 15 percent to 22 percent.

      Nationally, there were more than 16 million children living in poverty in 2011. The official poverty line that year was $22,811 for a family of four.

      Joblessness is also affecting teenagers. Although there has been some job growth recently, teenagers are having a tougher time finding work. That's especially true for high school dropouts.

      About 18,000 Nevada youths, ages 16 to 19, are considered "idle teens" — high school dropouts who are not working. Between 2008 and 2011, Nevada saw 3,000 more "idle teens" — an 18 percent increase. Nevada ranks 50th in the nation on this indicator.

      While Nevada’s economic indicators for children have worsened since 2005, they have shown improvement over the past couple of years, Daneshvary said. Three of the four economic indicators in the Kids Count survey have improved in Nevada since last year, she said.

      Although the poverty rate has remained persistently stable, the population of children in poverty is expected to decline as Nevada’s unemployment rate continues to improve, Daneshvary said.

      “I’m optimistic,” she said. “We’re seeing signs of improvement.”

    • Health

      Although Nevada's health care indicators have been improving, the state ranks 47th in the nation when it comes to its children's health care.

      Nevada ranks 50th in the nation, saddled with the largest percentage of uninsured children.

      A whopping 16 percent of Nevada children in 2011 — about 107,000 kids — lacked health insurance, down from about 20 percent in 2008.

      Although Nevada has insured more children over the past few years, the state has more than double the national average when it comes to uninsured children. For comparison, about 7 percent of children nationally were without health insurance in 2011.

      Nevada's other health indicators are in line with the national average:

      • About 8 percent of Nevada babies were born with a low birth weight in 2010.

      • Nevada ranks 23rd in the country when it comes to its child and teen death rate. Nevada's rate dropped from 37 deaths per 100,000 children in 2005 to 27 deaths per 100,000 in 2010. There were 189 youth deaths in Nevada in 2010.

      • Teenagers who abuse alcohol or drugs dipped slightly. About 17,000 Nevada children — or 8 percent — abused drugs or alcohol during the 2010-11 school year.

    • Family and community

      Nevada ranks 41st in the country when it comes to family and community indicators.

      • About 59,000 Nevada children — or 9 percent of all children — are living in high-poverty areas, where 30 percent or more of the population live below the federal poverty line. Concentrated poverty attracts crime and violence, which negatively affects poor children, according to the research authors.

      • A little more than a third of Nevada children — about 227,000 kids — lived in single-parent households. Children who grow up in single-parent families are usually at an economic disadvantage. They are also more likely to drop out of school, to have a teenage pregnancy and to divorce later on in life, according to researchers.

      • The educational attainment of parents is a significant indicator of their children's academic success. Nevada ranks 48th in the country for the percentage of children whose parents have not graduated from high school. About 153,000 children — 23 percent — live in families where the head of the household lacks a high school diploma. For comparison, 15 percent of children nationally have parents who dropped out of high school.

      • Nevada has the nation's fourth-highest teenage pregnancy rate. However, in recent years, the teenage birth rate has been declining. Nevada saw a 22 percent decline in its teen birth rate since 2005. In 2010, there were 39 teen births per 1,000 births, down from 50 teen births per 1,000 in 2005.

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    1. Oh yes..... And we all blame the teachers for these failures. Brilliant!

      Adoption of the Common Core Standards, revamp of the teachers evaluation system, providing IPads to students, hiring more consultants and non- teachers to dream-up more work for teachers, school vouchers, charter schools, budget cuts, salary and benefit cuts,..... Any more hair-brained ideas to improve education?

      None of those improve children well-being!

      Take care of the barriers to learning and everything will fall into place. Is that so difficult to understand?

    2. Nevada is slowly climbing out of the grave of being dead last. This does not magically happen, as some would wish. It costs. Sadly, our Nevada State Legislature continues to avoid accountability, forcing Citizens to take educational funding to the Voters at the polls via the initiative process, rather than be identified and accountable for their loyalty to certain industries that have dictated policy and laws here in Nevada for over a century now. Lawmakers don't want to bite the hand that funds serious money into their election campaigns! This is WHY Nevada continues to be last.

      Contributing factors are runaway growth, poor planning by commissions, UNchecked immigration, limited commercial competition (just think utilities, for starters), unfair labor practices, stagnant employee compensation, and insufficient infrastructure to adequately serve the community. That starts the list.

      Our good Governor Sandoval knew it was a safe political move to fund ELL education and reduce classroom sizes, those are the elephants in the room, too big of a problem to ignore, so he got the right attention by doing so. Although the State employees will get some long needed relief, he fell short in making the lives of teachers any better where they bring home the bacon. In fact, teachers who serve our children are asked to continue "to do more with less". The quality of life for Nevada teachers who serve at-risk children has not improved one inch, leaving many, if not most teachers, taking on second and third jobs just to keep up with the costs of living! What does this translate out as to being?

      As a consequence, teachers who are hitting the max with extra work load, have little energy to go the "extra mile" with needy children. This will only impede progress in the long haul. The trick of utilizing Teach for America teachers has back fired in many respects. As the school year goes to the last half to end, these TFA recruits shift their responsibilities and all the extras they took on early in the year. They either outright abandon clubs they created, or activities they commited to, or they attempt to assign or dump them on tenured staff. Low pay and energy deficit affect them as well. TFA is NOT a cure all for a school district's budgetary problems. High pay commitments go to administration, and there has been an INCREASE in administrative hires in recent years, rather than a downsizing decrease....do the math here.

      Say what you will, it all boils down to LEADERSHIP and their priorities. The rest of us are subject to them and it.

      Blessings and Peace,
      Star

    3. For THIS we spend $Billions each and every year. The teachers union still won't accept accountability for ANYTHING. Suggestions to enhance teacher preparation are met with sneers. Teachers are fixated on themselves and how many of them it takes to take attendance, not on teaching our children to read. How can we change this? Provide OPTIONS for students. High School students should have the option of public school, charter, private school (with DSA and LSST funding to pay down tuition), home school, internet school.....

    4. You're partially right, Roberta, but don't lay it on the teachers. Most are striving to do their best but the top-heavy layer of fools running the show are dumber than dirt and want to keep students that way by forcing nonsensical studies on them. Studies that, while worthful to those so inclined, do nothing to further the education students will need once they get into the "real" world. Subjects such as reading, writing, U.S. history and math are given short shrift in favor of the lefts agenda to marginalize anything traditional. Who really cares if "Heather Has Two Mommies?" How will that help students when they apply for work in the market place? We need to shut down government schools in favor of private schools funded by vouchers that hand back power to parents who are concerned about their childrens welfare and futures. Take that power away from the pencil-pushing, bureaucratic drones so prevalent in today's government enforced re-education camps!

    5. Teachers need to get their heads out of the sand. Administrators too. We do NOT want K-12 any how involved in social welfare. All students deserve relevant attention, whether "needy" or not. It is not a K-12 thing to worry and wail about perceived issues at home--unless so obvious and severe that you need to call CPS or 9-1-1. Some teachers probably are overly involved in irrelevant activities including pretexts that they are some how responsible for the kids 24/7. They are NOT your kids. Most kids are not dying of malnutrition although they might miss a meal now and then. Most kids are not being physically assaulted, although some will experience that--and when they do, THEY need to report it. You CANNOT DWELL on everything that MIGHT happen. Get busy and teach the basics.

    6. How much does it take for educators to "read between the lines" and COMPREHEND that they are NOT all things to all people? It would be enough if they would TEACH our kids to read, write, calculate.

    7. We're about average in funding yet we still rank last. Go figure. It's not about funding. Other states get much better results with LESS MONEY.

    8. Roslenda...although I am sure you are well-intentioned, go back and read the last indicator "Family and Community". WE do not think we are all things to all people. We are just one cog in the wheel. Ask yourself this...what is the COMMUNITY, of which YOU are a part, doing to ensure that all children come prepared to learn and ensure that parents can support learning at home? When those things don't happen, by default, we as educators MUST try and fill the gap. That's me, a thirty year CCSD vet, telling you what I've read between the lines.

    9. No point in explaining to those who are beyond bigotry and hatred.

      That has been the American pastime for centuries and some people's mind are simply incapable of understanding logic.