Kids Count Data Book shows some improvement for TN children

Published 1:15 pm Wednesday, June 12, 2024

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Tennessee ranks in the middle among states for the well-being of its children, at 36th overall in the new Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The annual report ranks states on the overall condition of children in four areas: economic well-being, education, health, and community and family.

Brian Straessle, executive director of The Sycamore Institute, said the report found improvements in some areas and challenges in others. He added it highlighted critical education issues in Tennessee and other states during the pandemic, including learning loss.

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However, he pointed out Tennessee has significantly improved reading and math proficiency.

“We do have one year of newer data in Tennessee in particular,” Straessle explained. “Showing that we made some really big strides in recovering some of that learning loss, where students scored higher on reading and math proficiency than they had during the pandemic. “

According to the Data Book, Tennessee ranks 32nd for education. The state did see improvements in family and community, and the number of children living in high-poverty areas and children in single-parent families decreased.

Straessle said another point the report focuses on is chronic absenteeism, which could indicate other underlying challenges a student is facing at home or in their community, such as lack of access to meals or essential services schools provide.

“If they’re not in school, it really sets them back both in learning but also in other socio-economic challenges,” Straessle pointed out. “Chronic absenteeism is a nationwide challenge as well, just like learning loss. And it’s one where I think there’s still a lot of room for improvement.”

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said the report encouraged states and communities to examine several approaches to improving the well-being of children and addressing some of the pandemic’s negative impacts.

“We know some of the things that work,” Boissiere emphasized. “Both in remediating or providing additional support for kids who may have fallen behind such as high dosage tutoring, creating environments within schools where all kids feel like they can belong, and looking at evidence-based curriculum approaches.”

Boissiere added compared with peer nations, the United States is not equipping its children with the high-level reading, math and digital problem-solving skills needed for many of today’s fastest-growing occupations in a highly competitive global economy.