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NC kids face challenges at school, but rising economic well-being

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Monday, June 24, 2024   

A new report sheds light on children's well-being in North Carolina, and highlights the need for greater academic support.

According to the latest Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Book, the state faces hurdles in education, with an alarming number of students not meeting basic proficiency standards. The report said 68% of fourth graders are not reading at grade level and eighth graders are showing the lowest math proficiency scores in 20 years.

Neil Harrington, research director at the nonprofit NC Child, said it does not bode well for the state.

"Today's students are North Carolina's future workforce," Harrington pointed out. "If they aren't equipped with the skills they need to succeed as adults, our economic future as a state suffers."

North Carolina's overall ranking for child well-being remains 33rd among 50, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, unchanged from last year's ranking.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said the pandemic had a negative effect on school, family finances and kids' overall mental well-being, which have not fully rebounded post-pandemic.

"Ensuring children that these adverse childhood experiences are addressed, that they have the resources that they need -- within the school and within the community -- so that they can heal is significantly important to the well-being of children," Boissiere emphasized.

In contrast to the educational setbacks, North Carolina did make strides in economic well-being. The number of children living in poverty has decreased by 52,000 since 2019 and more parents have secure employment. Harrington explained investments making it easier for families to access resources should help improve kids' outcomes.

"We know that when kids grow up in households that earn enough to meet their basic needs, they're more likely to perform better on a host of other measures of well-being," Harrington explained.

The report also suggested states take advantage of all the pandemic relief funding to prioritize students' needs, and called on policymakers to invest in schools and wraparound services to improve outcomes for kids.

Disclosure: The Annie E. Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Education, Juvenile Justice, and Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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