When Number One Is Just Not Good Enough

Today, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Massachusetts Budget & Policy Center released the annual KIDS COUNT report, which ranked Massachusetts as leading the nation in the overall well-being of children.  The report tracks indicators that paint a picture of how well children are doing in the fifty states and looks at data trends in four areas: 1) economic well being, such as the number of children in poverty; 2) education, such as percentages of students not proficient in reading or math and percent of children not attending preschool;  3) health, such as percentage of children without health insurance and 4) family & community, such as number of children in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma.

“While we are proud that Massachusetts is leading the nation in the well-being of children, we are immediately sobered by the fact that 53% of our children are not reading proficiently by 4th grade and 213,000 children live in poverty,” said Michael K. Durkin, President, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “The latest KIDS COUNT report underscores our commitment to ensure all children receive high-quality early education to prepare them for kindergarten and success later in school, and to ensure all families have safe, secure housing and environments where children will thrive.”

Said Jane Tewksbury, Executive Director of Thrive in 5: “Being the number one state in education in America is a tremendous accomplishment and cause for much celebration for a job well done, but we can do better.  We can start by investing in early education and care for zero to 5 year olds where it will make the difference between a child being ready to learn or being trapped in the achievement gap before they even start kindergarten.”

Here are a few of the ways United Way is partnering with a broad base of community organizations to increase school readiness, help close the achievement gap and provide safe, securing housing:

  • Ensuring that 20,000 children are more ready for kindergarten by funding organizations that provide early education and care that promotes early literacy and social skills, intensive supports to help children with learning challenges stay on track and parent and caregiver education programs.
  • Supporting Thrive in 5, a public-private partnership created by UWMBMV with the City of Boston in 2008.  Thrive in 5 has collaborated with multiple partners and community-based organizations around school readiness efforts that have resulted in an increase in the percentage of young children entering kindergarten with strong early language and literacy skills, a key element of school readiness, from 54% in 2009 to 63% in 2013.
  • Funding partnerships through its  Summer Learning Collaborative  in seven school districts with high drop-out rates and low student test scores.  These partnerships will prevent more than 2,000 elementary students from losing skills gained during the school year over the summer, or “summer learning loss.”
  • Providing affordable housing and related supports to almost 18,000 families and helping almost 7,000 adults get the skills and credentials they need for employment.

Click here to read the full report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Massachusetts Budget & Policy Center or go to datacenter.kidscount.org/MA for the full Massachusetts KIDS COUNT profile.