West Virginia KIDS COUNT has released its 2014 data book, and Greenbrier County is listed 19th in the state using a variety of socioeconomic indicators that have been proven to determine whether or not kids will be successful in school.
West Virginia KIDS COUNT is a nonprofit organization that gathers and disseminates vital data and advocates for kid-centered government programs such as Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid and early childhood programs such as Birth to Three, Help Me Grow, and Head Start/Pre-k.
According to KIDS COUNT’s 2014 data book, one in three West Virginia children is at risk of starting school behind and never catching up – gaps in achievement that can be seen as early as 18 months old, when low-income toddlers are already several months behind their peers in terms of their vocabularies. This gap persists throughout elementary school, middle school, high school and college. For instance, statewide, there is a 24 percent gap between low-income and wealthier fourth graders who are not proficient in reading, and a 23 percent gap in eighth grade math. Further, data shows that poor West Virginia kids are twice as likely to drop out of high school, and are less likely to finish college (72 percent of low-income, Pell Grant recipients do not finish college within five years compared to 54 percent of other college students).
“We all want the best for every child born in West Virginia, no matter what the family’s income. Yet we know that socioeconomic status accounts for more of the achievement differences in language, vocabulary and other academic skills than any other factor by far,” said Margie Hale, executive director of KIDS COUNT. “This persistent gap not only hurts kids; it hurts our ability to have a thriving economy. The good news is there are proven solutions to this problem. For instance, investments in high-quality childcare and regular increases in the minimum wage are among the best tools we have for closing the achievement gap and seeing meaningful growth in West Virginia.”
KIDS COUNT also recommends such family-friendly policies as paid sick leave and a West Virginia earned income credit.
So how does Greenbrier County stack up? Fairly well, with its ranking of 19 out of 55 counties. The highest ranking county is Putnam County, while the lowest ranked is McDowell County. Our neighbors fare better and worse: Monroe County ranks ninth in the state, Pocahontas County ranks 39th, Summers County ranks 49th, Fayette County ranks 54th and Nicholas County ranks 35th.
The KIDSCOUNT data book states that a county’s overall rank is determined by the sum of a county’s standing on the 11 core measures of the condition of children. The measures are percentage of low birth-weight babies; infant mortality rate; child and teen death rate; percent of four year olds enrolled in pre-kindergarten; percent of children under age six who live in families in the labor force; percent of fourth graders who scored below proficient in reading/language arts; percent of eighth graders who scored below proficient in math; teen birth rate; percent of high school dropouts; percent of children in poverty; and percent of births to mothers with less than a 12th grade education.
The KIDS COUNT data book included the following 2014 statistics for Greenbrier County:
• 6.8 percent low birth weight babies, down 24.4 percent from 2005; rank 3 in the state
• 5.8 infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births; down 1.7 percent from 2005; rank 17 in state
• 54.3 child and teen death rate (ages 1-19 per 100,000 children/teens); up 22.3 percent from 2005; rank 50 in state
• 65.1 percent four year olds enrolled in pre-k; up 72.7 percent since 2005; rank 39 in state
• 57.3 percent children under six with both parents in labor force; up 5.9 percent since 2005; rank 21 in state
• 57.6 percent fourth graders who scored below proficient in reading/language arts; rank 27 in state (no earlier data for comparison)
• 57.6 percent eighth graders who scored below proficient in math; rank 17 in state (no earlier data for comparison)
• 49.1 teen birth rate (ages 15-19 per 1,000 females); 13.1 percent worse than 2005; rank 41 in state
• 5.7 percent high school dropouts; 59.6 percent better than 2005; rank 15 in state
• 25.3 percent children in poverty; 2.4 percent worse than 2005; rank 21 in state
• 15.9 percent births to mothers with less than a 12th grade education; 17.6 percent better than 2005; rank 24 in state
Further kids count data is available online at www.wvkidscount.org.