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Report: Well-being of Coloradan children worsened in last year

Despite improvements in education and health, Colorado’s children’s overall well-being is worse than almost half the nation’s, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The annual report rates states using metrics in four areas, including education, economic well-being and health. Colorado ranked 22nd overall, a slip of one spot from last year.

According to the report, 18 percent of Coloradan children were living in poverty in 2012, up from 14 percent in 2005. The percentage of children whose parents lack secure employment rose from 24 percent in 2008 to 28 percent in 2012. Despite these shortfalls, Colorado’s national ranking in economic well-being rose from 19th to 18th place.

The state’s education ranking dropped from 9th in the country to 11th, despite an improvement in the number of children attending preschools, fourth-grade reading proficiency, eighth-grade math proficiency and the number of high school students graduating on time.

Melissa Colsman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Education’s Teaching and Learning Unit, said the state has made several changes in education over the last couple of years, so it is hard to see the impact yet.

Colsman did, however, attribute improvements in reading and math proficiency to the state’s new academic standards and an emphasis on tracking and promoting early literacy through the READ Act.

“We’ve had a focus on literacy for a number of years,” she said.

In health, the state’s ranking improved from 45th in the nation to 39th. But that improvement came despite some troubling indicators in the areas of health and well-being. For example, 30 percent of children lived in single-parent homes in 2012, up from 27 percent in 2005. There was also an increase in children living in highly-impoverished areas, up from 2% in 2000 to 9% in 2012.

Tara Manthey, communications director for the Colorado Children’s Campaign (CCC), said Colorado’s ranking is relative to the progress of other states. For example, Colorado’s child poverty rates are increasing at a much higher rate than many other states, which in turn affect its rank.

Bill Jaeger, vice president of early childhood initiatives for the CCC, said the report creates a jarring comparison between gains in education and losses in childhood poverty and economic security.

“Despite (increases) in childhood poverty, we’re seeing more kids in school, better scores in reading and math, and more (high school) graduates,” Jaeger said. “We need to celebrate the gains we’ve seen in these areas, especially with the hard times these families are facing.”

Read the full report here.

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