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Study: Child Well-being Improving, But Education Still Lags

Study: Child Well-being Improving, But Education Still Lags 
Children have shown few gains in educational achievement over the past three decades, a sour note in a broad social report card that also cites declines in drug use, pregnancy rates and crime.

      The study, to be released Tuesday by a private philanthropy, paints a mixed picture for the 18 and under crowd, with trouble spots including classroom performance and obesity.

      Educational achievement for 9-, 13- and 17-year-olds has stagnated since 1975 despite government efforts such as the No Child Left Behind law of 2001, according to the Foundation for Child Development, which is dedicated to helping children, particularly the disadvantaged.

      This year’s study, which covers 1975 to 2005, “raises serious concerns around education and illustrates the urgent need for policies and practices that serve our nation’s youth in this area,” said the author, Kenneth Land, a sociology professor at Duke University.

      It found that children’s safety and behavior has improved the most over that time, thanks to declines in teenage birth rates, drinking and drug use and criminal activity.

      The study followed up reports from the past two years that looked at 1975-2003 and 1975-2004. The latest study noted that more children were likely to attend preschool, get college degrees and be more politically active than their parents’ generation.

      On the education front, the study found that while math and reading scores for 9-year-olds improved, they were offset by a flat performance by 13-year-olds and some declines by 17-year-olds.

      The foundation attributed better performance by the younger students, particularly in math, to the increased quality of prekindergarten programs. Some 12 states provide no support for such programs, according to the report, which predicted even more gains if not for state budget shortfalls.

      Other factors that limit achievement include inconsistent standards for educational assessment; the growth of minority groups receiving education; and bureaucratic resistance to changes such as merit pay.

      â€śQuality early education programs must be a part of the effort as we move forward, coupled with strong curricula and qualified teachers to maintain prekindergarten momentum through primary and secondary grades,” said Ruby Takanishi, the foundation’s president.

      The study also found:

  • A steady rise in obesity is offsetting improvements in mortality as fewer children are dying young. Overall, children’s health is continuing to decline.
  • An increasing number of children lives with one parent, a situation that affects their social relationships.
  • The Child Well-Being Index tracks 28 separate measures and is based on statistical reports from the Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics and other agencies. The section on education is drawn from results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, widely considered the “nation’s report card.”

— Associated Press

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