KIDS COUNT gives West Virginia poor marks on child health

June 10—The KIDS COUNT 2024 data book is out, and although West Virginia is steadily climbing the ranks in its overall rankings compared to last year, the state still remains in the bottom tier of the nation when it comes to children’s health.

West Virginia’s composite score was 35th in the nation — up from 42nd last year — in the ranking of all 50 states produced annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that examines everything from poverty to post-pandemic life, for its reference criteria.

However, the state still languishes at 47th place in the economic well-being category and 48th place in education, according to the study.

Additionally, 45% of Mountain State children under the age of 17 are more likely to face adverse childhood experiences, compared to 40% of their peers nationally.

Violence, abuse, or neglect falls under the clinical definition of such experiences, which include substance abuse in the home, suicide, or incarceration of a parent or other caregiver.

Kelly Allen, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said post-pandemic aftershocks, along with the state’s pervasive economic woes, add to the socioeconomic burden, making an already difficult climb — even more arduous.

“Policymakers must recognize the inherent connection between poverty and educational outcomes to truly address the needs of our state’s children and families,” Allen said.

Two years ago in West Virginia, the KIDS COUNT authors note, only 22 percent of fourth-graders were proficient in reading. This compares to 32% of students in this same group, across the country.

According to the data, only 15 percent of West Virginia eighth graders showed proficiency in math that same year.

And it’s not just the Mountain State, note this year’s KIDS COUNT authors.

It’s everywhere.

Nationally, according to their findings, only 1 in 3 children meet the fourth-grade reading standard, with only 1 in 4 eighth-graders scoring proficient in math.

More than 30 percent of students are chronically absent from the school day, as KIDS COUNT and the Casey Foundation reported this year.

The foundation, for its part, recommends free or low-cost breakfast and meals, reliable internet, and access to counselors and tutors to reverse the trend – all things that are now part of everyday life in Monongalia County Schools.

The Mon district is also hosting a “Behavior Blueprint” workshop session this week focusing on student emotional well-being.

Around 300 teachers are participating in the sessions which run until Thursday.

Jennifer Austin, a behavior analysis researcher at Georgia State University who is nationally known for having children who are victims of abuse and neglect, will make opening remarks Monday.

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