Study: Md., Va. Prep Kids For Success. D.C. Doesn't.
Maryland is among the best places in the country in preparing children for success in school and beyond, according to a new study by Save the Children, the Washington-based non-profit.
Maryland ranks eighth among all states and the District in measures such as parental encouragement, preschool participation and quality of home environment. Virginia landed 13th on the list and the District was way down at the bottom, at 42nd in the nation.
Overall, the report paints a dismal picture of parenting and schooling in America. It finds that 68 percent of American fourth-graders are not reading at grade level--64 percent in Maryland, 62 percent in Virgina and 86 percent in the District.
Some of the group's assumptions about what works don't necessarily track in every case. Although only 49 percent of three- and four-year-olds in Maryland and Virginia attend pre-school, that number soars to 68 percent in the District--the highest in the United States--yet the results are dismal. So it's not mere attendance in pre-school that makes a difference, but rather what happens in pre-school and how good the programs are.
There's a much better correlation between overall success and the percentage of children who grow up in single-parent households. States at the top of the list universally have much lower percentages of kids in one-parent homes than states at the bottom. In Virginia, 28 percent of children five and under live in single-parent homes; in Maryland, that figure is 30 percent. In the District, it jumps to 47 percent, again the highest in the nation. (Utah is lowest at 17 percent.)
Save the Children, which is run by Mark Shriver, the former Maryland legislator from Montgomery County, offers a recipe for success based on World Bank and United Nations assessments of policies that prepare children to thrive. The benchmarks include subsidized and regulated child care for kids three and under, accredited early education programs for four-year-olds, and training requirements for child care workers. Of 10 key measures the study focuses on, only Sweden goes 10 for 10. The United States ties for third lowest among developed countries, with Spain, Mexico and Switzerland, winning credit in only three of the 10 measures.
The states with the worst record of preparing kids are New Mexico, Nevada, Mississippi, Arizona and Alabama, and the top five states on the list are Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine. In Maine and Vermont, for example, 89 percent of children are read to by parents at home at least three times a week--tops in the nation, according to the survey. Connecticut leads the nation in the portion of children who attend pre-school--65 percent. The early childhood factors the group chose to look at seem to be the ones that bear fruit--the same states that excel in those early childhood indicators also boast the lowest high school dropout rates in the country, as well as some of the highest rates of college attendance.
(At the low end of the scale, only 28 percent of kids in Nevada attend pre-school, and Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana have the lowest rate of parents who read to their children frequently, at 73 percent.)
Save the Children has traditionally focused its research and campaigns on kids overseas, but this year, the group has added a United States School Success Index. Researchers compared states by how often parents read to children, how extensively preschool programs are available to kids, and how many children grow up in single-parent homes, among other measures.
By Marc Fisher |
May 5, 2009; 7:48 AM ET
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