|Kids Count, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, says nearly three out of four West Virginia 4th graders (73%) are not proficient in reading, and nearly two out of three of the state's three-and four-year-olds (64%) are not enrolled in a pre-school program.|
West Virginia's 8th grade math proficiency score has improved 3 percent since 2005, but nearly 4 out of 5 of the state's 8th graders (79%) are not proficient, which puts West Virginia at 48th among the 50 states for this indicator.
Overall, Kids Count says the Mountain State school system is ranked 47th in the USA, or fourth worst in the nation for a second year running, while other national rating groups have ranked the state even worse.
Joining West Virginia in the bottom five for education are Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico and Nevada.
West Virginia fared significantly better in the report's children's health indicators with a national ranking of 27th, which is up from 31st in the nation last year.
The state ranks 33rd in the economic well-being for children and 34th in family and community measures, and its overall national rank is 37th out of 50.
"Over the past two decades, West Virginia has made dramatic improvements in children's health by focusing on policies we know will improve health outcomes, like expanded access to insurance and good prenatal care," said Margie Hale Executive Director of KIDS COUNT.
"We must devote that same attention to improving our bottom-five ranking in education. One of the reasons our ranking is so low is our lack of quality programs for three-year-olds. We have already made some important strides with our universal pre-kindergarten (Pre-k) program for four-year-olds," said Hale.
As the nation's economy recovers, America's children are showing some signs of improvement despite an ever-growing poverty rate, according to the new data.
West Virginia's teen birth rate is leading the nation.
From roughly 2005 to 2011, the teen birth rate dropped by 15 percent in the USA to an historic low.
However, in West Virginia the teen birth rate during the same period increased from 43 per thousand to 45 per thousand, which is 43rd among the 50 states.
Although the economic well-being of the nation's children improved slightly from 2010 to 2011, the negative impact of the recession remains evident.
In West Virginia, 26 percent of all kids live in poverty (38th in the nation), and that percentage has not changed since 2005.
Patrick McCarthy, the Foundation's president and CEO, said "The early years of their lives are a critical juncture in their development. As our economic recovery continues, we cannot lose sight of doing whatever it takes to help kids, particularly kids in low-income families, reach their full potential - and that includes laying a solid foundation from the moment they are born."
"The progress we're seeing in child health and education is encouraging, but the economic data clearly speak to the considerable challenges we still face," said Laura Speer, the Casey Foundation's associate director for policy reform and data.