The Billings Outpost

Index tracks how kids are doing in Montana

By DEBORAH COURSON SMITH - Big Sky Connection

MISSOULA - A new index that tracks how kids are doing in Montana breaks it down by race and ethnicity. The Annie E. Casey Foundation report tabulates milestones and situations connected with child well-being, such as preschool attendance, math and reading test scores, health, and neighborhood situations.

Montana children are in the middle of the pack nationally, but a closer look within the state shows a lot of ground between white and Native American children.

That story is common across the nation, said Laura Speer, an associate director with the Casey Foundation.

“We found that the odds were stacked up against kids of color who face more obstacles towards getting equal opportunity,” she said, “and there’s lots of reasons for that. It’s different for different groups of kids.”

Reading proficiency by the fourth grade is one of the metrics tracked. Only 11 percent of Montana Native children have hit that benchmark, compared with 39 percent of white children.

Children of color are predicted to be the majority of children in the United States in just four years, according to the Census Bureau. Add about 20 years to that, and they will be the majority of adults, too. Speer said that’s why the disparities cannot be ignored.

“We think it’s a really critical time for the country to focus on improving outcomes for these kids,” she said, “since they really are going to be the future success of the country.”

The report describes how government, businesses and community groups should work together to ensure that all children can thrive.

The report, “Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children,” is available online at aecf.org.

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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