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Report Shows “Serious” Achievement Gaps for AR Kids

PHOTO: A new study finds Arkansas children, and particularly children of color, are falling behind in education and other measures of well-being. Photo courtesy the U.S. Dept. of Education.
PHOTO: A new study finds Arkansas children, and particularly children of color, are falling behind in education and other measures of well-being. Photo courtesy the U.S. Dept. of Education.
April 2, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The serious gaps in achievement for children of color in Arkansas are the subject of a new report. The Annie E. Casey Foundation checked the progress of America's kids and found that in Arkansas, white children are not doing especially well - but black and Latino children are doing far worse.

The study found fewer than 40 percent of white fourth-graders read as well as they should - but less than a quarter of Latino and less than 15 percent of African-American fourth-graders do, said Rich Huddleston, executive director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. The numbers for eighth-grade math and young adults with degrees show similar gaps.

"Right now, basically our public institutions of all kinds - education, health care - are really failing children of color right now in Arkansas," he said.

Huddleston said the state is doing a lot to provide universal pre-kindergarten as well as prenatal and newborn health care - efforts that have proved to work. He said the Casey Foundation report shows the need to build on that.

The report suggests many reasons why success is harder for children of color. Laura Speer, an associate director with the Casey Foundation, said minority children are more likely to be kicked out of school when they have problems, and more likely to face criminal prosecutions.

"The decisions that are made within the systems are treating kids in different ways," she said, "and there's still a racial component to it."

The Census Bureau predicts that white children will be the minority of American kids by the end of the decade. Huddleston said these changing demographics mean the Arkansas economy - as well as healthy and successful families - depend on closing these gaps.

"If we want families to succeed, then we have to have a healthy and a well-educated workforce," he said. "That will allow the state to prosper, to compete economically, and all children and families to succeed."

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

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - AR