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Arizona Moves Up in Annual Kids Count Rankings

Only one in three children attends preschool in Arizona, ranking the state 48th in that category in the 2016 Kids Count Data Book. (petrograd99/iStockphoto)
Only one in three children attends preschool in Arizona, ranking the state 48th in that category in the 2016 Kids Count Data Book. (petrograd99/iStockphoto)
June 21, 2016

PHOENIX – Conditions for Arizona's children are slowly improving, but still have a long way to go, according to the annual Kids Count Data Book, which is out today.

The study includes 16 different aspects of kids' lives in the 50 states, and ranks Arizona in 45th place this year, up one spot from last year.

Dana Wolfe Naimark, president and CEO of the Children's Action Alliance, said the Kids Count report evaluates children's well-being based on factors such as education, health, poverty, family and community.

"They reflect characteristics of our economy, of our families and of our public policies, all combined," said Naimark. "Certainly, public policies and public funding can make a difference and move the needles in these. It's not the only thing that's reflected."

She said in the new report, Arizona's most significant improvement was in math proficiency among eighth-grade students - who jumped to 18th place, up from 35th last year, and outperformed the national average on the standardized math test.

Arizona kids made small, incremental gains in some areas, but were ranked lower in other categories.

To Naimark, the report confirms that many Arizona students face huge challenges. It shows Arizona in the bottom 10 among states for fourth-grade reading and high-school graduation rates, and says only one in three Arizona children attends preschool.

Naimark noted the annual rankings are valuable to those who advocate for children, as well as those who set public policy.

"It does give us a benchmark on how we compare to other states, but also how we compare with ourselves over time, which is equally important," she said. "And so, by having the data published and tracked every year, we can really mark trends and look at areas that need attention."

The Kids Count Data Book is published annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ