July 22, 2024 4:24 pm
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Report: Nevada struggles to improve child well-being standards


Alex Gonzalez, Public News Service

Plummeting reading and math scores could prove to be a significant barrier for Nevada children, especially as they head into the workforce.

This year’s Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked Nevada 47th for overall child well-being.

Tara Raines, director of Kids Count initiatives for the Children’s Advocacy Alliance of Nevada, called the situation “bleak.” More than 40% of Nevada children have had adverse childhood experiences which can consist of things like abuse, neglect, housing instability and food insecurity.

Raines pointed out such experiences can hinder a child’s ability to learn as they can drive down school attendance. She added almost half of Nevada children are chronically absent.

“We know that there are reports that say children who have parents who are homeowners are less likely to be chronically absent; they’ve got higher student achievement,” Raines emphasized. “Many of these things hinge on those basic needs.”

Raines encouraged policymakers to examine the state’s unique eviction practices as well as think about ways to ensure more accessibility to affordable homes. She stressed the state should also take advantage of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, authorized through pandemic-era relief bills, which can help jump-start new initiatives. The deadline to allocate funds is Sept. 30.

Raines encouraged the state to look at alternatives to punitive programs for students who may be chronically absent. She noted Clark County has been able to employ what she called a more positive approach but still considered it just one piece of the puzzle.

“I think the other things that they really have to focus on is making sure that schools are welcoming, and foster engagement and belonging for children and families,” Raines outlined. “And that they acknowledge the impact that trauma from these adverse childhood experiences is having on student behaviors, student learning.”

The report showed Nevada had fewer children in poverty as well as being in homes where the household head lacked a high school diploma.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said while the pandemic may be one of the main factors responsible for declining mental health among youth, the same cannot be said for the country’s worsening educational outcomes. She noted experts have been sounding the alarm for years.

“For example the pandemic erased decades of increases in math scores,” Boissiere acknowledged. “However, if you look over those 35 years that we’ve produced the Data Book we’ve never seen a significant percentage of children who were either proficient in fourth grade reading or basic math.”

This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.