The Annie E. Casey Foundation released national information today about the well-being of children and Tennessee has improved its ranking although the state is still ranked in the 30s.

The Kids Count Data Book ranks the overall well-being of children based on 16 indicators that fall into four groups. This year’s edition highlights how the country’s child population has changed from 1990 to 2017.

Tennessee ranks 36th overall. Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth Executive Director Richard Kennedy said that his organization is pleased to see Tennessee ranking better than it did in earlier studies.

“Tennessee’s 1.5 million children are each born with skills and potential for success if given the opportunities and support needed to nurture their growth,” said Kennedy. “The state’s future relies on them.”

The way Tennessee is ranked in the four major categories, economic well-being, education, health, and family and community context, is compared between 2010 and 2017 data to show how trends are changing.

Tennessee’s highest category ranking was in economic well-being, where the state ranked No. 32. The studies show improvements in each of the four indicators in this category.

Children in poverty in Tennessee has fallen from 26 percent in 2010 to 21 percent in 2017. This figure, however, is still higher than the national average of 18 percent for 2017. Children whose parents lack secure employment has also fallen, from 37 percent in 2010 to 28 percent in 2017.

Tennessee ranked No. 33 in health issues, which fell from a ranking of 27 last year. These studies show 9.2 percent of babies born with a low birth weight, which is higher than the national average of 8.3 percent.

This ranking also suffered from an increase in child and teen deaths. This may have been driven by an increase in suicide and homicide deaths. However, the 2019 state budget has allocated funds to combat the rise in teen suicides since 2014. Tennessee has also increased behavioral and mental health spending.

 

GRADUATION RATE SOLID

The state’s education ranking is No. 33. Tennessee shows 90 percent of high school students graduating on time in 2017, which is the second-highest rate in the nation. 

However, the state also shows more than 60 percent of young children not enrolled in any early childhood education, giving Tennessee one of the lowest rates of young children attending preschool.

The study also shows 67 percent of fourth-graders haven’t reached proficiency in reading and 70 percent of eighth-graders haven’t reached proficiency in math, which are below the national average, but have both improved since 2009.

Tennessee’s lowest ranking is in family and community, for which it was ranked No. 39. The studies show that 37 percent of children in the state are in single parent families, which is higher than the national average of 34 percent.

This ranking was also affected by teen births, which are shown to be 27 per 1,000 births, higher than the national average of 19.

Tennessee is in the top 25 percent of states with the greatest increase in number of children between 1990 and 2017.

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