Ariz 36th in kids well-being
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 25, 2007


Report: State improving in dropout rates, poverty, idleness

 Amanda J. Crawford

A national report released today ranks Arizona 36th in the nation on 10 indicators of child well-being, including education, death rates and poverty.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's annual "Kids Count" report shows Arizona improving in five of the 10 measures since 2000: teen pregnancy, high school dropouts, child deaths, teen idleness and poverty. The state has inched up in the overall rankings every year since 2004, when it ranked 43rd in the nation, but Arizona still lags behind the nation in eight of the 10 indicators the report measures.

"We're moving in the right direction, but we can do better," said Dana Naimark, executive director of Children's Action Alliance of Phoenix.


Among the report's findings:


Arizona continues to have one of the highest teen birth rates in the
nation. The rate has declined from 2000 to 2004, but with 60 births per
1,000 15- to 19-year-olds in 2004 compared with 41 per 1,000 nationally,
Arizona still ranks 46th in the nation.


The teen death rate in Arizona has climbed in recent years, even as it has
fallen nationally. There were 85 deaths per 100,000 Arizonans between 15 and
19 years old in 2004, up from 79 per 100,000 in 2000 and compared with 66
per 100,000 nationally in 2004.


Arizona children are more likely to live in poverty and less likely to
have health insurance than children nationwide.


Arizona's teen dropout rate has fallen substantially from 18 percent in
2000 to 9 percent in 2005. But that's still higher than the national average
of 7 percent. Arizona students are also more likely to score below the basic
level on math and science tests than students nationally.

Naimark said the report shows that states across the nation struggle with
some of the same issues, such as poverty and youths in foster care. She said
that Arizona has a lot of children in foster care (13,000 in 2004) and even
more living with their grandparents (85,000 in 2005) - numbers that she said
show the importance of social programs geared toward these families.

"Kids growing up without their parents have some special risks. . . . They
need extra attention and support," Naimark said.

She said the report also has some real warning signs for the state, such as
low scores on national math and science tests, which she said means the
state has work to do if it wants to pursue goals of being a technology hub.

Tom Horne, state superintendent of public instruction, said he does not
believe the Kids Count report accurately reflects how Arizona schoolchildren
are doing. He noted that it uses math and science scores on the National
Assessment of Educational Progress, which measures only a fraction of the
state's student population. And while the report shows improvement in the
teen dropout rate, he said other studies show Arizona doing even better,
meeting the national average.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2007 Kids Count data book is available
online at www .kidscount.org.



Reach the reporter at amanda .crawford@arizonarepublic.com or (602)
444-4870.