Wednesday, October 15, 2014

4 things you need to know about poverty's impact on kids in Washtenaw County

Jenna Bacolor, Executive Director, Community Education & Recreation

While Washtenaw County students and schools, on average, lead the state on many achievement indicators, these numbers can mask the experiences of many economically disadvantaged kids in our county.  

This was the message at yesterday's Washtenaw County Community Health Committee meeting. Under the theme "Every Child, Every Day: A Portrait of 'At-Risk'" Youth," several speakers covered topics related to the physical and social-emotional health of students, with a focus on the economically disadvantaged. 

How many K-12 youth in our community are economically disadvantaged? 

First, the term "economically disadvantaged" means that the student qualifies for the Free/Reduced Lunch program or lives in a family with a household income less than 185% of the federal poverty limit. (That's about $43,567 for a family of four.) 

In 2012-13, of the 48,240 Washtenaw County K-12 students enrolled in public schools (including charters), 14,516 or 30.8% qualified as economically disadvantaged. 
Yes, that means almost one in three school-age children in our county are at or below the poverty line. 
Thanks to Naomi Norman, Executive Director of Student Achievement Initiatives at the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, who provided the stats and led a thoughtful discussion of this topic.

So what does this mean for kids who live in poverty?

Ashley Kryscynski, program coordinator at Washtenaw Alliance for Children and Youth, provided data from the WACY 2014 Report Card that shows dramatic differences between the county average for all students and the 14,516 economically disadvantaged students.  

These four gaps stood out to me from the school and graduation category. 
All data is from 2012-13. "ED" = Economically disadvantaged. 

  1. The county average graduation rate was 82.9%, but among ED youth was 66%.
  2. The drop-out rate for ED kids was 15.9%, more than double the county average of 6.1%.
  3. MEAP scores from students in grades 3rd - 8th show persistent 20-30 point gaps between the county average and ED youth. 
  4. The number of homeless youth in Washtenaw County has more than doubled in the past three years, from 611 in 2009-10 to 1316 in 2012-13. 
Do these statistics surprise you? Do they confirm what you already suspected or observed? 

In my opinion, most of us don't have a sense of how big the problem is. Many local residents also probably don't know the staggering impact that poverty has on school achievement and graduation rates for kids here in Washtenaw County.   

See the WACY 2014 Report Card and Presentation for more data on kids in Washtenaw County.

Of course, now the question is: what can we do to change this? 



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