RALEIGH, N.C. – More than 60% of the state’s fourth-graders are not proficient in reading, according to a new report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Experts say lack of investment in preschool and early-childhood education have likely contributed to the gap.
The report also found while a significantly higher percentage of three- and four-year-olds are enrolled in school now than in 1990, progress has stalled in recent years. Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs at the Casey Foundation, said racial disparities continue to persist in school performance.
“Educational outcomes are significantly lower for children of color than they are for white children,” Boissiere said. “We see children of color more likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods and to live in poverty overall.”
The state now has more than 2 million children, many of whom are part of immigrant families. The percentage of children living in those families has quadrupled in the last three decades, according to the report.
Whitney Tucker, research director at the nonprofit organization NC Child, said North Carolina has made improvements, including better access to health care for children and youth, improved high-school graduation rates, and declines in teen childbearing. But, she said, these measures aren’t evenly distributed across racial lines.
“And we see that there’s a huge racial disparity in our infant mortality rates,” Tucker said. “Black children are about two-and-a-half times more likely to die before their first birthday, and it looks like closing the coverage gap could really help.”
According to the report, more children have health insurance coverage than in 1990, primarily because of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Affordable Care Act with state Medicaid expansion.