Indiana makes some gains in well-being of children
A national report released Tuesday showed the well-being of Indiana's children has improved somewhat, driven by improvements in its education score.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2014 "Kids Count" report found the state climbed three spots on the overall quality of life for children -- measuring poverty and education -- from 30th in the nation in 2013 to 27th this year. And the state's education score -- which is based in part on reading and math proficiency -- jumped from 34th last year to 26th in the nation this year.
Glenn Augustine, vice president for advancement at the Indiana Youth Institute, which worked with the Casey Foundation in gathering data, said it's hard to find a blanket reason for the improvement in scores. But he noted that state leaders have focused more on reading and literacy recently.
"There is a concerted effort in the state to look at reading levels and where children are. The state is trying to improve the level at which children read, those effort may be a contributing factor to this," he said.
The improvement in reading scores comes after former Republican Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett and the State Board of Education established the IREAD-3 test in 2012. Supporters say it helps combat "social promotion" of students that are not ready to advance to the next grade.
But Karen Wohlwend, a professor at Indiana University's School of Education, said that most education research shows that being held back a grade, often because of "high-stakes testing" like the IREAD-3 often results in those students dropping out of school later.
"In general these kinds of state rankings based on one-shot test scores are unhelpful and drive common-sense reforms that ignore research and narrowly focus on raising scores, at the expense of more engaging curriculum and robust learning in schools," Wohlwend wrote in an email.