New research explores student opportunity gaps

Idaho lags behind most other states in providing opportunity for white and Hispanic students — the state’s two largest student populations.

In its latest KIDS COUNT data released Tuesday, the Annie E. Casey Foundation rates the states on a dozen milestones — from infant health and access to pre-K to test scores and college graduation rates — then breaks down the scores by ethnic group.

Idaho’s results were mixed.

For white, non-Hispanic students, Idaho’s score ranked No. 41 in the nation. For Latino students, Idaho’s score ranked No. 37 nationally. Idaho ranked above national averages in providing opportunity for black and American Indian and Alaskan native students, and slightly below average in providing opportunity for Asian and Pacific Islander students.

A key theme in the foundation’s 52-page Race for Results report is the opportunity gap between white students and minority students. As the report’s authors note, America is engaged in an “intensified” discussion about race and inequality, which provides a backdrop for examining opportunities for its newcomers.

“Every day we write another page in our country’s story. As we make choices today, we must be vigilant not to repeat the mistakes of the past,” the report says. “One of the most important decisions at hand is the future of the 18 million children who are growing up in immigrant families.”

In companion research, Idaho Voices for Children released data revealing gaps between white and Latino students in the state.

Among the data points:

  • Forty-one percent of white fourth-graders are at or above proficiency in reading scores, compared to 17 percent of Latino students.
  • While 57 percent of white children live in financially stable households, that percentage drops to 36 percent for Latino students.
  • Eighty-one percent of white students graduate high school on time, compared to 71 percent of Latino students.

Idaho Voices for Children’s numbers also focused on access to early learning for 3- to 5-year-olds. Only 46 percent of white children were enrolled in kindergarten, preschool or daycare; for Latino students, the number falls to 38 percent.

“We’re failing to provide enough early learning opportunities for children of all ethnic backgrounds; we’re especially falling short when it comes to our Hispanic children,” said Lauren Necochea, director of Idaho Voices for Children.

Idaho is one of only a handful of states that does not fund pre-K.

The Casey Foundation is a Baltimore-based organization that focus on child welfare issues. Idaho Voices for Children is a Boise-based nonprofit that works in concert with the Casey Foundation on the release of Idaho KIDS COUNT data.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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