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Kids Count report shows small gains, concerning dips in student achievement

A student wearing a blue sweatshirt uses a calculator and solves math equations.
FILE PHOTO: WFIU/WTIU
The percentage of eighth graders who were not proficient in math increased from 63 percent in 2019 to 70 percent in 2022.

More Indiana students graduate on time, but the state has lost ground in other key educational areas. A national report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Indiana 17th in the country for education.

The 2024 Kids Count Data Book looks at state trends in children’s well-being. It measures children’s health, education, family and community, and economic well-being.

Indiana compares favorably to other states in education but hasn’t made any progress in three of the four areas measured.

Ashley Haynes is vice president of data and communications at the Indiana Youth Institute, which helped compile the Kids Count report. She said one bright spot in the data is Indiana’s graduation rate.

“For the graduating class of 2023, almost 90 percent of those students graduated on time from high school. And that's the highest rate that we've seen in Indiana since 2016,” she said. “It's the third highest read that I have seen since we've been tracking that data.”

The number of high school students not graduating on time improved from 13 percent during the 2018-2019 school year to 12 percent during the 2020-2021 school year.

The report said 61 percent of children ages 3 to 4 were not enrolled in school. That’s about seven points higher than the national average.

Indiana scores better than the national average on fourth grade reading scores and eighth grade math proficiency. However, Indiana’s averages in both those areas are worse than previous years.

According to the report, 67 percent of Indiana fourth graders were not proficient in reading in 2022. That number increased from 63 percent in 2019 and is slightly higher than the national average of 68 percent.

READ MORE: Questions linger over Indiana's literacy endorsement stipends

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Indiana saw the most significant change in the number of eighth graders who were not proficient in math. That increased from 63 percent in 2019 to 70 percent in 2022. Despite the steep increase, the national average is slightly higher at 74 percent.

Haynes said national rankings don’t reflect individual states’ progress because some improve faster than others.

“The ranking information is very directional and it shows us how things are trending,” she said. “It’s just important to keep in mind that this is in comparison for this year to how all other states are performing.”

Haynes recommends comparing state data with that state’s data from previous years to get a better picture of what’s working and what’s not.

Kirsten is our education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.

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Kirsten the Indiana Public Broadcasting education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.