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Alabama ranks among worst in child well-being

Something doesn't add up when it comes to math and Alabama's eighth grade students. The latest national assessment of education progress puts Alabama 50th. Eighty percent of eighth graders in the state aren't proficient in math.

The latest Kids Count report also places Alabama 44th in the nation when it comes to overall child well-being. Some educators blame a lot of the problems on systemic poverty in this state. Dr. Craig Pouncey, superintendent of Jefferson County schools says until that is addressed, it will be difficult to see more positive results. "I don't think there's a concerted effort on the part of some stakeholders, to really address the root cause of poverty," says Pouncey. "Without a doubt that is the one thing that is holding us back."Dr. Pouncey believes it will take the work of state and local leaders to reverse the effects of Alabama's poverty levels.{} "Those kids don't come up having the right early learning experiences." Pouncey sees a direct correlation between solid Pre-K programs and future proficiency in mathematics.{} "I think it's my job here in Jefferson County to possibly look at leveraging some of our federal resources, as well as some of our county resources to expand those early learning opportunities." According to the Annie E. Casey foundation national Kids Count Data Book almost 60 percent of Alabama four-year-old children do not attend Pre-K.{}

Rhonda Mann, director of research and programs with Voices for Alabama's Children,{}a{}non-profit organization, says there is more to the story than simply reading the numbers.{} "We know in the last two years that the legislature and the governor have made pre-k a priority,"{}says{}Mann. "We've increased funding by nearly 20 million dollars, that means a lot of four-year-olds in our state are going to have access to that."Mann understands a last place ranking in math proficiency for eighth graders is alarming, but she sees a positive side.{} "What the data shows is that we improved by five percent, which is a lot of improvement. If we continue that improvement over a span of three, four, five years, we would be improving very fast. Eventually we would be moving up toward the middle or even towards the top."

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