Achievement gap persists for low-income Moffat County kids
September 5, 2015
Craig — Test scores have been on a slow and steady decline for Moffat County kids over the past decade, according to a presentation on the 2015 Kids Count in Colorado! report Wednesday, with persistent achievement gaps between low-income and middle to upper-income students.
Representatives from the Colorado Children's Campaign, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, visited Craig to present Moffat County-specific data from the report, released in March, which also highlighted a slight decrease in child poverty both in Moffat County and statewide.
Child poverty rates across Colorado dropped a little more than one point to 16.8 percent, the first decline in five years. Moffat County was home to nearly 550 kids living in poverty in 2013, with a child poverty rate of 16.4 percent in 2013 compared to 17 percent in 2012.
"But, if we look at the trend for the past couple of years, we see that the Moffat County child poverty rate is still above its pre-recession level," said Sarah Hughes, research director for the campaign. "So even though we hear a lot about Colorado as a state bounced back well from the recession, I think Moffat County is a good example of a community where we still have kids and families struggling to get back on their feet."
The presentation included data revealing the dramatic corollary between the economic status of children and their performance in school.
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"Family economic security is a really big umbrella that affects every aspect of a child's life," Hughes said.
More than one-third of Moffat County children came from low-income families from 2009 to 2013, with a striking 43 percent of kids under age 6 living in low-income families.
The 2013 federal poverty level defined any family of four making less than $23,550 as living in poverty, while low-income is defined as anything within twice the FPL.
"Really, when you look at that number, who can raise a family of four on that?" said Charity Neal, director of public health for Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. "I really think that one of the biggest delays in our country is that we haven't reformed the federal poverty level."
An alternative measure of what it takes for a family to survive is the Colorado self-sufficiency standard, which equals $64,656 (or nearly three times the FPL) for a family of four in Moffat County after calculating housing, child care, food transportation and health care costs.
Within the school district, the free and reduced meal program is another indicator of economic well-being. Hughes revealed in the presentation that a fairly consistent 20 to 25-point gap exists in proficiency levels between students eligible for free and reduced meals and non-eligible students, in both reading and math.
"Over the years, there have been fewer and fewer Moffat County students meeting that proficient bar," Hughes said. "Scores are below the statewide average and below reading and math levels for other rural districts. There's a very wide disparity for kids in moderate to upper income families compared to kids in lower income families."