PROVIDENCE – African-American and Latino children face systemic barriers to healthy development in Rhode Island, the latter facing the worst prospects in the U.S., according to “2017 Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children,” released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in October.
The report compares how children of different racial and ethnic groups are faring across the country on key indicators of children’s opportunities at the state and national level.
The Race for Results report shows stark disparities among racial and ethnic groups in Rhode Island. African-American (414) and Latino (341) children continue to have significantly lower Race for Results index scores than white (746) and Asian (679) children.
Rhode Island’s African-American and Latino children had lower rates of reading and math proficiency and lower educational attainment. Both groups were also more likely to live in single-parent families and were more likely to live in low-income families and high-poverty neighborhoods than other racial and ethnic groups. Rhode Island’s index score for Latino children was the lowest in the nation.
“Unfortunately, Latino students in Rhode Island faring worse than their peers comes as no surprise,” said Latino Policy Institute Director Gabriela Domenzain. “What does, and what should be a wake-up call for all Rhode Islanders, is what the Race for Results report shows: that a Latino student in Rhode Island has the lowest chance of succeeding in the whole nation. Our next steps as a state must be coordinated and urgent.”
“The disparities that Race for Results show are extremely concerning,” said Rhode Island KIDS COUNT Executive Director Elizabeth Burke Bryant. “Wide gaps continue to exist between Latino and African-American children and white children, and these gaps will hold Rhode Island back in terms of our educational and workforce goals and future prosperity.”
“The most alarming finding in this report is that Rhode Island’s Latino children are ranked last in the nation on the basis of indicators in four key areas of child well-being. Latino children now make up 21 percent of the state’s child population and 25 percent of Rhode Island public school students – but only 20 percent of Latino fourth-graders are reading at grade-level, and only 13 percent of Latino eighth-graders have age-appropriate math skills.”
“Increasing access to high-quality early education, including child care, Pre-K, and Head Start, will help give all students – especially low-income students, including Latino and African-American students, the support they need to arrive at school ready for success.,” continued Bryant. “We also need to improve K-12 education for all students and ensure high-quality English Language Learning instruction. Until recently, Rhode Island was one of only four states that did not include designated English Language Learner funding. Fortunately, ELL funding is now a permanent part of the funding formula and we hope that increasing this funding to support evidence-based programs for ELLs will help improve outcomes.”
“According to NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress], Rhode Island students of color lag far behind their white peers. With 40 percent of all Rhode Island students being of color, this reality does not bode well for the future of our state,” said NAACP Providence Branch President Jim Vincent. “Without a strong emphasis on equity at every public school, our state will not become all that we would want it to be.”
The 2014 Race for Results report offered policy recommendations that included making use of racial and ethnic data to create policies and programs and increased economic inclusion for vulnerable groups.
The 2017 edition expands on those recommendations to target the barriers facing children in immigrant families by keeping families together and in their communities; helping children in immigrant families meet key developmental milestones; and increasing economic opportunity for immigrant families.
Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Borkowski@PBN.com.