America Gets a C-, But There's Still Hope

The results from the recently released America's Report Card on child well-being aren't pretty. America was awarded an overall grade of C- on insuring educational opportunities and providing for the country's kids. Yikes.

The joint report by two of our peer organizations First Focus and Save the Children is the first in an annual series of America's Report Cards to assess child well-being in America. The report looks at five measures:  economic security, early childhood, K–12 education, permanency and stability, and health and safety. According  to the report, these are the key indicators in assessing child well-being at all stages of childhood.

Let's look at some of the numbers from the report...

  • In 2011, 43.9 percent of children under age 18 were living in low-income families.
  • In 2011, more than 8.5 million children lived in households where one or more child was food insecure.
  • In 2011, 33.7 percent of Hispanic/Latino children under age 18 were living in poverty.
  •  In 2011, 38.6 percent of African-American children under age 18 were living in poverty
  • In the 2010–2011 school year, out of 49.5 million children enrolled in the public school system, 1.1 million were identified as homeless by the U.S. Department of Education.

Citizen Schools works with kids like these--if you add up all the students at the schools we partner with, 85% qualified for free and reduced lunch in the 2011-2012 academic year. These disheartening numbers represent the kids we see every day in middle schools across the country.

The report presents a challenge to our country. We're not failing our children, but we're not doing great either. We can do better. We  encourage our students every day to get good grades.  We wouldn't let them settle for a C- and neither can we.

Luckily, there's hope. We've seen the damaging effects that poverty can have on a child's education, and school districts are getting creative to help close the opportunity and achievement gaps. Let's look at some more hopeful numbers.

  • This fall 2,200 volunteers from some of America's biggest companies-- Google, Facebook, Bank of America, Cisco-- are stepping up to the plate. They're giving these kids the opportunities they need to beat the odds they're up against by teaching them how to become computer programmers, investment bankers, engineers and dreamers. (Join them.)
  • 239 young educators have committed 2 years to AmeriCorps and the National Teaching Fellowship. In tandem with 113 part-time teaching associates, they are providing kids with academic support and leadership development while helping volunteers have a huge impact on their students. (Serve with them.)
  • 31 middle schools around the country have partnered with Citizen Schools to create a longer, fuller day for the kids who need it most. Together, we are dedicated to increasing proficiency rates and connecting school districts to the companies and organizations in their communities.
  • For the second year in a row our expanded learning time partner schools delivered average gains of 5 or more points across their English and Math proficiency assessments, dramatically exceeding the results of other turnaround efforts in high-poverty schools.
  • 5,323 American kids are being exposed to new careers, discovering new dreams and working toward a successful future they otherwise would never think possible. Their parents are determined to connect their children to the best opportunities while juggling the intense challenges of insufficient income. (Make a donation. It will make a difference.)

Our volunteers, partners, principals, parents, staff and students are pioneers. They are showing the rest of the country that yes, we can do better. And we are. 

With hard work, investment and belief in themselves, students can turn their grades around. We've seen it happen. America can do the same. Come visit one of our classrooms this fall and see for yourself.