New Online Report Card Seeks To Measure Children's Well-Being
Legislators and Child Advocates Hope Report Card Will Be Used As Tool For Action
By KATHLEEN MEGAN
September 11, 2012
State legislators and child advocates unveiled a new online report card on the well-being of Connecticut's children, a data-based tool that they hope will be used to pinpoint problems and develop strong programs to help children.
"The over-arching goal is to create a civic tool that policy leaders and the public can use to know how children are faring in our state," said Elaine Zimmerman, executive director of the Connecticut Commission on Children. "The goal is to address issues related to stability, safety, health and the future success of youth."
Rep. Diana Urban, co-chairwoman of the state legislature's Select Committee on Children, said the report card is a "tool for action" to help target problems and shape programs and policy to address them.
The report card, which doesn't include grades but does include data, is being developed and contains some statistical information now, but will eventually include much more, Zimmerman said.
The select committee took the lead on creating the report card, which was required by legislation passed in 2011.
Members of the commission and the select committee, as well as community leaders, doctors, educators and others, gathered at the Legislative Office Building Tuesday to hear details about the report card.
The data reflected in the report card came from state education and health databases, as well as other sources.
"This is essentially putting all the data at one dinner table," Zimmerman said, "so everyone knows how to access it, who to talk to about it, and will be able to follow it over months and years."
The reports on various aspects of children's health and well-being presented at the meeting were no surprise.
As a measure of stability, the report card looked at chronic school absenteeism. Erica Bromley, director of the Manchester Youth Service Bureau, presented statistics that showed that 15 percent of Connecticut students miss 10 percent or more of the school year. But children of color and children who get free or reduced price lunches are absent at rates that are much higher, ranging from about 20 to 26 percent of those groups.
In the safety area, the report card covered abuse and neglect of children, finding that less than 10 percent of the substantiated reports are for abuse alone, while the overwhelming majority of reports are for neglect alone.
The data show a need for "a special look at neglect," Zimmerman said, "and the particular factors that cause neglect."
In the health area, the focus was on babies born with low birth weights, showing that African-American babies are far more at risk for that than white babies. And the "future success" portion of the report card focused on third-graders and their scores on the mastery test, showing a huge achievement gap between white and minority children.
The report card is available at CTkidsreportcard.org.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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