Report: Ohio Children Falling Behind in Math and Reading

By Nadia Ramlagan

Math and reading proficiency among Ohio children has worsened over the past five years, according to new data.

The latest Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation showed in 2022 that 71% of the state’s eighth graders were behind in math, and 65% of fourth graders were behind in reading. The number of young children not in school has also risen.

Matthew Tippit, policy associate for the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio, said there is a link between poverty and educational outcomes.

“We were ranked 29th overall last year, and this year we’re ranked 28th, so it’s not surprising that we haven’t seen a lot of change,” Tippit said. “But it’s still disappointing to know that we’re kind of in the back half of states as far as performance and these very important indicators.”

Federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief grants, which expire this fall, have been used by districts to support digital learning, pay school counselors and mental health professionals and hire more staff. Ohio has received more than $4 billion in federal funds.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said compared with peer countries, the U.S. is not equipping its children with the problem-solving skills future employers will need.

“Our economy is propelled by a prepared workforce,” Boissiere said. “In order for our economy to work well, it’s important that we prepare young people with the skills that they need so that they are entering the workforce prepared.”

Tippit said hunger, mental health and childhood trauma can all affect a student’s ability to enter a classroom ready to learn. He said universal school meals have also been shown to improve learning outcomes.

Advocates said policies such as expanding access to reliable internet, tutoring and other community support can better help kids who have fallen behind.

Pictured at top: The latest Kids Count Data Book showed in 2022 that 65% of fourth graders were behind in reading. (Adobe Stock)

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.