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County lags in youth health, excels in education

New study provides snapshot of child well-being

By Greg Bird

The latest Kids Count County Data Book, released by the Kentucky Youth Advocates organization shows McCreary County is near the bottom of the state with children living in poverty, but is also making strides in education.
The data book, released every year, provides a snapshot of areas where Kentucky counties are making progress and those needing focused attention for improvement. The study highlights data in four areas of child well-being: economic security, education, health and family and community.
The study looked at data from the U.S. Census, Kentucky Department of Education, Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the Department of Justice to compile rankings for each county in 17 areas under the four headings. (In some categories some counties and school districts were not included in the rankings due to data suppression or unavailable data.)
Highlights of the local data include:
McCreary County ranked poorly in the economic security portion of the profile, falling near the bottom in each of the four categories.

According to the survey McCreary County ranks second to last in the state with children living in “deep poverty,” defined as below half of the federal poverty level, ($12.500 for a family of four) from 2012 through 2016 when the data was collected. Of 105 counties in the report, McCreary County had 33 percent of all children living at that level, up 21 percent from the baseline data of 12 percent established between 2007 and 2011. Overall in Kentucky 12 percent of children fall in to the category.
For children living below the poverty level McCreary ranked 116 out of 120, with 47.4 percent. That figure was actually down 0.4 percent from the established baseline. Statewide that category saw a decline as only 24.4 percent of children fell below the level – down more than 3 percent from the baseline.
McCreary ranked 117th out of 120 of children in low-income families, with 73 percent and 112th out of 120 with 29.1 percent of children living in food insecure households.
In the Education category McCreary County ranked well, meeting or exceeding the state total in almost all categories.

The school district ranked 21st out of 171 with 62.8 percent of kindergarteners in the 2017-2018 school year being designated as “ready to learn.” That shows a marked increase from the 2013-2014 school year when only 33.5 percent of kindergartners held that designation. Statewide 51.4 percent of students met the criteria.

McCreary also outpaced the state with 55.6 percent of elementary students earning proficient marks in reading, an increase of more than 12 percent from the baseline. Only 54.6 percent of students in the state scored at proficient levels.
High School students graduating on time also was a bright spot for the District. The profile showed 96.9 percent of students graduated on schedule – placing the District 31st out of 167.
The only area where the district fell below the state level was in middle school students scoring proficient in math, but only by a 0.3 percent. McCreary ranked 121st out of 173, with 39.7 percent scoring proficient. That number was up more than 3 percent over the baseline.
In the Health category McCreary saw improvements, or no changes in four of five categories, but still ranked near the bottom in all but one area.

The lowest ranking was 113th where 11.5 percent of babies born between 2014 and 2016 were reported with a low birthrate. That percentage is up more than 2 percent from the baseline and state average. The county had the same ranking in teen births, with 59.6 per 1,000 births to teen mothers between 2014 and 2016.
The highest ranking the county saw was in children under 19 with health insurance, where 96.5 percent had coverage in 2016.
The full 2018 Kentucky Kids Count County Data Book and county data profiles can be found at

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