Children in South Carolina are not progressing as well as children in other states, according to a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
That is especially true for children who are black or Hispanic, according to data from the organization, which focuses on the welfare of children nationally. They are less likely to score "proficient" in reading by fourth grade and in math by eighth grade, and they are less likely to have earned an associate degree by age 29 than white children.
"The take-home message is that we have a lot of work to do," said Melissa Strompolis, coordinator of impact assessment and evaluation for the South Carolina Children's Trust.
The data, collected between 2007 and 2013, comes from the foundation's new Race for Results report, which analyzes the progress of children who are black, Hispanic, Asian or Pacific islander, American Indian and white.
The foundation also releases a Kids Count Data Book each summer, tracking how well children progress in each state.
The report looked at 12 factors ranging from the percent of students between 3 and 5 enrolled in nursery school and the on-time graduation rate, to the percent of children living in low-poverty areas, and created a score to measure overall progress.
South Carolina scored ninth-lowest in the country for black children's progress, while the state scored eleventh-lowest in the country for white children's progress.
Only children who were Asian or Pacific islander scored higher than the national average. Children in South Carolina earned three points higher than the total U.S. score out of 1,000 possible points.
"It's important to point out that all of our children need help," Strompolis said.
Statewide, 13 percent of black students scored at or above proficient in reading by fourth grade, and 13 percent also scored at or above proficient in math by eighth grade, according to the report.
Meanwhile, 39 percent of white students scored at least proficient in reading in fourth grade, and 43 percent scored at least proficient in math by eighth grade, according to the report.
The report did not provide data specific to Anderson, Oconee or Pickens counties, but 2013 state-issued report cards provide comparable information.
Black students in grades three through five in each local school district received lower performance scores in math and English and language arts than white students, as did black children in grades six through eight, according to the report cards.
Poverty is one of the biggest factors limiting children's progress, Strompolis said. Pregnant mothers might not be able to meet proper nutritional requirements, causing lower birth weights for their babies, she said. Parents also may not be able to afford enrichment programs or extra reading programs, she added.
"Poverty is definitely something South Carolina needs to deal with," Strompolis said.
Judy Swanson, coordinator for the Anderson Interfaith Ministry's Women and Children Succeeding program, said many black mothers she works with face barriers to education. Their parents or friends might not have gone to college, so they might not see it as an option, she said.
Swanson works with women in their twenties to mid-40s who have children and want to go to college. The program helps them find a way to attend Tri-County Technical College, Clemson University or Anderson University, she said.
Poverty is a bigger barrier than race, though, she said.
"If you've been born and raised in poverty, you don't look at time management the same, budgeting the same," she said.
Carol Burdette, executive director of United Way of Anderson County, agreed.
United Way sponsors programs to help reverse some of the trends the Race for Results report examined, such as reading programs in school districts in Williamston, Honea Path, Pendleton and Anderson, Burdette said. The organization is starting a mentorship program in the Anderson school district, and has teen-pregnancy prevention programs in the Pendleton and Iva school districts.
"Those are the things that will make a difference with these children in poverty," Burdette said. "Regardless of race."
By the numbers
The Annie E. Casey Foundation used 12 factors to measure children's progress by race in states across the nation. Here is how South Carolina scored on the index, compared to the national average. Black children S.C.: 293 U.S.: 345 American Indian children S.C.: N/A U.S.: 387 Asian and Pacific islander children S.C.: 779 U.S.: 776 Hispanic children S.C.: 371 U.S.: 404 White children S.C.: 640 U.S.: 704 ___