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Santa Monica Youth Wellbeing Report Card Shows Successes,Vulnerabilities:

A pair of reports issued by the Santa Monica Cradle to Career and RAND Corp. on Wednesday revealed some interesting findings about youth wellbeing in the seaside community.

For example, low teen birth rates, early literacy, high school graduation, and support homes are amongst Santa Monica’s greatest strengths.

However, modest language arts proficiency, sadness and depression, alcohol drinking amongst teenagers, and low success in college-level English and Math were the City’s weaknesses, according to Cradle to Career.

According to RAND’s reported findings, Santa Monica has a surplus of preschool spaces available for residents. Further, child development programs are funded and supported by the City.

However, the RAND report also found Santa Monica is not as diverse as but more affluent than the rest of Los Angeles County. Just the same, RAND observed parents might be unaware of the full range of Early Childhood Education (ECE) and out-of-school-time (OST) programs available for their in-school children.

Other shortcomings include a “perceived need” to improve the quality of ECE and OST programs, lack of objective data available of what shortfalls exists, mixed delivery of services, program not properly aligned, and constrained or limited funding sources.

The 2014 Youth Wellness Report Card issued by Cradle to Career stated 21.2 percent of Santa Monica’s population is between age 0 and 24. (Santa Monica’s population was listed at 89,736 in the Report Card).

Cradle to Career found 87.4 percent of youth are at least proficient in early literacy by the end of kindergarten, while 88 percent of middle and high school students have a “caring adult” outside of school and at home. Meanwhile, teen pregnancy within Santa Monica was reportedly at 0.87 percent and more than 90 percent of the seaside city’s high school students graduate from high school.

On the other end of the spectrum, 32.3 percent of students in the third grade have not reached proficiency in the language arts and almost 83 percent of Santa Monica students entering SMC do not place in college-level English and Math courses.

The Report Card also found 26.3 percent of middle and high school students report “significant periods of extreme sadness/depression” and 42 percent of 11th grade students used alcohol within the past month.

Also stated in the Cradle to Career report: children who do not enter school “on track” during their first years run a risk of falling behind and face an uphill battle in trying to catch up. Further, addressing school achievement becomes more expensive as the student becomes older.

According to the Report Card, 84 percent of children who enter kindergarten in Santa Monica are “‘on track’ in their communications skills and general knowledge.”

“However, there are areas of concern at the kindergarten, high school and college levels. Students living in the Downtown and Pico neighborhoods are particularly vulnerable to literacy challenges in the early years of school,” the Report Card stated. “African American and Latino students graduate at lower rates than do those of other ethnicities.”

The median annual income for households with one or more children aged 18 or younger was almost $107,000, according to the Youth Wellness Report Card. However, the report also estimated about six percent of households with at least one child aged 18 or younger had a family income below the federal poverty line, which is $23,021 for a four-member household.

In the RAND report, which confirmed much of the data stated in the Youth Wellbeing Report Card, an estimated 34 percent of students attending a Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) campus were socially disadvantaged. A socially disadvantaged student is one who, for example, receives free or a reduced-price lunch, or neither of his or her parents completed high school.

Comparatively, 69 percent of students in Los Angeles County and 59 percent of students statewide are social disadvantaged.

About 30 percent of students living in Santa Monica are eligible for reduced-price lunches, the RAND report found. However, when analyzed by ZIP code, six percent of students living in within 90403 are reduced-price lunch eligible, compared to 46 percent in 90405.

The RAND report did commend Santa Monica for the preparedness of its kindergarten students.

“Kindergarteners in Santa Monica are somewhat better prepared across the five developmental domains compared with a national sample (i.e., more than 75 percent scored in the ‘on track’ range),” the RAND report found.

Here are the links to the complete and comprehensive reports by RAND and Cradle to Career: www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR200/RR289/RAND_RR289.pdf and www.santamonicayouth.net/uploadedFiles/Departments/CCS/Youth_Portal/About/2014%20YWB%20Report%20Card.pdf.

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