Education Dive Brief:

  • Since 2000, the high school dropout rate in the U.S. has declined two-thirds, from 10% of 16- to 19-year-olds to 4%, and the largest improvements have been among Hispanic and black youth, according to Save the Children’s latest Global Childhood Report.
  • But roughly half of 3- and 4-year-olds in the U.S. — 4.2 million children — are not in an early learning program, while the rate of young children in preschool is much higher in other nations included in the report. "The thing about [early-childhood education] is we know it works,” John Fardenassociate vice president for Save the Children’s U.S. programs, said in a press call. “It’s the best investment for the children who need it the most."
  • The U.S. comes in 36th out of 176 nations in the report, which ranks countries on eight indicators that include the under-5 mortality rate, stunted growth from malnutrition, and child homicide — where the U.S. rate is 3.4 per 100,000 children, compared to 0.1 for top-ranked Singapore.

Dive Insight:

In the U.S., there has also been a 56% drop in the rate of teens giving birth since 2000, now at 20.6 per 1,000 girls. “That is terrific news for children” — both the teens and their babies, said Save the Children CEO Carolyn Miles. “In just a generation we’ve made some really significant progress."

But Farden noted the improvements seen in some areas haven't reached all children. “The children we really see being left behind by this wave of progress are poor, rural children,” he said. Data shows while students in rural areas are more likely than their urban counterparts to graduate from high school, they are less likely to enroll in college.

The findings complement what international tests of achievement have also found in recent years — that while there has been growth in various child outcomes in the U.S., other countries have improved more in recent years. That was what the results of the 2017 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study showed. At the time, Peggy Carr, the associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics' Assessment Division, said, “Countries that were our peers have surpassed us while some that used to do worse than us are now our peers.”

Globally, Miles said that in countries where children are living in conflict zones or have been displaced because of conflict is where “we see the indicators not going in the right direction.”