Photo: Michele McDonald for Strategies for Children

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released its  2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book, which compares states on a number of indicators of child well-being, with #1 being the best and #50 the worst.  Massachusetts ranks 11th in economic well-being and 21st for children living in high-poverty areas. The commonwealth ranks second in child health and first in health care coverage. And, thanks to the state’s performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Massachusetts ranks first in education.

As we’ve reported earlier, Massachusetts fourth graders earned top scores on the 2011 NAEP test in reading. However, a closer look reveals that half of our fourth graders scored below proficient in reading. And the achievement gap remains wide:

Being #1 isn’t good enough. Massachusetts can and must do better. “The challenge remains to offer real opportunity and security to every child,”” Noah Berger, president of  MassBudget, the KIDS COUNT grantee in Massachusetts, said in a news release.

An Act Relative to Third Grade Reading Proficiency  would make children’s literacy a state priority and would establish an Early Literacy Expert Panel to advise state education agencies on research-based strategies to improve children’s language and literacy development, from birth to age 9. After earning unanimous approval by the Massachusetts House of Representatives on July 11, the bill now awaits action in the state Senate.

(Massachusetts readers, click here to urge your senator to pass An Act Relative to Third Grade Reading Proficiency before the legislative session ends on July 31.)