Why does it matter?
Education is one of the key factors in determining a child’s future. From economic success to social and physical health, quality education benefits individuals and the communities they live in. For example, communities with high concentrations of educated residents see less crime, less population turnover, and better socioeconomic health due to elements such as access to better paying and stable jobs.
Numerous variables play a role in determining a child’s performance in school. In this section, you will find data for academic success, graduation rates, career preparedness, and kindergarten readiness. These are critical indicators of a child’s educational health that can determine everything from how much a child will make in the future to how healthy they will be. In addition, it is crucial to keep in mind that other socio-economic factors are at play in a child’s educational development. When a child takes their first assessment test, they will have years of impressions, relationships, and experiences driving their hand. From cradle to career, a child is more than a sum of their parts—they are a product of their socioeconomic environment.
Thus, what we measure in this section is more than the quality of Escambia’s schools. It is the culmination of a child’s experience within Escambia County.
Where are we now?
To reap the benefits of education, families must first have access to quality education. Before we can look at how our local schools are doing, it is important to note where families need help getting to those schools in the first place. Looking at child care deserts in Escambia County allows us to see where child care services may be absent or overburdened by demand. Likewise, measuring the number of children living in poverty and those attending public schools who are currently homeless illuminates the children who lack the resources necessary for a complete educational experience.
While Escambia County sees a higher concentration of child care available in the heart of Pensacola, access remains low in West Pensacola, rural areas of the county, and along the outskirts of the metropolitan area. Areas with concentrated poverty are especially vulnerable to the stresses caused by lack of child care. Coupled with a lack of available transportation and overburdened child care centers in their area, some families must travel farther out of the way to access child care.
The Escambia School District recorded an increase in economically disadvantaged students enrolled in the 2020–2021 school year, up from the 2019–2020 school year, though on par with the state trend for the same school year. However, the total number of homeless students in Escambia County decreased from 2020–2021. The economic pressures of the coronavirus pandemic certainly upset the trends set in the years before 2020. Still, it is important to note that there is more to this data than simple number trends. Each figure represents a life and a family, and these increases will have further ramifications in the ensuing years. Recognizing that these anomalies occurred will allow us to prepare our systems and communities to better support these children and their families in the future.
How do we measure it?
- Child Care Deserts: Martin, Ben and Mike Fazio, “Child Care Desert,” GeoData Center, University of West Florida.
- Children in Poverty: “ACS Table S1701,” U.S. Census Bureau, 2015-2019 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2020, Datasheet retrieved from https://data.census.gov.
- Homeless Students in Public Schools: “Student Enrollment Survey 2 - Fall, filtered for Homeless Status,” Florida Department of Education, Database, 2021, retrieved from the PK-12 Education Information Portal https://edstats.fldoe.org.
- Post-secondary Award by Institution (2015 to 2019): “Educational Attainment (S1501).” U.S. Census Bureau, 2015-2019 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, 2020, Datasheet retrieved from https://data.census.gov. Emsi Burning Glass – economicmodeling.com.
- Post-secondary Award: “Educational Attainment (S1501).” U.S. Census Bureau, 2015-2019 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, 2020, Datasheet retrieved from https://data.census.gov. Emsi Burning Glass – economicmodeling.com.
- Program completions and growth: The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, 2020, Emsi Burning Glass – economicmodeling.com.
- Percent with associates degree or more: “ACS Table S1501,” U.S. Census Bureau, 2015-2019 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2020, Datasheet retrieved from https://data.census.gov.
- Occupation openings: “Databases, tables & calculators by subject,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015-2020, 2020, Datasheet retrieved from https://www.bls.gov. Emsi Burning Glass – economicmodeling.com.
- Average annual earnings: “Databases, tables & calculators by subject.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015-2020, 2020, Datasheet retrieved from https://www.bls.gov. Emsi Burning Glass – economicmodeling.com.
- FAFSA Completion Rate: “FAFSA Completion by High School and Public School District,” Federal Student Aid, 2016-2020, 2020, Datasheet retrieved from studentaid.gov.
- HS graduates with accelerated courses: “High School Acceleration Programs,” Florida Department of Education, 2021, Datasheet retrieved from https://www.fldoe.org.
- Top growing occupations: "BLS Databases, Tables and Calculators: Employment," ACS, QCEW, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Emsi (2015-2020).
What call to action is linked to this indicator?
Access and quality appear to be the key components for children to benefit from their education. Access to high quality child care for children from birth to school age builds a strong foundation for education and career attainment to build successful lives and strong citizens. Access to an educational path that is rigorous, engaging, and flexible, moving students to a future we can only begin to imagine, is the way ahead for our community.
Citizens must be diligent in their attention to the quality of the educational and afterschool programs offered to our youth. Attention must be paid to the access all our students have to an educational path that leads to the ability to earn a good living and contribute to the community.
Educational success should be a birthright for all our children.