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Wyoming kids rank 18th in survey


• State ranked on 16 factors including education, health


By Allison Allsop
Casper Star-Tribune 
Via- Wyoming News Exchange

CASPER — An annual survey revealed that child well-being in Wyoming has improved compared to other states, but advocates say still more needs to be done. 

Wyoming is ranked 18th this year in The Kids Count Data Book, an increase of nine places on the national list. The rankings are based on 16 different indicators focusing on education, health, family, community and economic well-being. 

The Kids Count Data Book is produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which works to improve outcomes for children through grants, research and advocacy. 

The annual publication reports on major issues impacting children, especially those that affect or lead to changes in poverty levels. The rankings are relative to how other states are doing. 

Although Wyoming improved significantly overall, there were still several areas in which the state fell short. 



Wyoming ranked 14th overall in education, according to the report. The report looks at young children in school, fourth-grade reading proficiency, eighth-grade math proficiency and high school graduation rates to determine the education ranking and overall child well-being ranking. Reading and math proficiency rates have not recovered from Covid downfalls. 

In 2019, 59% of fourth graders were not proficient in reading and 63% of eighth graders were not proficient in math. 

By 2022, both of those numbers had increased by several percentage points. 

However, Wyoming is faring better than the national average. 

Micah Richardson, the former director of communications and programs for the Wyoming Community Foundation, believes that a greater focus on early education could go a long way in fostering better outcomes later in life, including test scores. 

Despite the pandemic, the number of high school students not graduating on time has stayed the same from 2018 to 2021 at 18%. This statistic is obtained by dividing the number of students graduating in a given year by the number of students who entered ninth grade for the first time four years prior. Students who transfer out are removed from the original cohort data. 

The state Education Department would not provide a comment on the data book. 

In a press release about the new rankings, Richardson said, “This lack of readiness will result in major harm to the nation’s economy and to our youth as they join the workforce.” 



Much bleaker than education, Wyoming’s health ranking comes in at 41 this year, five places higher than last year. 

This ranking comes from the percentage of low birth-weight babies, children without health insurance, adolescent death rates and childhood obesity. 

Although more children had health insurance in 2022 than in 2019, there are still 11,000 children without health insurance in the state. 

The rate of adolescent death rates has increased since 2019. In 2019, there were 36 deaths of children or teens for every 100,000 adolescents. There were 42 for every 100,000 in 2022. 

Wyoming has the third highest suicide rate in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

Stephanie Sandoval, the senior administration of the Wyoming Department of Health’s public health division, said the top four causes of adolescent deaths from 2013 to 2023 were accidents, suicide, natural causes and homicide. 

Sandoval said that the department has several initiatives to try to minimize some of these causes and provides training curriculum for new, teen drivers. 

To address mental health, the department partners with the Wyoming Education Department to address suicide deaths in schools after the fact. The health department also supports the Partnership Access Line to provide psychiatric consultation to any pediatric patient regardless of insurance status. 

The state has also established its own 24/7 call center to answer calls to the national 988 crisis line. Individuals can call this number anytime they feel overwhelmed or have feelings of self-harm. 


Covid impact 

Several of the indicators were likely impacted by the pandemic. 

With schools shut down and kids being sent home to learn, test scores dropped across the country. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the national average for reading and math dropped for both fourth and eighth graders from before the pandemic. 

The federal government has contributed more than $276 billion in relief funds specifically for education, and Wyoming received more than $300 million from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. 

Advocates are concerned that if states do not take enough action, it will have a negative impact on the outcomes of these students’ lives. 

Johansson acknowledged that the pandemic may have actually played a role in the increase of children with insurance due to the disenrollment process being put on hold. 

“I do think the pandemic policies probably influenced those numbers,” said Johansson. 

He also said that he thinks awareness of the different sources one can obtain insurance from has grown.

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