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What’s New for LIFE in the Fox Cities?

By Nanci Micke, vice president of marketing and communications, United Way Fox Cities

Last week marked the release of 26 new data charts in the Fox Cities LIFE (Leading Indicators for Excellence) Study, funded by United Way Fox Cities, Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region and the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Nanci Micke

The new data is primarily related to community priorities of student performance and youth safety. These priorities, along with poverty and youth health were chosen by a cross-section of 200 community members who attended a LIFE Study Dive-In Day in June 2016.

Before we take a closer look at the newest update, let’s look at the history of the study.

Since 2001, the Fox Cities has had a LIFE Study.  Over the past eighteen years it has changed from a printed book with several hundred pages of data to a website-based format with interactive graphs and charts.  The web-based approach offers the LIFE Study Partners the ability to do updates on a regular basis.

The updated information that was just released incorporates education and learning, child abuse and neglect, and libraries and civic engagement.

Here are some of the highlights:

Grade 3 Reading Proficiency: The Fox Cities region had a higher overall reading proficiency rate for all 3rd graders when compared to the state’s average in 2018.  However, we continue to see a disparity by race.   White students in 3rd grade had a proficiency of 50.8 percent in 2018, while Black/African American students were at 19.8 percent and Hispanic students at 20.7 percent.

Math, Reading and Science Proficiency: Student math, reading, and science proficiency rates, aggregated for the Fox Cities across all grade levels test, are all above the state average.  In 2018, proficiency levels across math, science, and reading ranged between 45.8 percent and 55.9 percent in Calumet, Outagamie and Winnebago counties, meaning at least 44 percent of students were not proficient in one or more basic academic subject.

Child Abuse and Neglect: Child abuse and neglect rates declined in Calumet and Outagamie counties between 2013 and 2016, with rates in Calumet being far below averages across the other geographies. Rates increased in Winnebago County and the state of Wisconsin during the same period, however, with Winnebago also exceeding the state’s average across the years, reaching a peak rate of 42.8 reports of child abuse or neglect per 1,000 children in 2015.

These reports do not tell the entire story, as we are seeing that the number of children that need to be removed from their families and placed in out-of-home placement has increased.  Melissa Blom, Outagamie County Health and Human Services, reports that in 2018 over 200 children were removed from their homes in Outagamie County compared to 40 to 60 ten years ago.

Public Libraries: While visits and circulation are trending down and continued to do so in 2016, program attendance is increasing across all geographies except Outagamie County.

Civic Engagement: In 2016, Calumet, Outagamie, Winnebago, and the state of Wisconsin had a voter participation rate of at least 60 percent compared to 55.8 percent for the United States. Despite this, voter participation rates declined in the Fox Cities region and Wisconsin while rates increased across the United States as a whole.

If you want to learn more about the Fox Cities LIFE Study please check it out online here.  You can also hear two great interviews in our LIFE in Motion series hosted by WHBY radio.   A general update on the new Fox Cities LIFE Study data can be heard in an interview with Tony Gonzalez and Rachel Podoski of United Way with host Josh Dukelow.

To learn more about child abuse and neglect listen to an interview with Melissa Blom, Children, Youth and Family Division Manager for Outagamie County hosted by Hayley Tenpas.

The Fox Cities LIFE Study presents more than 200 data indicators about demographic, economic, social and health aspects of community life and is benchmarked against select counties, Wisconsin and the nation, with trending information. Community members are encouraged to use the data as a starting point for diving deeper into understanding local issues and opportunities for improvement, as well as tracking changes in the data over time.


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