An indicator is a measure that describes a condition. They are numbers, percents, fractions, or rates used to paint a picture of a specific outcome or situation. Examples of child well-being indicators include:
- number of children in single parent families
- percent of children living in poverty
- high school graduation rate
- infant mortality rate
By collecting data from relevant sources, these indicators can be measured, reported, and used to inform thinking about what children need to thrive. Indicators are effective communication tools when discussing policies and programs.
School readiness indicators measure outcomes based on the various dimensions and factors of school readiness.
Our indicators focus on young children from birth to the beginning of fourth grade, building on brain research and the knowledge base regarding child development from birth to age 3, the preschool years, and early elementary school. The task of our 17 states was to develop a set of child outcome and systems indicators for children from birth through the fourth-grade reading test. Reading ability at the end of third grade is a particularly important marker of the success of programs that support children in the early years and as children make the transition into school. Reading scores are an important red flag for children most at risk of poor outcomes over the long term, such as dropping out of school, teen pregnancy, and juvenile crime.
Our indicators reflect state investments in programs and policies for young children and families as well as child outcomes. The indicators are broad enough to present a picture of the whole child, including children's health status, what children know and can do, children's mental and emotional health, and economic well-being. Indicators are developed to fill the gap in knowledge between the child's status at birth and their status at school entry. Attention is paid to identifying indicators that reflect family and community assets as well as the more traditional indicators reflecting child outcomes and system capacity.
Our indicators include child outcomes as well as systems outcomes. Child outcomes include indicators that monitor the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development of children ages birth to age ten. Systems outcomes include indicators to monitor the services and supports available to young children and their families.
More work needs to be done to broaden the set of indicators to encompass the full range of issues that brain development research tells us are critical to the success of our most disadvantaged young children. There is a clear gap in indicators available to measure child well-being between birth and school entry. As indicators are developed more attention is needed to indicators that reflect family and community assets and the capacity of the service system to provide support to young children and their families.