The United Way hopes new numbers will help it better serve at-risk youth in Mecklenburg County.
The Charlotte Speech and Hearing Center is one of 16 United Way-funded agencies in Mecklenburg County. It helps young children who face developmental challenges catch up before they fall behind.
“A lot of what we do is work with those children at a 3- and 4-year-old stage. A lot of research shows that if by age 5 you don't have those skills, you're going to struggle throughout,” said Executive Director Shannon Tucker.
Agencies supported by the United Way in Mecklenburg County serve more than 13,000 students in CMS.
At a meeting Thursday morning, a yearlong research project set a baseline of where students they help are and how the United Way can help them do better.
The report sampled more than 8,500 at-risk children in their program. It showed nearly 60 percent attended high-poverty schools.
When it came to academic performance, they struggled -- just 40 percent were proficient in reading, and 58 percent in math.
"Which is alarming, and should be alarming to our whole community," said Jerri Haigler with United Way.
Haigler said understanding where these children sit academically helps United Way figure out how best to help them improve.
"Children spend about 20 percent of their time in school and 80 percent after-school, summer, teacher workday. So there is a valuable amount of time that can be used to increase the academic skills of children," Haigler said.
Haigler said the ultimate goal is to increase academic success and graduation rates among the children they serve.
Haigler said they plan to use the data to look at programs that are working and how to expand that to serve more children.