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Troubling Statistics Found in New Report on Rural W.Va. County

One in eight West Virginia babies is born to a teenage mother, and that's more likely to happen in McDowell County than anywhere else in the state.

The rural county also is the site of a high-profile project aimed at transforming its low-achieving schools. Reconnecting McDowell is a collaboration of more than 80 public and private partners that's led by the American Federation of Teachers.

The initiative launched in December 2011 and aims to create better schools and a stronger community. It has seven areas it aims to address, including health and wrap-around services.

The 2012 West Virginia KIDS COUNT report released this week shows McDowell County has nearly 96 births per 1,000 teens, which is about 17 more than the next-closest county and more than double the statewide rate.

The state's KIDS COUNT executive director, Margie Hale, is quoted in an Associated Press story as saying those figures are alarming because teens who get pregnant are likely to drop out of school and live in poverty.

McDowell County's school superintendent, Nelson Spencer, didn't comment in the story.

The report reveals a number of troubling statistics for McDowell County, including:

  • the state's highest infant mortality rate;

  • the state's highest percentage of births to mothers with less than a 12th grade education; and

  • the state's highest percentage of children living in poverty.

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