Since 2005, 26 percent of the state's children have lived in poverty. But the number of teenagers who are neither working nor in school rose slightly to 11 percent in 2011, and the number of children whose parents lack secure employment rose from 32 percent to 35 percent.
The number of children living in single-parent homes jumped significantly to 36 percent in 2011.
Margie Hale, executive director of West Virginia KIDS COUNT, says the state has made progress on children's health by focusing on policies that improve families' access to insurance and prenatal care.
Now, she said, it must focus on education.
"We have already made some important strides with our universal pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds," she said. "But research tells us to get the full benefit of preschool education, we also must improve the quality and expand the capacity of programs that serve 3-year-olds."
Last month, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced the creation of the Early Childhood Planning Task Force as part of an education reform package aimed at raising student achievement. One key mission is to examine services that prepare children under 5 for school and recommend new services to better achieve that goal.
A report, including recommendations for funding priority services, is due by year's end.
Officials with the state Department of Education didn't immediately comment on the report.