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THE BIG PICTURE

All Maine people must have access to a quality education that provides them with the knowledge and skills required for a career and economic success.

Education opportunities should not depend upon geography, income, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, race or ethnicity. Ensuring access and removing barriers will lead to greater equity, a stronger economy, and will allow Maine to achieve our common and state-mandated goal: by 2025, 60% of Mainers will hold education and workforce credentials that position Maine and its families for success.

The following indicators show snapshots of performance at different stages of the educational pipeline by a number of student characteristics. Broadly speaking, students who are not economically disadvantaged, students who are white or Asian/Pacific Islander, and students who speak English as a first language all perform better on standardized assessments and graduate from high school at higher rates than students from other backgrounds. Students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, from a majority of racial or ethnic groups, and those who don’t speak English proficiently, do not have the same access to opportunity. They often face significantly more barriers to success in a traditional educational environment.

We have a lot of work to do to redesign our education system so that it meets the needs of ALL learners. Measuring differential rates of access, participation, and performance is a starting point for understanding where we need to focus our efforts.

EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT BY ECONOMIC STATUS

Students who are considered economically disadvantaged consistently fare worse than their higher income peers in access to and achievement in our education system. This is because access to resources is not fairly distributed and these students do not have the same opportunities and supports for success as their higher-income peers. Understanding the data on disparities between these groups is a first step in taking action toward achieving more equitable outcomes for all students.

Key Data Points

  • Roughly 42% of Maine students are considered economically disadvantaged.
  • Economically disadvantaged students fare worse than their higher-income peers on every achievement indicator. The achievement gap is 24-25 points for every grade and subject, with the exception of 11th grade reading, which is even larger (29 points).
  • Only 79% of students who are economically disadvantaged graduate from high school, compared to 95% of their higher-income peers (a 16-point gap).
  • Only 47% of students who are economically disadvantaged enroll in postsecondary education, compared to 72% of their higher-income peers (a 25-point gap). Of students who enroll, 73% of economically disadvantaged students persist after one year, compared to 87% of their higher-income peers (a 14-point gap).

EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT BY RACE/ETHNICITY

The racial achievement gap is defined as any significant and persistent disparity in academic performance or educational attainment between groups of students based on their race/ethnicity. Achievement gaps based on race are persistent and well documented in Maine. Gaps result from unequal distribution of resources and opportunity by race that have accumulated over centuries.

Key Data Points

  • The following represents the demographic breakdown of Maine public schools by race/ethnicity in 2019: 88% White, 4% Black or African American, 3% Hispanic/Latino, 3% Two or more races, 2% Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1% American Indian/Alaska Native.
  • Below, we identify the gaps between specific racial/ethnic groups and the performance of all students. Note: achievement data for 4th and 8th grade assessments excludes English learners.

Notes

  • There are not striking gaps in terms of college enrollment by race. However, there are significant gaps in terms of college graduation. There is much more that our state needs to do to act on the factors that lead to stark gaps in college persistence by race/ethnicity.
  • There are many stories within this information that we will dig into in the coming year. We must understand the myriad causes of these gaps in order to pursue the most effective solutions.

EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT BY GENDER

Achievement gaps based on gender are not consistent throughout the educational pipeline, yet they exist. Pervasive and longstanding stereotypes about what men and women are “supposed” to be good at have an outsized influence on performance in particular subjects at certain grade levels and throughout the educational pipeline. Young women graduate from high school at a rate of 90%, compared to 86% for young men.

Key Data Points

  • 52% of Maine public school students are male; 48% are female.
  • In general, female students achieve at higher rates than male students. Male students perform slightly better in 4th grade math, female students perform slightly better in 8th grade math, and there was no gap in 11th grade math. Girls achieved higher in reading by at least 9 points across every grade level, with the widest gap (17 points) occurring in 8th grade.
  • 90% of female students graduate from high school, compared to 86% of male students (a 4-point gap).
  • 69% of female students enroll in postsecondary education, compared to 55% of male students (a 14-point gap).
    • 84% of female students who enroll in postsecondary education persist after one year, compared to 79% of male students (a 5-point gap).
  • 70% of female students graduate from postsecondary education, compared to 63% of male students (a 7-point gap).

EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT FOR ENGLISH LEARNERS

English learners are held to high standards on educational assessments. By definition, once students are deemed proficient in English, they are removed from the English learner designation – which is why performance on assessments is consistently far below the state average for English learners, who must take assessments in a language in which they are not fluent.

Key Data Points

  • 3% of Maine students are designated English learners.
  • English learners are often immigrant students who speak one or more languages other than English fluently.
  • English learners typically perform much worse on assessments than their English-proficient counterparts because the assessments are offered in English. Naturally, they face the most significant gaps of any student subgroup. Gaps are more pronounced in reading than in math, ranging from 28 points (4th and 11th grade math) to 50 points (11th grade reading).
  • 80% of English learners graduate from high school, compared to 87% of students overall (a 7-point gap).
  • English learners enroll in higher education at a rate slightly higher than the state average. 62% of English learners enroll in postsecondary education, compared to 61% of students overall.
    • 82% of English learners who enroll in postsecondary education persist after one year, the same rate as the state average overall.
  • 27% of English learners graduate from postsecondary education, compared to 62% of students overall (a 35-point gap).
  • Much more needs to be done to support English learners throughout the education system. There are promising signs that English learners are enrolling in higher education, however, much more needs to be done to support this population in crossing the finish line.

LEARN MORE

 

Did you know?

  • English learners have one of the highest rates of postsecondary enrollment and persistence in Maine.
  • Maine’s population overall is about 94% white, while its student population has become far more diverse over the years. White students comprised 88% of the student population in 2019.

Dig Deeper

What Maine Communities are Doing

  • Teachers all across Maine are reimagining and reworking their curricula to be more representative of their student bodies and more reflective of events in American history that have shaped our understanding of race and society. One of many examples: a teacher in Bowdoin, Maine recently expanded her school library to cultivate diverse readers and citizens. “There were three specific things I was looking for when selecting books for this project and they were: strong characters and storylines for struggling readers (boys in particular), books with diverse characters, and picture books celebrating diversity, STEM, and women’s empowerment.”
  • Portland Empowered made up of students, parents, alumni, teachers, administrators, and community members who organize to ensure that student and family voice is authentically incorporated into decision making in Portland’s public high schools. The organization nurtures emerging youth and adult leaders to promote equity and excellence for all learners across racial, cultural, linguistic, socioeconomic and other backgrounds.
  • Districts across Maine, such as Lewiston Public Schools, have recently launched initiatives to increase the proportion of educators of color among their workforce. Lewiston’s student body is approximately 40% students of color and yet the teaching staff is majority white. Programs typically offer free college credits and training for individuals in the community who are interested in a career in teaching, largely aimed at engaging ed techs and parents who may want to build a career as a teacher.

Take Action

  • Our policy brief Helping Diverse Students Thrive contains strategies that schools, communities, and policymakers can use to begin to address inequities in our education system here in Maine.
  • Assessment data is only one way to measure gaps between groups of students. Educators and administrators are strongly encouraged to use a range of tools to understand students’ experiences in the educational system that affect student outcomes. Institutions must make sure that disaggregated data collection is a priority at every level.
  • Colorín Colorado is a national multimedia project that offers a wealth of bilingual, research-based information, activities, and advice for educators and families of English language learners (ELLs).
  • Great Schools Partnership offers a number of high-quality, free resources for classroom teachers and school leaders that they can implement right away, such as Grading and Reporting for Educational Equity.
  • The Maine Department of Education has published a wealth of resources aimed at combatting racism along with considerations to assess equity practices that schools can use in building more just and equitable communities.