PORTLAND, Maine — Educate Maine, a coalition of business leaders and educators, released a report Thursday that showed little progress has been made to improve the education landscape in Maine in the past year.
The group is calling on business leaders throughout the state to increase their support of Maine’s students in order to increase the percentage of students who graduate high school and are ready to pursue college or a career.
Maine lags behind other New England states on certain education indicators, such as preschool enrollment, proficiency in math and reading, and college graduation rates, according to the report.
Educate Maine released the first report of this kind last year, and a comparison of the two shows the statistics have not yet improved.
Yellow Light Breen, executive vice president of Bangor Savings Bank, said Educate Maine is “sounding the alarm that this is so important for our state” and is challenging more businesses and lawmakers to join its effort.
“We hope the findings of this report will increase engagement and a positive dialogue and will strengthen the support needed to increase educational opportunities for all of Maine students,” Tim Hussey, president of Hussey Seating, said.
Educate Maine was created in 2011 to increase the number of Mainers who earn a college degree and attain the skills necessary to enter the workforce. The organization’s goal is to ensure 50 percent of all Mainers have a college degree, certificate or industry credential by 2023 — a benchmark, which, if reached, would put the state at the projected New England average at that time.
The report showed that Maine’s high school graduation rate is high, at 86 percent, but only about half of the students who graduate are proficient in reading and math. Proficiency is determined by students’ scores on standardized tests and is reported on by Maine’s Department of Education.
It should not be surprising, then, that only about half the students who graduate from high school move on to college, said Chris Hall, CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The number of students who complete college within six year or less is even lower — at only 67 percent of those who enroll, according to the report released Thursday. The average completion rate for all New England states is 74 percent.
The data suggest students in Maine struggle to stay in college, something education professionals in the state’s public colleges, universities and K-12 schools have labored to address.
But members of the business community should take up that cause too, Hall said.
“The world is changing,” he said. “The nature of work is changing. To participate in the economy today, you have to have a different set of skills than you did 10 years ago.”
He said students who do not attain those skills will be disenfranchised, which will have an adverse affect on the economy in Maine.
“I can’t think of anything that’s more important to our economic future than to get the education puzzle right,” he said.