2021 report adds measures to better understand the “whole student,” include additional higher learning pathways, and provides data on COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on education system

PORTLAND – Educate Maine released its ninth annual “Education Indicators for Maine” report last week. The yearly report examines Maine’s education system in-depth, using indicators to measure access, participation, and performance of Maine students from early childhood through postsecondary education. The report provides data on what is working well and where investments in Maine’s education system are needed to ensure that every Maine person reaches their highest educational potential.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 called for a special version of Education Indicators. In addition to data reflecting the pandemic’s impact, the 2021 report added measures seeking a better understanding of the “whole student.” With a lesser focus on test scores, new indicators measured student well-being, and access and participation in postsecondary education opportunities beyond 2- and 4- year college, such as career and technical pathways and adult education.

“The pandemic has shined a light on what educators have known for a long time: there are many important factors that influence student success, such as mental health, nutrition, and high-speed internet access,” said Educate Maine Executive Director Jason Judd, Ed.D. “This year’s Education Indicators report helps us better understand the ‘whole student.’ The report also calls attention to important indicators related to the health of Maine’s early education and child care system, how Maine is serving different groups of students, and to additional higher learning pathways. Altogether, the data provide a more holistic look at the full education pipeline and the complex needs of all Maine learners within it to help guide where Maine may need to make additional investments.”

Key data points in the 2021 Education Indicators report include:

Enrollment, diversity, teacher shortages, and internet access:

  • Maine public school enrollment increased by 684 students in 2021 after dropping by 7,862 students between 2019 and 2020.
  • Maine schools are more diverse than Maine’s population, comprising 13% students of color.
  • At least 14% of students had trouble accessing high-speed internet at home when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Maine, (more often related to cost than to infrastructure).
  • Roughly 6% of Maine students did not have a reliable device at home prior to the pandemic.

Student well-being:

  • 1 in 5 Maine high school students reported experiencing four or more Adverse Childhood Experiences. The rate is higher for girls than for boys.
  • 1 in 4 Maine middle school students and nearly 1 in 3 high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless for two weeks or more (2019 data).
  • 59% of middle school students and 57% of high school students in Maine report feeling like they matter in their community (2019).

Early learning:

  • Maine pre-K enrollment dropped from 47% to 35.6% in the pandemic.
  • 71% of Maine children under 6 have all available parents in the workforce.
  • 22% of Maine children live in a childcare desert.
  • Approximately one third of Maine 4-year-olds are enrolled in public pre-K.
  • The average cost of full-time, center-based infant care in Maine is $11,700 per year.
  • Maine childcare providers are struggling to retain qualified staff.
  • The median wage for kindergarten teachers in Maine ($53,270) is more than twice the median wage of early childhood educators ($24,030).

Secondary, post-secondary, and adult education:

  • There are 9,164 students participating in 27 career and technical education centers and regions across Maine.
  • The Maine high school graduation rate has been steady at 87% over the past five years.
  • 79% of economically disadvantaged students graduate from high school on-time compared with 95% of their higher income peers.
  • College enrollment rates declined from 60% in 2019 to 55% in 2020 among Maine students as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • College persistence rates declined from 67% to 63% between 2019 and 2020.
  • The college completion rate was relatively steady between 2019 and 2020 (63% to 64%), as most students were able to finish out the school year in the Spring of 2020.
  • 938 adults received a high school credential (diploma or HiSET) through Adult Education programs in the 2020-21 school year.
  • 53% of Maine adults hold a degree or credential of value – a precursor to skilled employment with family-sustaining wages.

“Although we still do not know the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the data in the 2021 Education Indicators report help provide a clearer picture of Maine’s current education system challenges,” added Judd. “Maine schools, employers and policy makers are committed to addressing these challenges to improve and strengthen Maine’s education system and build a better future for all Maine people as we continue to navigate through the pandemic.”

This is the second year the Education Indicators report is available in a web format that allows for readily accessible data points on education in Maine, more timely updates to the indicators, and additional information on how readers can learn more and take action.

For the full 2021 report, please visit educationindicators.me.