Maine Policy Releases New Analysis on Decline of Maine K-12 Education


Jacob Posik
Director of Legislative Affairs
Office: 207.321.2550


The Decline of Maine K-12 Education: 1984-2022
Maine Policy Institute Releases Report on Decline of State’s K-12 Education System

Maine Policy Institute released a report today authored by Research Fellow Jonah Davids on the decline of Maine’s K-12 education system from 1984-2022. This analysis details how students in Maine went from among America’s top performers to its lowest.

In the 1990s, Maine students consistently ranked first or second on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in math and reading. Maine was a model state for education, with other states moving to imitate its policies and practices. By 2022, however, the state’s rank had plummeted to 36th. Today, Maine students are falling behind and educators are leaving in droves.

Maine was set on this downward path by state and federal mandates that undermined local control over education. These changes have led to dissatisfaction among educators, the widespread use of experimental teaching methods, increased administrative duties for staff, and unreasonable expectations being placed on schools. While earlier interventions raised test scores, those of the past decade have seen them fall.

On top of government mandates, teachers are exposed to their students’ worsening mental health and behavioral problems daily. Between 2009 and 2021, Maine high school girls reported a 78% increase in feelings of sadness and hopelessness, a 74% surge in self-harm, and a 38% increase in suicide attempts, while behavioral incidents involving violence, drugs, and weapons in Maine schools have tripled since 2014. To address these issues, schools have turned to social-emotional learning and restorative practices, neither of which are based on solid science and both of which blur the line between instruction, therapy, and activism.

As test scores fall and student issues rise, Maine’s education system has embraced ideology. Students and teachers now participate in protests at school and openly share their divisive views. Far-left ideas and practices surrounding race, gender, and sexuality have become normalized in Maine schools under the banner of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The majority of Mainers do not support these changes, with 77% saying they would prefer teachers focus on basic academics like math, reading, and writing.

In addition to covering the present state of Maine K-12, the report includes a four-part history of Maine education from 1984-2022, examining the laws, trends, and policies which have led to the state’s current situation. The report contains no recommendations but is intended to start a conversation around the challenges Maine’s public schools face and what can be done to put Maine back on track to being one of the best states for education in the country.

The report can be found here.