The Promise of Public Charter Schools: Closing Maine’s Achievement Gap


Read the full report | Last summer, in the midst of high school graduation season, Education Week Magazine released the results of an extensive, nationwide study of high school graduation rates. Among their conclusions was a finding that Maine’s long-celebrated above average high school graduation rates may have been inflated through poor statistical analysis. They calculated Maine’s graduation rate to be 74 percent, far below the 87 percent rate cited on the state’s own Department of Education website.

According to published reports, Maine’s Commissioner of Education “did not dispute the new findings” and indeed admitted that the report’s conclusions were “probably more accurate than the state’s calculations.”

The fact that more than a quarter of Maine’s students fail to complete high school strongly suggests that Maine’s schools are simply not meeting the needs of many Maine students. Testing data seems to confirm this assumption. Scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a widely used achievement test known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” reveal that Maine students from families that struggle financially have particularly poor academic development. NAEP testing scores of students from low-income households indicate a substantial income-based achievement gap (see Chart 1 and Table 1).

These results reveal that thousands of Maine school children are simply failing to succeed in Maine’s schools, despite the best efforts of dedicated teachers and administrators. Indeed, the fact that low-income Maine students have even lower achievement in math and writing in 8th grade than in 4th grade indicates that in many cases, the longer students remain in traditional Maine schools, the further behind they get…