2018-01-06 / Front Page / JT Beacon

Number of economically disadvantaged students rises in Maine

By ED PIERCE
Executive Editor

YORK COUNTY — The number of economically disadvantaged students in Maine has risen almost 10 percentage points since the 2008-2009 school year. 

According to an annual report released by Educate Maine, 45 percent of public school students in the state during the 2016-2017 school year were from economically disadvantaged families, compared to about one in three just 10 years ago. 

The report also found that enrollment in Maine public schools has dipped by 6 percent over the past decade which is a decrease of more than 12,000 students. 

The report reveals that these figures are trending in the wrong direction because family socioeconomic status continues to be the leading predictor of student success later in life.  

"Economically disadvantaged is defined using the eligibility criteria for the National School Lunch Program, which provides free and reduced-price school meals to children living in households with income at or below 185 percent of the poverty level, or $45,510 for a household of four," Educate Maine officials wrote in the report.

Information in the report showed that during the 2016-2017 school year, more than 81,000 students met that criteria.

The achievement gap refers to the diference in educational outcomes for economically disadvantaged students and their higher income peers. Typically, economically disadvantaged students face a number of disadvantages as they navigate the educational system.

"Some of those challenges include less access to costly high-quality early childhood education, childhood developmental delays, and continued financial hardship throughout their time in school," officials wrote in the report.

Nationally, the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged families and families with higher incomes across the United States is about 40 percent higher among students born in 2001 or later than those born in 1976 or earlier.

Cumulative statistics gathered across the county indicate that children that are poor for half of their childhood or longer are 90 percent more likely not to complete high school, compared to children that were never poor.

In Maine, eight counties have eligibility rates above 50 percent and the report cites that student need has grown significantly over the past decade in all the state’s counties and regions. 

Educate Maine champions college and career readiness and strives to increase the educational attainment of the Maine workforce. It is dedicated to the notion that all students should graduate high school prepared to succeed in postsecondary education and in the workplace, and the number of Maine people with a college degree, a postsecondary certificate, or a professional credential must increase to meet the demands of the economy. 

It's "Education Indicators for Maine 2017 Report" offers data snapshots of Maine’s education system from early childhood through postsecondary and measures access, participation, and performance across the state's educational system.

The Educate Maine organization is part of MaineSpark, an initiative to get 60 percent of the Maine workforce to earn a credential of value by 2025. A credential of value for students includes everything from a skilled trade certificate to a college degree that connects a person to a good job and a career in Maine.

Annual report indicators represent critical benchmarks from the education system and Educate Maine officials say that moving indicators toward their respective goals will help state educators reach the goal of 60 percent of the Maine workforce earning a credential of value by 2025.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 ext. 326 or by email at editor@journaltribune.com.

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