A business-led group is out with its fifth annual Educate Maine report, and Executive Director Ed Cervone says, overall, it indicates that Maine students are generally well-served by the state's schools.
"In here what we're seeing in terms of academic success, we see kind of a plateauing recently," Cervone says. "In terms of post-secondary - meaning college-going persistence and completion - we see a lot of the same numbers we've seen over time."
But Cervone acknowledges that it's been a bit challenging to track actual student progress in recent years, "mainly because the state has switched their assessment tool - I believe three times now over the past four or five years. So, we have - essentially when I started on this work, we had one test, we moved to a second, it was moved out, and I think we've moved back now to another test."
That testing does indicates that, in higher grades, achievement gaps aren't closing. The latest report appears to show declines in reading and math proficiency for students in the fourth and eighth grades. Cervone says it's evidence that the best place for the state to place its education resources is in the earliest grades.
"If you're behind, in math, if you're behind in reading, it's very hard to catch up in those later years," he says. "The time to do it is earlier on. It's not impossible, but it takes a lot of time, it takes more money and attention, and that's not something that all schools have."
Cervone says early intervention can also be effective in helping students from lower-income families perform more like their peers from wealthier families. He says most of the improvements in education have been focused on the younger kids. The state is working toward a 2019 deadline for making pre-k programs available statewide.
Cervone says while fewer than half of eligible kids now attend pre-k programs, he expects the number to grow as more schools offer it and more parents learn about it.