Maine was recently named the most rural state in the country, just ahead of Vermont, with 61.3 percent of its population living in rural areas, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. More than two-thirds of its roughly 670 schools are in rural communities, and more than half its 187,000 pre-K–12 students attend these schools. While 92 percent of Maine students are classified as white, non-Hispanic, the state’s rural Hispanic student population grew 68 percent from 1999 to 2009. Seventeen percent of Maine students receive special education services, and nearly 40 percent of Maine students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. In 2010, its high school graduation rate rose by more than two percentage points to nearly 83 percent.
In January, the Maine Department of Education released a new strategic plan, addressing five core priority areas: effective, learner-center instruction; great teachers and leaders; multiple pathways for learner achievement; comprehensive school and community supports; and coordinated and effective state support. In April, the state legislature passed a new teacher effectiveness bill, establishing statewide standards for teacher and principal evaluation systems and making changes to how educators are trained and certified. REL Northeast and Islands is helping Maine with these new initiatives through projects identified and conducted by several research alliances, including:
- Northeast Rural Districts Research Alliance
- Northeast Educator Effectiveness Research Alliance
- Early Childhood Education Research Alliance
- Northeast College and Career Readiness Research Alliance