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Maine high school graduation rates make a comeback since the pandemic

Graduating senior Andre Brozman delivers his speech during the 2024 Bangor High School graduation ceremony in the Cross Insurance Center on Sunday, June 9.
Linda Coan O'Kresik
/
BDN
Graduating senior Andre Brozman delivers his speech during the 2024 Bangor High School graduation ceremony in the Cross Insurance Center on Sunday, June 9.

High school graduation rates in Maine have rebounded in the past three years.

According to the Maine Department of Education, more than 87% of high school seniors graduated last year. Rates had fallen significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, but have now nearly returned to their pre-pandemic high.

Heather Manchester, the superintendent for the Oxford Hills Schools District, pointed to a new program, being used in several districts across the state, called "Building Assets, Reducing Risks," in which teachers and staff closely track each student in ninth grade.

"So we saw a pretty big increase in our ninth grade success rate when we implemented this program. So in other words, students who are passing six credits or more in ninth grade, it used to be below 75%, and now it's up in the, 88 - 90-something percent," Manchester said. "And we know that when students are successful in their ninth grade year, they're much more likely to graduate."

Marcus Mrowka, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Education, said that the statewide graduation rate is nearly 90%, when including students who needed more than four years to graduate.

Mrowka attributed the rebound to recent federal emergency relief funds to support students, as well as new state supports in mental health and universal school meals. The state has also extended a program allowing some students to still receive a diploma, even if they experienced a significant disruption in their education.

Despite the overall positive numbers, students who are economically disadvantaged, homeless, or in foster care still graduate at much lower rates.