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Report: Nearly 80 Percent Of Maine School Districts Offer Pre-K, But Achievement Gaps Persist

More Maine kids are heading to public school at an earlier age, but those from economically disadvantaged communities continue to fall behind. Those are some of the findings of a report released Monday by the business-led education lobbying group Educate Maine.

The annual report looks at several aspects of education in Maine, from preschool access to college completion and success on standardized tests.

Educate Maine Executive Director Jason Judd says the report shows several positive developments, including that 78 percent of school districts offer public pre-K - up from only 47 percent in 2012.

"Right now, some students are starting school behind, even when they start on the first day," Judd says, "and that investment in early education will really help our long-term plan."

But Judd says the report also highlights large achievement gaps that still exist for students of color and those who are economically disadvantaged.

"We need to continue to think about what we're doing to support students that are not making the same gains," he says, "either coming from low socio-economic backgrounds, economically disadvantaged students, as well as students in under-represented minorities."

Judd says he's encouraged by recent state policy changes, including increasing teacher salaries and directing more money to local schools, which he says should help districts support disadvantaged students.