August 18, 2018
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White Maine students are least likely in nation to see kids of another race at school

Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Ashley L. Conti | BDN
An international student listens during English class at John Bapst High School in Bangor, Sept. 21, 2017. In Maine, eight in 10 white students attend schools where at least 90 percent of the total student population is white.
By Darren Fishell, BDN Staff
Updated:

It’s little surprise that Maine — the country’s whitest state — has the country’s most racially homogenous schools.

But schools in Maine were even more homogenous in 2015 than schools in New Hampshire and Vermont, its almost equally white neighbor states, according to an analysis by the Associated Press. In other words, Maine’s few racially diverse students aren’t spread among many schools.

The analysis shows that roughly one in five white students in Maine attend schools where 10 percent or more of students are minorities. That’s a higher level of concentration of white students than Vermont, West Virginia and New Hampshire.

The AP analyzed national school enrollment data to study trends in school segregation from school years 2000 through 2014. Looking at 2014-2015 enrollment numbers, Maine’s white students were the most racially isolated of any such group in the country.

In total, 83 percent of Maine’s white students attend schools where at least 90 percent of the total student population is white. The AP found segregation has been increasing in spots across the country.

To measure racial isolation, the AP developed “entropy” scores for each school, representing how evenly a school’s population is split between students who are white, black, Asian, Hispanic, American Indian, Pacific Islanders and two or more races.

As of the 2014-2015 school year, white students were not the majority at only one school in Maine, at Presumpscot Elementary School in Portland. The city hosted all of the state’s most racially diverse schools, while Lewiston and Auburn had other outliers, where white students were much more likely to share a classroom with students of another race.

Nationally, the Associated Press found that charter schools are among the country’s most segregated, adding to a trend of increasing school segregation in recent years.

In Maine, that’s generally not the case, except for the Portland-based Baxter Academy for Technology and Sciences. The AP’s analysis of U.S. Department of Education data indicates it was far less diverse than neighboring schools in Portland, based on enrollment for the 2014-2015 school year.

And the data show the school became more segregated as its total enrollment doubled in its second year of operation. In the 2014-2015 school year, the school’s black student population dropped to 7 from 13, compared with the prior year. Meanwhile, its white population doubled.

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