The dubious honor is based upon 2010 SAT scores by state (including Washington D.C.). Maine ranks dead last with a combined mean score of 1389. In contrast, the top performing state, Iowa, has a combined mean score of 1798. In fact, the traditionally dumbest state, Mississippi, comes in at number 18 with a score of 1666. It would seem Maine has really gone down the tubes over the past few years.
Maine, as far as I know, is the only state which requires students to take the SATs. Other states may require ACT tests, though I’m not sure. However, many other states do trend towards those tests as an alternative to the SATs. As a result, Iowa’s participation rate is a paltry 3% (the same as Mississippi). In fact, 19 of the top 20 states are 10% or under in participation (Colorado, ranked number 13, is at 18%). Maine, by contrast, has a 92% participation rate. (For the remaining 8% I suspect the ACT tests are allowed as an alternative, some students just don’t bother, exceptions are made for certain circumstances, etc, etc; in 2007, the participation rate in the state was 100%.) The result is that over 15,000 Maine students took the test whether they cared or not; Only 1,100 students took it in Iowa – and I bet most of them cared. In fact, take a look at the reports by state. Of the students in Maine taking the test (who responded), 32% were in the highest tenth of their class. In Iowa, it was 64%. In Maine, 24% of the students taking the test made up the bottom three fifths of their class. In Iowa? 4%.
So in short, no, Maine is not the dumbest state. All students in Maine are considered college-bound by these SAT statistics, so that makes state-by-state comparison pointless. Iowa and most of the other states suffer from sample bias. In fact, Massachusetts is the closest state to Maine in participation and still only reaches 86%. Besides, in other various rankings, Maine students consistently rank well above average. By these rankings, the state is 5th overall.