Is Maine the dumbest state in the Union?

It would seem so based upon this map (via Jerry Coyne).

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.

Or not.

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.

15 Responses

  1. You mean the map isn’t a scientific study? Next you’ll try to tell us the poor health in Kansas isn’t a direct result of violent gang warfare between female criminals from Oklahoma and male criminals from Nebraska.

    Some of these are pretty lame. Most mobile homes? Oldest state? Weakest government influence?

    Wisconsin’s label is clearly a mix-up from the sister map, listing what each state is best at.

  2. It’s obviously tongue-in-cheek, but as dumb as most of the claims are, they at least have some basis. Washington, for example, does seem to hold the honor of most bestiality cases. But then, Big Foot is sort of humanish, so that makes sense.

  3. In 1007, my my that SAT has been around a lot longer than I thought! :)

    I never took the SAT, and I’m fabulous. I feel that standardized tests are a poor measure of anything other than test taking ability. I am an excellent “tester” by comparison, some people, whether they know the material or not, test poorly.

    A better measure would probably be oral interviews combined with testing and other evaluation schemes.

  4. It’s so nice to see confirmed what we have always known.

    Massachusetts produces the worst drivers.

  5. AKA “Massholes”.

  6. What the hell do they need to get to graduate? I know the SAT is Maine’s “exit exam”

  7. You are correct that Maine is the only state to force every student to take the SAT – college-bound or not. Even the College Board that administers the test has disavowed Maine’s use of the exam as a measure of all students’ academic progress.

    You might want to check this graphic, What each state is Best at –

  8. I think Hawaii has the longest life expectancy because its the furthest from Washington. Any takers on that theory?

  9. Most Average? Best Bromine production?!

    The state with the highest library usage is the nerdiest, the state with the highest cocaine use has the lowest obesity, and the state with the most porn usage has the highest reported well-being. Coincidence?

  10. Clearly Michelle Obama needs to start handing out baggies of cocaine to school kids.

  11. Its not really the things the states are worst at is it though?

    By the map, Washington state isn’t the worst at bestiality but the best.

  12. New letter from Maine DoE: Spring 2011 Maine High School Assessment (MHSA)/SAT Initiative Guidelines and Updates []

  13. Everyone in Utah has to take the SAT’s – if they’re in the public education system. And even with all the time we spend looking at porn, although porn is pretty much banned in Utah, we still managed to score a higher average.

  14. maine is a asome place to be in

  15. you guy need new brains

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