Robbie Feinberg

Education News Producer

Robbie grew up in New Hampshire, but has since written stories for radio stations from Washington, DC, to a fishing village in Alaska. Robbie graduated from the University of Maryland and got his start in public radio at the Transom Story Workshop in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Before arriving at Maine Public Radio, he worked in the Midwest, where he covered everything from beer to migrant labor for public radio station WMUK in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Ways to Connect

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

In Oak Hill High School’s efforts to implement new, proficiency-based graduation requirements, one department is held up as a prime example of what this new kind of education should look like. It’s not math, English or science — but physical education.

Maine’s first-year high schoolers this year will make history. They will be the first class that needs to meet a new requirement in order to graduate four years from now — they’ll have to demonstrate that they are proficient in a number of standards in order to receive a diploma.

This is the first in an extended series of reports on how this law is changing the way schools operate called “Lessons From Oak Hill,” focusing on the experiences of Regional School Unit 4, northwest of Lewiston.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Students entering high school this year in Maine will be the first in the country to graduate with a new kind of diploma. Instead of amassing a set number of credits, they’ll need to show that they’re “proficient” and meet certain standards.

It’s a change that’s been nearly a decade in the making. But some educators are still worried about what it will mean for students and teachers.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Faced with a choice of two proposals, Portland voters came out overwhelmingly in support of a $64 million bond Tuesday night to renovate four of the city’s public elementary schools.

Nearly two-thirds of Portland residents supported the project, which will renovate the city’s Longfellow, Reiche, Presumpscot and Lyseth elementary schools. Currently, the schools have problems such as overcrowding and unmet structural issues.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

For years, businesses in Maine have feared the coming of the “silver tsunami,” when thousands of baby boomers are projected to leave the workforce, expected to take place over the next few decades.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press/file

One of Maine’s regional workforce boards is suing Gov. Paul LePage and Labor Commissioner John Butera over the state’s decision to turn down about $8 million in federal funds for job training.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Last month, Gov. Paul LePage informed the U.S. Department of Labor that he would no longer accept about $8 million in federal job retraining funding for thousands of unemployed workers.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

It’s no secret that populations are shrinking on some of Maine’s isolated island communities, such as North Haven and Monhegan. More and more island residents are often older, with no kids, and present only during the warmer months.

Four years from now, the way Maine students are awarded diplomas will change.  The number of classes they pass will no longer matter.  Instead, they'll have to meet specific standards in up to eight subject areas.

Educators from around the state spoke out about the new diploma rules at a public hearing in August.  And the state is listening to their concerns.

Remember the school consolidation effort that was launched 10 years ago in Maine? Some districts would rather forget it, but the state is about to ask them to try a new initiative.

The state budget bill passed in July bolstered education funding by more than $160 million, but also established rules around the creation of a new system for sharing educational services across districts. Supporters say it will give kids more opportunities, but some school officials are having doubts.

Ten years ago, Maine Gov. John Baldacci signed a law changing the structure of education across Maine, forcing districts to consolidate with schools in nearby towns as a way of saving money. But a decade later, the consolidation experiment has led to more conflict than success in many districts.

Pete Webster’s Spanish class at Whittier Middle School in Poland begins quietly enough. Webster introduces a few vocab words to his students, and they repeat them back. But about five minutes in, Webster picks up a guitar and, soon, the classroom becomes a whirlwind of sound.

The state Department of Education is proposing to shift the responsibility for providing services for 3- to 5-year-old children with disabilities back to local school districts.

The state says the current system isn’t working, but critics of the proposed change say it could place a larger financial burden on local schools.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Teachers, like all workers, can become suddenly ill or have a family emergency. When that happens, an early morning call goes out a list of subs that have been screened and preapproved for duty. But school districts across Maine report that they are struggling to find enough subs to fill in every day.

Brett Plymale

Vocational education in Maine has evolved over the years — it’s now called career and technical education, or CTE, and the LePage administration is vowing to double the number of kids in CTE over the next two years. Many educators support that goal, but some are worried about a proposed funding formula that they say could hurt communities in Maine that are most in need of local job development.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

This week, students across the state will be hopping on buses and heading back to school. Over the past few years, some districts have made a big push to teach students about financial literacy. In the wake of the Great Recession, many teachers are adding credit cards and student loans to their curriculum.

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