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

It was the year 2000 and Maine's governor at the time, Angus King, was excited about the Internet. The World Wide Web was still relatively young but King wanted every student in the state to have access to it.

"Go into history class and the teacher says, 'Open your computer. We're going to go to rome.com and we're going to watch an archaeologist explore the Catacombs this morning in real time.' What a learning tool that is!"

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Nearly half of all kids in Maine qualify for free and reduced-price lunch at school. During the summer months, when school is out, there haven’t been a lot of options for those families – but that’s starting to change.

Educators and advocates are speaking out about proposed changes to Maine’s law on proficiency-based diplomas. At a public hearing on Monday, they said new rules proposed by the state Department of Education may violate federal law and could keep many students with disabilities from graduating.

The new rules involve changes to Maine’s law on proficiency-based diplomas. The law says that by 2021, students will need more than just a set number of credits in high school in order to graduate. Instead, they’ll need to be “proficient” in certain subjects like math and English.

Brett Plymale

This story was originally published Aug. 9, 2017.

For most kids, school is a focus on those three R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic. But more and more, educators are trying to teach students skills they’ll need on the job, too, such as work ethic and teamwork. At one coastal Maine school, that curriculum includes real work.

maine.edu

Starting this fall, some students at the University of Maine at Presque Isle won’t need to worry about how many hours they need to spend in class to graduate. The university announced today that it’s launching an online “competency-based” degree for some of its business students, which will allow them to get a bachelors’ degree at their own pace, and for less than $10,000. The new program is aimed specifically at adults who may have dropped out of college in the past.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Over the past 15 years, refugee and immigrant students have transformed the city of Portland and its public school system. However, teachers have remained overwhelmingly white, and there are efforts to increase the diversity of the staff — by encouraging Portland students to eventually become teachers.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Summer school — it’s a long been a dreaded rite of passage for students who are falling behind. Movies have been made about it, and some districts now refuse to even call it “summer school” because of the stigma.

But now, some schools are finding that some of the traditional ways they’ve approached programs in the past aren’t working, particularly at younger levels. That’s forced some districts to make changes.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Maine schools have long said they need more money. One reason, educators say, is that they are taking on responsibilities they’ve never had before: providing extra food, medical services and even washers and dryers to clean students’ clothes. Schools in rural Maine need the most help, but often lack the tax base to pay for it.

Students at Snow Pond Arts Academy spend the morning studying theater, music and dance before using an online curriculum in the afternoon.
Snow Pond Arts Academy

The Snow Pond Arts Academy charter school in Sidney had an ambitious goal — to be the first public school in Maine to use a model called “blended learning,” in which most of student work takes place in an online platform. But after only a year, the school is abandoning its virtual approach.

When the Snow Pond Arts Academy launched last fall, it was the first charter school with a performing arts focus, but it also embraced so-called “blended learning” where some learning occurs in a classroom, but much happens online.

Almost any teacher will tell you that they’ve got more on their plates today than they did 15 or 20 years ago. New initiatives, tests, teacher evaluations — and then there’s the new state mandate that every student graduate with a “proficiency-based diploma.”

That means that many teachers are now rethinking how they work, and that takes time. More schools are now trying to create weekly “early release days” to give teachers more time to work together, but some parents are aren’t happy.

Brian Bechard / Maine Public

Fifteen years ago, Maine launched an ambitious experiment to give every 7th- and 8th- grader in the state their own device, under a new program called the Maine Learning Technology Initiative. Maine was the first state to try such an expansive program, and experts say it’s still the largest program of its kind. The results of the program vary from district to district, with some teachers adopting the technology and others still resisting it today.

Brian Bechard / Maine Public

After 15 years, Maine's program to provide technology to every 7th- and 8th-grader is changing. A new structure puts more responsibility and control in the hands of local districts.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

When former Gov. Angus King began an effort to give every 7th- and 8th-grader a laptop in 2001, one of the goals was equity, a way to ensure that students have access to the same kind of technology whether they live in Cumberland, Washington or Oxford County.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Head into any 7th- or 8th-grade classroom in Maine, and you’ll see something you won’t see in any other state: every student holding a laptop. The free laptops, provided under Maine’s Learning Technology Initiative over the past 15 years, have been expanded to most high schools, as well. But has it changed learning?

Robin Fleck / Auburn School Department

The issue of mental health is generating more and more discussion in Maine schools. Studies have found that it’s of particular importance to refugee and immigrant students, who have often experienced trauma, both in their home countries and as as they resettle in a new culture.

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