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

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.

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.

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