Maine Education Project

The Maine Education Project explores student-centered learning from early childhood through college and beyond. The project is funded by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, which is working to encourage a transformation of public schools toward places that create learning opportunities to engage and inspire all students to meet challenging standards.

Spearheaded by Robbie Feinberg, education news producer, and Dave Boardman, education program coordinator, the project seeks stories about innovative learning in Maine’s classrooms and educational institutions and connects with the voices of students, educators and policymakers as they look at solutions to the challenges facing education today. We highlight the perspectives of students and educators, and provide curriculum resources for writing about education and finding success through our Raise Your Voice! initiative.

Have a story suggestion? Contact the team at MaineEducationProject@mainepublic.org.

pihs.sad1.org

A unique school tradition will come to an end in one Aroostook County town next year. Wednesday night, the school board for SAD 1, in Presque Isle, voted to eliminate “harvest break” – a three week period in the fall when students leave the classroom and help to harvest potatoes. In recent years other towns have also eliminated the break. However, school officials expect that the unusual practice will continue in a few places.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

This fall, many Maine schools are expected to get more money from the state as part of a budget deal reached last year, and one of the major funding boosts is for public preschool.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

For generations, high school students in northern Maine have taken a three-week break from classes every fall to harvest potatoes. But the acreage has shrunk over the past 50 years, and technology has reduced the demand for labor, which means far fewer teenagers are working in the fields of Aroostook County.

In the town of Presque Isle, the school board is looking at a new approach that could end the tradition of the October break and bring the harvest into the classroom.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Starting three years from now, high school students in Maine won’t be able to graduate by just earning enough credits — they’ll need to have mastered a set of standards in subjects including math, English and science. Some schools are taking new approaches to help students meet the new proficiency standards — but some educators are still worried that a large percentage of students may not be able to make the grade.

Oak Hill High School Principal Marco Aliberti works with a student in English class as part of a revamped course structure in the school.
Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Beginning this year, high school freshmen in Maine have to work toward a new kind of "proficiency-based" diploma. Under the new requirement, students must be "proficient" in a number of subjects by the time they reach their senior year. Reaching the standards is a tall order.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

At most any high school in Maine you will find Advanced Placement classes, which are more challenging, and designed to help students prepare for college. Nationally, minority students have often been underrepresented in many AP classes — but one Maine high school has transformed theirs, and welcomed in many more minority students in the process.

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.

Video: Connecting Learning, Work, and the Future

Nov 13, 2017

It's not easy to make learning an engaging, interactive experience. The Maine Education Project has found four different education organizations that are connecting students to both learning opportunities and their communities, and we featured these stories in a half-hour-long television program this fall.

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

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.

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.

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.

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