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.

Cape May County Library / Flickr

This week, we’ve been exploring why so many of Maine’s public schools can’t seem to find enough foreign language teachers. In his third and final report of the series, Robbie Feinberg takes us into one of these classrooms to see if technology could be the answer.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Maine’s public schools can’t find enough foreign language teachers, and they’re having a hard time keeping those that they do hire.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Across Maine, public schools can’t find enough qualified foreign language teachers. Already, schools are cutting programs and pondering lower standards because of the shortage.

In the first of a three-part series, Robbie Feinberg looks at the cause of the problem, and how it’s already affecting education in Maine.

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

Across the state, about 800 middle and high school students wake up every morning, log on to their computers, and take all of their classes completely online. They’re enrolled in to Maine’s two virtual charter schools. This year, that same, online approach is also being used by brick-and-mortar schools, as well. The track record for online and blended learning is mixed nationally. The question now is if Maine’s schools can buck the trend.

For Tiffany Jones, teaching English only requires a computer and an internet connection.

What turns a student into a scientist? It’s a combination of inquiry, mentoring, curiosity and a chance to actually try it all out for real.

That’s what two educational institutions, Colby College and the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, are providing high school students through programs designed to give students a chance to take an early look at science in depth.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Across Maine over the past five years, a group of schools has tried out an experimental approach to learning. They call it “self pace,” and the idea is that if students decide how quickly or slowly they learn, they can stay more engaged and become more independent.

More than 10 percent of Maine’s teachers and childcare providers have expelled students as young as 3 from their programs due to challenging behaviors such as hitting, pushing and biting, according to a new survey from the Maine Children’s Growth Council.

Advocates for children in Maine are concerned about what the statistics mean for those kids and their families.

Robbie Feinberg / MPBN

In much of Maine, it’s tough to find quality, high-speed internet. According to one estimate, Maine ranks 49th out of 50 states when it comes to broadband availability.

The problem is magnified when you head Down East, to rural, coastal towns such as Cherryfield and Isle au Haut.

The small fishing village of Jonesport is more than an hour and a half east of Bar Harbor. And if you go at night, past the corner store and the church, you might see a strange sight: lots of cars, with people inside, just parked outside the library.

Jennifer Mitchell / MPBN

September means one thing for most kids in Maine: an end to summer holidays and the start of classes. But for some, the school year isn’t that straightforward, because their parents chase the seasons from Texas to Maine, harvesting vegetables, picking apples and raking blueberries.

Photo courtesy of Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research

Over the past decade, the number of students diagnosed with autism in Maine’s public schools has more than doubled. Many of those newly diagnosed kids aren’t even old enough to start kindergarten.

Every year, Maine’s adult education programs enroll nearly 100,000 students, with an array of personal goals – from learning to read to finding a better job. But a new federal law is raising concerns within many of those programs about the new direction that adult education could be heading. Robbie Feinberg reports.

The state’s new laws requiring proficiency-based diplomas are already affecting the approach to education in many towns across the state. But some districts worry that the new, high standards could leave some students unable to earn a diploma. Two Maine districts are handling the problem by re-imagining what a diploma means.

Brian Bechard / MPBN

This fall, Maine voters will head to the polls to vote on a new tax that would increase education funding statewide. It’s being proposed as educators and districts across the state continue to wrestle with limited budgets. As they do that, educators are increasingly turning to private money to fund education, and private foundations are now playing a big role in putting money directly in the hands of teachers.

Robbie Feinberg / MPBN

Figuring out how to deal with “problem children” in the classroom has always been a challenge for teachers and administrators. These students, who often have social and emotional problems, have traditionally been punished with a trip the principal’s office, or with detentions and suspensions.

4-H instructor Norm Greenberg teaches students at the 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond in Bethel.
Robbie Feinberg/MPBN

Originally published on June 20, 2016

It’s not unusual for high school students to spend time in the community or work on a special project. But one Maine school district has taken that a step further. On almost every school day during the school year, freshmen at Telstar High School in Bethel are bussed to a local 4-H camp, where they work on anything from English to building solar panels and hiking trails. The school views the “Telstar Freshman Academy” program as a new way of tackling the state’s new proficiency-based graduation standards. But, parents and students are still coming around on the idea.

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