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.

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.

Dan Ryder Teaches Students Design Thinking at Mt. Blue High School
Robbie Feinberg/MPBN

If you looked inside Dan Ryder’s classroom at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, you might think that he taught engineering. A 3-D printer sits in the corner, there’s a giant box of Legos, and a full cart of electronics right beside. Ryder, though, teaches English. And he uses a method called design thinking, in which he combines books, inventions and brainstorming to create a new kind of classroom experience.

Robbie Feinberg / MPBN

Earlier this week, all staff members at Athens Elementary School gathered together to discuss their yearlong experiment in school governance. To save money and reclaim local control, the school decided in September to get rid of its principal and appoint teachers to serve as both instructors and administrators. The approach is still new, but it could lead to changes across Maine’s small, rural school districts.

Dave Boardman / MPBN

LEWISTON, Maine - There aren't a lot of opportunities for students to be innovative in schools today. Between a focus on standards and getting the grades, there's not enough room or time to try something new.  But some schools in Maine are finding that allowing for some innovation is worth the risk.

8th Grade Students in Presque Isle Participating in the "Amazing Race."
Nick Woodward/MPBN

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine - For young people in Presque Isle - and their peers in a lot of Maine towns - local history might not always be visible. But over the past decade, an eighth-grade teacher in this northern Maine city has developed a tradition of bringing the past to life, in what's known in these parts as the Amazing Race.

Brian Bechard / MPBN

When Pedro Zamarro teaches his first-grade class, it’s all in Spanish. What’s unusual about it, though, is that Zamarro’s students aren’t from Spain, Mexico or South America. They attend Lyseth Elementary in Portland, which two years ago launched the state’s first public Spanish immersion class for first-graders.

Dave Boardman / MPBN

Tennis great Serena Williams, Olympic gold medal skier Mikaela Shiffren and Mets outfielder Carlos Delgado might play vastly different sports, but they share one common trait that some Maine student-athletes are working to emulate: they are writers.

Robbie Feinberg / MPBN

School enrollment is declining in nearly all of Maine’s school districts. But in one city — Lewiston — more students keep pouring in each year.

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