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Parents, teachers and students packed the seats of a legislative hearing Monday to voice their opinions about two bills that would drastically change — or even repeal — Maine’s move toward proficiency-based diplomas.

Six years ago, legislators passed a law saying that for students to receive a diploma in Maine, they must reach proficiency in up to eight content areas ranging from English and math to health and art. This year’s freshmen are expected to be the first to graduate with the diplomas.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

High school freshmen in Maine will graduate four years from now with a new kind of diploma, for which they'll have to show proficiency in a variety of subjects, from math and English to science. Schools have taken different approaches to implementing the new law. Some are using a model of "customized" or student-paced learning. And some schools are showing more success than others.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press

Wind, ice and nor’easter after nor’easter have walloped Maine this winter. The brutal weather is also forcing schools to deal with unprecedented cancellations. Some have seen 10 or more snow days already, with more snow in sight. Now, school officials are trying to figure out how to make up all those days without extending too far into the summer.

What a Teacher Knows Keeps Children Learning

Mar 14, 2018

In my desk drawer there are snacks. There are over 250 books on my shelves, and wooden letters on the windowsill that are supposed to say “READ” and “TEACH” but often say “THE CAT,” “KITTEN,” or if someone is feeling really snarky, “CHEAT.”

I coined ‘High Five Friday’ in November after, at the bell one Friday morning, a student came to my desk and asked for “one good one” to take with her before she left. Sometimes their hands and arms are so tangled around books and binders I might get an elbow, a foot, or yes, at times a forehead -- but everyone gets a high five from me -- a hand to guide them through the weekend. 

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

For more than a century, Maine has offered its own version of “school choice” called “town tuitioning”. If a student lives in a district without a public school at a certain grade level, the town and district will pay a specific rate to send that student to the public or private school of their choice.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Hundreds of students and parents flooded the sidewalks near Scarborough High School early Monday morning, protesting the resignation of the school’s principal, David Creech.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Maine was the first state in the country to embrace a new “proficiency-based” high school diploma. Maine's current ninth-graders are set to graduate under these new requirements, which apply to subjects from math to English and social studies. However, the Maine Department of Education is considering a change in that law that would potentially make it less onerous to graduate.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Over the next few months, towns across Maine will vote on local school budgets, a process that can turn divisive as costs rise and older residents on fixed incomes feel the pinch. But in the small town of Medway, near Millinocket, there’s an effort underway to bring some of those elders into the classroom, and help them feel like they're a part of the school community.

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.

Teacher Shortage

Jan 15, 2018
https://www.flickr.com/photos/foilman/

Maine schools are struggling with a shortage of teachers, particularly for areas such as Special Ed and world languages. How do we compare with other states? Why aren’t there enough qualified teachers to meet the demand, and what's being done about it? Some districts have found creative solutions to fill the need.

Guests: Catharine Biddle, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership, University of Maine College of Education and Human Development

Lois Kilby-Chesley, President, Maine Education Association

Barbara Slote, Grade 7 Language Arts Teacher, Westbrook Middle School 

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.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Like a lot of states, Maine has a shortage of teachers. According to the U.S. Department of Education, schools are struggling to find people to fill positions ranging from librarians to Spanish teachers.

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.

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