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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.

"I'll be famous one day, but for now I'm stuck in middle school with a bunch of morons." That's harsh language from the downtrodden sixth-grade narrator of Diary of A Wimpy Kid, a blockbuster series of graphic novels.

But it speaks to a broader truth.

Rural Economic Development

Oct 19, 2017

Broadcasting from Houlton High School:

What factors lead to the health or decline of rural towns in Maine? We learn about efforts to boost rural economies through education, greater access to services—from health care to broadband—and through smart use of the natural resources and assets that these communities already have.

Guests: Kristen Wells, former executive director, Aroostook Aspirations Initiative

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.

School Consolidation

Oct 2, 2017

Please note that Maine Calling airs one hour later than usual today, from 2-3 pm, due to national news coverage of the Las Vegas shootings.

Ten years ago, school consolidation combined many school districts across Maine. Since then, some districts have pulled out, while a few cite benefits: saving on costs and resources. Now the state is setting forth a new consolidation approach. What's in store for Maine's K-12 public schools?

Guests: Steven Bailey, Executive Director, Maine School Management Association

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.

Substitute Teaching

Sep 13, 2017

Award-winning author Nicholson Baker spent parts of a semester as a substitute teacher in Maine. He chronicles his experiences in his bestselling book, which is just out in paperback.  This is from the NY Times review of Substitute: “Baker’s book may be the most revealing depiction of the contemporary American classroom that we have to date.”

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.