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Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

This year's class of high school freshmen will be the first to graduate with a new kind of diploma three years from now in Maine. To get it, they will have to show proficiency in a number of subjects. We've been following the transition to this new system at a small rural high school near Lewiston in a series we're calling, "Lessons from Oak Hill."

One of the most controversial changes has been replacing the traditional A-through-F grading system, and pushback from critics has already led some districts to respond.

Deering High School

On Tuesday morning, 19-year-old Allan Monga of Westbrook stepped onstage in the first round of the Poetry Out Loud National Finals in Washington, D.C. He took a breath, exhaled, and recited W.E.B. Dubois’ 1907 poem, “The Song of the Smoke.”

If it wasn’t for a federal judge’s ruling, that performance likely wouldn’t have happened, because while Monga won Maine’s Poetry Out Loud competition last month, he wasn’t considered eligible for the national finals because of his immigration status.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

The legislature may have adjourned Thursday morning, but some educators and parents still have hope that the House and Senate will eventually act on a bill removing a state mandate for schools to implement "proficiency-based diplomas." It is unclear what effects such a change would have on local schools.

Deering High School

A federal judge says that a Portland student seeking asylum from Zambia can participate in a national poetry competition after he was initially barred by organizers due to his immigration status.

Maine Arts Commission

A student from from Portland's Deering High School took his case against the National Endowment for the Arts to a federal judge in Portland Wednesday.

After months of debate, the legislature's education committee approved a bill Friday evening that would remove a mandate requiring Maine schools to implement "proficiency-based" diplomas. 

The law mandating the diplomas was originally passed in 2012. It says that current Maine freshmen need to reach proficiency in a number of subject areas, such as math, science and English, in order to graduate.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

This story is part of Maine Public's Rural Maine Reporting Project, a year-long series of news reports that highlight the benefits, challenges and opportunities of life in today’s rural and western Maine.

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/file

Maine's transition to "proficiency-based" high school diplomas is under increasing scrutiny from parents, educators - and now, lawmakers.  The state Department of Education is proposing a bill that it says would repeal pieces of the law and grant more flexibility to local districts. 

Maine's Department of Education wants to end its current system for educating young children with disabilities, and shift much of the responsibility on to local school districts. But at a legislative hearing on the new proposal on Monday, advocates, parents and legislators were asking a lot of questions about how the new system would impact children across the state.

Residents of the Midcoast town of Alna have voted in favor of eliminating the town's elementary "private school choice" program.

Alna is one of only a few towns in Maine that helps to fund students' educations at any public or private school, from kindergarten through 12th grade. It's a policy that local parents say has benefitted students.

But recently, Alna officials have expressed worries about increased taxes due to families potentially moving to their town to take advantage of the policy.

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.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Thousands of students across the country walked out of their schools Wednesday in remembrance of the 17 victims of last month's school shooting in Parkland, Fla. and to protest for stricter gun laws. A major snowstorm delayed many school walkouts in Maine until Thursday. Some students were punished for their protests, but said they still felt empowered to take action.

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. 

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