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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. 

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Days before planned walkouts at thousands of schools across the country, students in the Bangor area say they want lawmakers to take action to prevent school shootings.

BRIAN BECHARD / Maine Public

Maine's Department of Education has proposed new rules that would make it easier for some people to become teachers. Instead of having to take a teacher prep program through a college, they could qualify by having enough "related" work experience. Opponents, including some professors in Maine's teacher preparation programs, say the new proposed rules could bring under-prepared teachers into the classroom and eventually cost districts more money.

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.

After losing a lengthy lawsuit, the LePage administration is finally releasing millions of dollars in job training funds to Maine's regional workforce boards. But now proposed requirements on how to spend the money have some workforce board officials unsure if they can build the state's job training system back up to what it once was.

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