Tuesday January 11, 2011 | 06:57 PM

The place of performance- or standards-based education in a LePage administration is uncertain, but the largest New England-focused education philanthropy, which touts the educational approach, announced $600,000 worth of awards today aimed at encouraging "student-centered learning."

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation today announced three awards for Maine school districts to bankroll planning for systems that encourage student-centered learning, which is supposed to cater to the individual learning styles of each student and allow for learning both inside and outside the classroom. (RSUs 2 and 18 of Hallowell and Oakland, respectively — two of the six districts piloting the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition, or RISC, model — were among the applicants for this grant, and RSU 2 last week approved a vision statement focused on student-centered learning.)

In Portland, the award will involve Jobs for Maine's Graduates — a dropout prevention program that figured heavily in Maine's Race to the Top application and the gubernatorial campaign — in a collaboration with Portland's three public high schools and the non-profit LearningWorks. As a side note, JMG CEO Craig Larrabee was a member of the LePage team that screened applicants for administration jobs.

In North Berwick-based SAD 60, the award will fund planning for a system that's supposed to strengthen partnerships between the school district and area businesses and community organizations. That plan is aimed at real-life experiences and learning that takes place outside the classroom.

And in Sanford, the grant money will fund the school system's transition to a performance- or standards-based system using management software known as E-ducate, which is a key facet of the RISC model. The software allows teachers to track their students' progress toward meeting the specific standards and skills outlined in a standards-based system.

In Sanford, the private Nellie Mae money will fund some professional development that might otherwise have been available from the state Department of Education through its collaboration with RISC.

Each initiative is receiving $200,000. Those three awards are among seven that Nellie Mae gave out across New England today.

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