Politics and Policies

The Chicago Teachers Union announced this week that they’re set to strike, beginning September 10. The union is at an impasse with Chicago Public Schools over pay, length of the work day, and class size, among other issues. The CPS says that if there is a strike it will still keep schools open for half-days.

“School choice” was part of many of this week’s speeches at the Republican Party Convention, as Jeb Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Chris Christie, Michelle Rhee, and others all decried the education system, particularly teachers’ unions and student loan debt. The full text of Bush’s speech — he’s rumored to be Romney’s choice for Education Secretary – is here.

Public school students at Jay High School and Jones Middle School in San Antonio, Texas will be required as part of a pilot program to wear ID badges containing RFID (radio frequency identification) chips, enabling the schools to track their movements while on campus. Civil rights and privacy organizations are blasting the plan as dehumanizing if not unconstitional.

Several states have passed laws lifting the caps on the number of students that can be enrolled in virtual schools, reports Education Week.

Cheating Scandals

Harvard University is investigating 125 students — about half of one particular class and approximately 2% of undergraduates — for reportedly cheating on a take-home exam.

Updates and Upgrades

Learnist, the latest project (pivot?) from social learning startup Grockit, launched its iPhone and iPad apps this week (iTunes link).

Video lesson startup LearnZillion, a company I covered here, released the videos created by the “Dream Team” of teachers it assembled this summer — a project that earned the startup accolades from Bill Gates as something he’s looking forward to with back-to-school season.

Sifteo, a gaming-meets-block-building system, announced this week the latest version of its product. The new cube system expands the numbers of that can be in place at once — up to 12 from the original 6. There are new games and puzzles, as well as new partners for content. Sifteo Cubes — while cool lookin’ — remain pretty expensive: $129.95 for a starter kit and $29.95 for additional cubes.

Online tutoring startup InstaEDU rolled out some new features this week, including the ability to find and schedule tutors in advance, a way for parents to set up accounts for their children, and a separate SAT tutoring offering.

Investor Tom Vander Ark, writing for Education Week, covers the newly released Version 1.1 of Ed-Fi, a data “standard” sponsored by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.


Ed-tech startup news site EdSurge announced this week that it’s raised $400,000 in funding from the Washington Post Company (owner of the for-profit education company Kaplan) and NewSchools Venture Fund (investors in many of the education startups that EdSurge itself covers), as well as from Allen & Co. executivess Nancy Peretsman and Gillian Munson, O’Reilly Media co-founder Dale Dougherty, and Judy Estrin. 

Research and Data

Who’s skipping school, asks Emily Richmond writing in The Atlantic. Turns out just about everyone. According to research from Get Schooled, there is no typical truant. In other words, it’s not just poor kids or kids with jobs who are ditching classes, and most of these kids insist that neither schools nor their parents really notice.

Research published in the journal Child Development says that students who stay up late to study are more likely to do poorly on tests and/or do poorly in school the next day. Wired has more details about this research and drawbacks it points to to cramming.

According to a study by student loan provider Sallie Mae, spending on college by traditional-aged students and their families “dropped over the past two years, a 13 percent decrease between 2009–10 and 2011–12.” Inside Higher Ed has more details on the study and explanations for the dip in spending.

“Headline Fail of the Week” might go to the Hechinger Report for this story: “Study: Voucher students more likely to go to college.” The study, conducted by the Brookings Institution, tracked students “who received privately-funded vouchers in the late 1990s. African-American students in that group were 24 percent more likely than those in a control group to attend college and 58 percent more likely to attend private four-year colleges. Hispanic students who received vouchers were also more likely to enroll in college, but only by a small, statistically insignificant, amount.” Rutgers professor Bruce Baker penned a response noting that there are many other factors here besides vouchers that could have influenced these students’ college-going track.

Classes and Competitions

Newt Gingrich held a MOOC — dubbed Newt U — as part of the Republican Party’s National Convention. The course was run on a Kaplan platform and included 4 two-hour classes on various policy issues, reports Inside Higher Ed.

The winners of the MTT2K (Mystery Teacher Theater 2000) contest, sponsored by Justin Reich and Dan Meyer, were announced this week. The Grand Prize for Khan critiques went to Michael Pershan’s What If Khan Academy Was Made in Japan? The People’s Choice went to Dr. Tae’s The History of the Korean War brought to you by UniversiTae and presented by Dr. Tae.

Last week, I mentioned Chegg’s back-to-school contest — a chance to win a concert by Taylor Swift for your school. I failed to make a funny Kanye West-related joke, but it looks like I wasn’t the only person searching for a punchline here, as 4chan’s “lulz seekers” are trying to garner enough votes to send Swift to the Horace Mann School of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

There’s some hullaballo at Florida State University where a marketing class at the school is using students’ Klout score as part of their grade. Klout, which purports to mention online social media “influence,” is a pretty flawed measurement, but hey, so are letter grades.

Image credits: Jelle

Audrey Watters


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