Hack Education Weekly News: Newark Releases Emails about Zuckerberg's $100 Million Donation

Facebook Developer Garage Paris

Law and Politics

Perhaps in the hopes of burying the news over the holiday break, Newark released emails late on Christmas Eve pertaining to the $100 million donation that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had given to it back in 2010. The ACLU had sued the city on behalf of local parents, wanting to see what sorts of deals had been struck between the city, Mayor Cory Booker, the city’s schools, and the wealthy ed-reform philanthropists. The Jersey Jazzman has examined the emails, noting not only the demands that Bill Gates made (the installation of “panoramic cameras” to monitor teachers) but the involvement of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (who’s also an investor in the Silicon Valley charter Rocketship Education).

Malala Yousufzai, the young Pakistani girl and education activist who was shot by the Taliban late last year, was released this week from a hospital in the UK.

A $100 million lawsuit was filed against Sandy Hook Elementary School by the parents of a child who survived the mass killing at the school. The suit claimed that the school did not do enough to protect students’ safety and that the child was traumatized by heaing gunshots, screaming, and cursing over the school’s loudspeaker. The suit was later withdrawn, although the lawyer says he might refile.

California Assemblyman Dan Logue has proposed legislation to create a pilot program that would investigate ways for the state to offer a college degree that costs no more than $10,000. (There are similar efforts in Florida and Texas.) It’s not clear if Logue’s bill will move forward.

The Washington Post reports that the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that a Chicago-based charter school is not a public entity, but a private one. The teachers at the Chicago Math and Science Academy had tried to unionize under the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, but the school had insisted that the law (and thus the process for organizing) did not apply. The NLRB agrees, which means that the employees are subject to private labor relations laws. So we must ask (again): are charter schools public or private?

Upgrades

Instructure has launched its first native Canvas app for Android. The app, which is free, allows students and faculty to access their To-Do lists, Assignments, Calendar, Grades, and the Canvas messaging service. (In other Instructure-related news, e-literate's Phil Hill examines the recent security audit the learning management system commissioned.)

Funding

The study tool StudyBlue announced that it has raised $9 million in funding from Great Oaks Venture Capital and Wisconsin Alumni Resource Foundations (WARF).

Research and Data

It’s a statistic that a lot of education reform-types like to cite: that, according to the book Academically Adrift, about 45% of college students show no improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning, or written communication during their first two years in college. But a recent study from researchers at the Educational Testing Service, challenges the the notion that we put too much weigh on the tests on which this statistic (and the larger assertion about universities’ failings) is based, in part because students have no motivation to perform well on them. For more information, see the story in Inside Higher Ed.

The Library of Congress issued an update on the status of its Twitter archive. Twitter announced that it was donating its archive to the library back in April of 2010. “The Library’s first objectives were to acquire and preserve the 2006–10 archive; to establish a secure, sustainable process for receiving and preserving a daily, ongoing stream of tweets through the present day; and to create a structure for organizing the entire archive by date.” Those first objectives will be completed this month, but scholars’ access to the archive still seems to be a long ways off.

According to research from the University of Michigan’s Marc Perry, the price of college textbooks has increased 812% since 1978 — something that makes the housing bubble “seem rather inconsequential.” He adds that “the nine-fold increase in textbook prices also dwarfs the increase in the cost of medical services over the last three decades. Compared to the 250% increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) over the last 34 years, college textbooks have risen more than three times the amount of the average increase for all goods and services.”

A preview of the 2013 Horizon Report for Higher Education is now available online. On the near horizon of ed-tech adoption: the flipped classroom, MOOCs, mobile apps, and tablet computing. The report’s official release will come in February.

Photo credits: Ludovic Toinel



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