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Politics

It’s March 1. Cue the sequestration, across the board budget cuts because our “leaders” in Washington DC can’t do their jobs. The White House has released a state-by-state breakdown of how this will impact people and programs, which as education reporter Emily Richmond points out, will overwhelmingly impact the poorest schools and the most vulnerable students — an estimated $725 million cut to Title I programs and $600 million in special education funding.

Meanwhile, instead of actually addressing this budget impasse, the House of Representatives opted to pass a resolution creating a nation-wide content encouraging students to build mobile apps. No rules for the contest established yet. The amount of any prizes also remains undecided. But hey, STEM legislation! That’s a win for the future of America, right? (Ugh.)

The Oklahoma legislature passed the HB 1674, the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act this week (or as Esquire called it, the “Dare To Be Ignorant Protection Act of 2013,” which prevents schools from penalizing students for their stances on “controversial” science topics like global warming and evolution.

The governor of São Paulo vetoed legislation that would have established a policy of OER in Brazil’s wealthiest state.

Massachusetts state representative Carlo Basile has sponsored a bill that would ban the mining for commercial purposes of any K–12 student data stored in or processed by cloud computing services. The wording in the law, as well as in this Wired write-up about it, certainly sounds like it’s aimed at Google but could have much more sweeping consequences depending on how “mining” and “commercial purposes” are defined.

Money continues to pour in to the Los Angeles Unified school board race: $1 million from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and $250,000 from former DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. “It’s for the sake of the children,” I’m sure.

Lawsuits

Apple has settled a lawsuit over “bait apps,” games that are free but then offer in-app purchases. Apple was sued by parents who found that their child racked up hundreds of dollars in charges from these apps. (See the Daily Show’s investigation into this practice.) As part of the settlement, Apple will offer $5 credits to those who claim that a minor bought an in-app item.

Accreditation… Or Not

The Higher Learning Commission, the regional agency that accredits the University of Phoenix, has recommended that the institution be put on probation. According to The Wall Street Journal, “probation was recommended after a review team concluded the University of Phoenix has ‘insufficient autonomy’ from Apollo, its parent company and sole shareholder, that complicates the board’s ability to manage the institution and maintain its integrity.”

Learn to Code

You should learn to program, say a bunch of CEOs, rockstars and ball players in a destined-to-be-viral video, many of whom have probably not committed a line of code in a very long time. But hey! Fame! Rockstar status! A job at a place that has video games and catering! Wheeee! More details via the newly launched organization Code.org.

Launches and Other Reasons to Issue a Press Release

The College Board has announced that it plans to redesign the SAT. No big surprise here as the new head of the College Board is David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core State Standards.

The data infrastructure inBloom (that I recently covered here) announced this week that it’s formed a strategic partnership with LearnSprout, one of my picks for the best education startups of 2012.

ShowMe, maker of an interactive whiteboard iPad app, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new app it’s building called Markup, which will enable teachers to grade (essay) assignments (with a stylus) on an iPad.

Khan Academy has issued a press release heralding the “first statewide pilot” of its program. The state in question, Idaho, where the “‘Rebooting Idaho Schools Using Khan Academy” grantees will collectively receive nearly $1.5 million for training, technology, technical assistance and assessment from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.”

Apple issued a press release this week, touting that its iTunes U has now had over 1 billion downloads. The company also told All Things D that it’s sold 4.5 million iPads to U.S. schools and told Techcrunch that it’s sold 8 million iPads to schools worldwide.

It’s a much smaller number, but I confess, it’s one that makes me happier: Raspberry Pi says that it’s sold 1 million units of its credit-card sized computer since its launch a year ago. Happy birthday, Raspberry Pi, and hooray for those who’re using this tool to help kids learn to hack and build with technology, not just consume it.

The New Orleans-based education accelerator program 4.0 Schools is now taking applications for its next cohort. Deadline is March 13.

Funding and Fiscal Results

TED awarded its $1 million prize to Dr. Sugata Mitra for his “School in the Cloud” idea. See my rant on Twitter for my concerns — questions that I’m just too tired to re-write here. (It’s been an exhausting week.)

The math MMO startup Sokikom announced that it has raised $2 million in funding, half of that from a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (a research branch within the U.S. Department of Education) and the other half from former Intel CEO Craig Barrett and Zynga co-founder Steve Schoettler.

The learn-to-code startup Thinkful has raised $1 million in funding from Peter Thiel’s FF Angel, RRE Ventures, Quotidian Ventures and others. The company’s founders, Darrell Silver and Dan Friedman, were recipients of the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship. More on the startup at GigaOm.

Kickboard, a startup that offers schools and teachers a dashboard for academic and behavioral data, has raised $2 million in investment.

Textbook and testing giant Pearson released its 2012 financials this week. Among the results, its North American Education revenues were up 2% “in a year when US School and Higher Education publishing revenues declined by 10% for the industry as a whole.” And “International Education revenues up 13% with emerging market revenues up 25%.”

Interactive whiteboard maker Promethean World released its annual financials too. Revenues fell 29.4%, resulting in a pre-tax loss of £165.4 million (versus the company’s £16 million profit in 2011).

Barnes & Noble also posted fiscal results this week — losses in its third quarter (particularly bad news since that covered the holiday season). The losses were particularly felt in the company’s Nook division, falling 25.9% to $316 million. That division saw investment last year by Pearson and Microsoft, so we’ll see what happens as the company crumbles.

Research and Data

The Pew Internet and American Life Project released the results of its survey of National Writing Project and Advanced Placement teachers: “How Teachers Are Using Technology at Home and in Their Classrooms.” Among the findings (and I recommend reading the whole report and not just the few stats that are pulled out in the overview): 54% of respondents said that all or almost all students had sufficient access to digital tools at school. Just 18% said that students had sufficient access at home. The survey population isn’t typical of all teachers, I don’t think, and it’s certainly more tech savvy than the “average” adult Internet user — creating more content, owning more gadgets, and so on.

Mathematica Policy Research released the results of its latest study commissioned by KIPP, the “Knowledge is Power Program” chain of charter schools. The study examines 5 years worth data from 43 KIPP schools and concludes that “the average impact of KIPP on student achievement is positive, statistically significant, and educationally substantial.” Recommended reading: Bruce Baker’s analysis of the study and its “non-reformy lessons.”

New data from Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce on community college degrees and career and technical education. CNN goes with the headline and factoid that nearly 30% of Americans with associate’s degrees now make more than those with Bachelor’s. Of course, the area that degree is in matters. Yes, a two year degree in nursing might be a more lucrative option than a four year degree in art history. Duh.

OU grad student Katy Jordan is tracking the completion rates across the various MOOC courses and platforms (those that make the data publicly available, that is). Really interesting stuff here, and while much of the emphasis continues to be on that very low rate of completion (on average, it’s less than 10%), I think there are other insights to be gleaned here as well: does robot-grading versus peer-grading make a difference? Does the subject matter or level make a difference? Too bad the "open" in these MOOCs doesn't include being more transparent about this and other data, and kudos for Jordan for doing the research here.

Awards

Congratulations to Colin Woodward, winner of the 2012 George Polk Award for Education Reporting for his story “The profit motive behind virtual schools in Maine.”

Photo credits: s2art

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Audrey Watters


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