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Election Day Results

Tuesday was Election Day across the US. Among the results:

Bill De Blasio was elected mayor of New York City. He vows to reverse many of Mayor Bloomberg’s education policies.

Amendment 66, a tax hike measure in Colorado that would have raised some $1 billion for education, was rejected.

Voters in Katy, Texas said “no” to a $70 million bond package to build a new high school football stadium. (How un-American… or un-Texan, rather.)

More on how the election results will impact higher ed here and how they’ll affect K–12 here.

Other Education Politics

“The Jeffco school board voted unanimously Thursday night to scrap plans to test and implement the inBloom system for storing student information,” reports the Columbine Courier. It’s the latest in a long string of districts pulling out of the inBloom data initiative. So when Education Week has a headline that says “Startups See InBloom as Appealing Partner,” you really gotta wonder.

The Department of Education announced the “first of its kind” resolution of a civil rights investigation into a virtual charter school: an agreement with Virtual Community School of Ohio to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act for students with disabilities at the school."

The Army has changed its mind about shuttering ROTC programs at 13 universities, opting instead to put these programs on probation.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has named Paul Vallas as his running mate for 2014. Vallas was once the head of the Chicago Public Schools and was most recently named the superintendent in Bridgeport, Connecticut -- that is, until a court decided that he didn’t have the qualifications for the job. It’s not clear if Vallas has the residency qualifications to be Quinn's running mate either.

The Law

LAUSD has lost the latest round in its legal battle with The LA Times. The newspaper has sought access to teacher ratings via a public information request, but the district has withheld the information citing employee privacy. The district could still appeal this latest decision to the California Supreme Court.

A Pennsylvania School District is asking the Supreme Court to weigh in on whether it can ban ”I ♥ boobies” cancer awareness bracelets or if doing so violates students’ First Amendment rights.

A summer course at the University of New Hampshire that teaches 4th thru 8th graders literacy skills has received a cease-and-desist letter from Warner Bros. The class is called “Harry Potter as Storytelling,” but the film studio objects.

Higher One, a company that hawks debit cards to students on college campuses, has reached a “preliminary agreement to pay $15 million to settle claims that its fees and marketing practices were predatory.” More via Inside Higher Ed.

Product Launches and Partnerships

Google has launched a new initiative called Connected Classrooms, offering “virtual field trips” via Hangouts (well, live video events is probably a more accurate way to describe these.)

Google has also launched Helpouts, a video tutorial service. More details via AllThingsD. Among the early adopters: Coursera and Rosetta Stone.

And in other Google news, folks have been speculating about what's going on on barges floating off the coast of San Francisco and Portland, Maine. A floating data center? Party boats for Sergei? A launch pad for Skynet? Turns out, the barges are new “interactive learning centers” where the company will send folks to learn about new Google technologies. Still sounds completely creepy and exploitative to me. But I’m sure all you Google Glass wearers will gladly be shipped there first for your indoctrination.

Khan Academy and Getty Museum are partnering.

Pearson announced that it’s giving students free access to the Financial Times through its API… 30 days after publication, that is.

Baltimore-based ed-tech startup An Estuary has launched a Chrome extension called "edsavr" that makes it easier to collect and share resources through Edmodo, EduClipper, and its own tool Sanderling.

The Wikipedia Education Program, which has encouraged educators to have students contribute to Wikipedia as part of their coursework, is spinning out into its own non-profit, the Wiki Education Foundation.

MOOOOOOCs

107 institutions, 5 million of students, and thousands of hype-filled headlines later, Coursera is hiring a Director of Teaching and Learning.

Coursera has also hired former Netflix-ers John Ciancutti and Tom Willerer as its Chief Product Officer and VP of Product Management. The two were involved in developing Netflix’s movie recommendation system – so we can see where this MOOC train is headed: “Because you signed up for but never completed X course, we recommend you sign up for and never complete Y.”

The UK’s MOOC platform FutureLearn has announced new classes for the new year.

Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan visited the edX offices this week to announce the launch of Edraak, an Arabic language MOOC portal build on the edX platform.

The Chronicle of Higher Education says that Stanford is seeking to reclaim the MOOC brand. Because yup. At the end of the day, this whole MOOC BS seems to be about brands.

Online, Elsewhere

2U has added two new institutions to its Semester Online program: Trinity Collge in Dublin and the University of Melbourne.

Ye Olde Brick and Mortar

San Jose State told departments this week – just days before registration for spring term started – that they needed to trim tens of thousands of dollars from their budgets and cut class offerings. Then the school changed its mind, saying it was going to use infrastructure funds to make up the budget shortfall instead. Maybe someone should offer a MOOC on campus administration, or something.

Hardware

A $1-billion plan to put an iPad into the hands of every Los Angeles student and teacher could prove difficult to sustain financially after about three years, based on figures provided by the L.A. Unified School District.” So far the LAUSD/iPad thing has been a roaring success, eh?

And in other iPad news, theft of the devices – from schools and from students directly – is becoming increasingly common, reports USA Today.

Funding, IPOs and Acquisitions

Late Friday afternoon, Intel announced that it had acquired the digital textbook app Kno. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Kno has raised over $73 million funding, $20 million of which came from Intel.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has filed its plans for a $274 million IPO. Hop on that, investors. At $14 to $16 a share, it’s cheaper than a textbook.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt also made an acquisition this week, buying the education data company Choice Solutions.

Goldman Sachs has made a minority investment in the research management company ProQuest.

Discovery has acquired Espresso Education for an undisclosed sum. Here’s a link to the paywalled story in the Financial Times, which oh hey! If you’re a student you can access in 30 days time. (See above.) Thanks Pearson!

McGraw-Hill is getting into the ed-tech accelerator game. Well, I mean, who isn’t?! The textbook publisher is investing in EDSi, the University of Pennsylvania’s new startup accelerator program.

TabTale, an Israeli startup that makes interactive books and educational apps for kids, has raised $12 million in funding from Qualcomm Ventures and Magma Venture Partners.

Technode reports that Super, a mobile app that lets university students download course information, has received “tens of millions yuan in Series B funding from a consortium led by Sequoia Capital.”

Ohio State University committed $50 million to a new and untested venture capital fund despite concerns raised by top officials, records show.” The fund was pitched to the university by Mark Kvamme, a close friend of then OSU president Gordon Gee. But nothing to see here… Move along.

From the HR Department

The salaries for university head coaches are up 10% over last year and up 90% from 2006. 70 coaches make more than $1 million a year. Because priorities. Screw you, adjunct instructors.

Upstate Medical University President David Smith was on the verge of being named president of Penn State when news broke that he’s been padding his pay without state authorization.

RIP

RIP Cliff Nass, a Stanford professor of communications, who passed away unexpectedly last week. Nass was well-known for his work on human-computer interactions and on multitasking.

“Research” and Data

A story in the New Republic highlights more silliness emanating from the Common Core State Standards – this time, how the standards rate literature’s complexity. The CCSS has adopted Lexiles, a rating system developed by the MetaMetrics corporation, to ascertain how challenging reading materials are. Apparently Hunger Games is more complex than the Grapes of Wrath; Mr Popper’s Penguins is more complex than To Kill a Mockingbird; and Slaughterhouse Five has a fourth-grade reading level.

The 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results were released this week – here are the results as an infographic. Fourth and eighth grade students made small gains in reading and math. You may proceed with typical praise or condemnation of the results, depending on your politics, your state, etc.

“Can We Improve Retention Rates by Giving Students Chocolates?” asks McGraw-Hill’s VP of Research Alfred Essa. Essa is the latest to take a close look at claims made by Purdue University’s Course Signals about student retention. Conclusion: chocolate is awesome. Also: “the direct causality attributed to Course Signals is erroneous. In fact, the causation is the reverse of what is claimed. Students who take Course Signals courses are not more likely to graduate than non-Course Signals students (at least not directly and at the rates suggested), rather students who graduate are more likely to take Course Signals courses.”

The LMS market is “not dead yet,” and according to some data might triple in the next 5 years to $7.8 million. Ugh.

Inc Magazine has listed its annual list of the 5000 fastest growing companies in the US. 44 are education companies – less than 1%. Wheee.

Investment research company CB Insights has made a list of the “best and worst industries for seeded tech startups by follow-on investment rates.” Education is near the bottom.

According to a recent report from McKinsey, open data in education could be worth up to $1.2 trillion. “The largest potential benefit comes from using open data to improve instruction by identifying the most effective strategies and tools for teaching specific skills and knowledge.” Another great example of how the adjective “open” now simply means “open for business.” Another great example too of how education markets are over-hyped (see the previous two news items).

According to a calculation made at the 10th annual Open Education conference this week, openly-licensed textbooks have saved students over $100,000,000.

A report from the non-profit Child Care Aware of America contends that “for about two-thirds of the country, average child care costs are higher than annual tuition and fees at a four-year public college in the state.”

A look at the way in which schools use URLs for their LMSes finds that “almost a full 30% of institutions link to the URL provided by their LMS vendor from their official .edu sites (eg: school.desire2learn.com). An additional 40% of institutions use the name of their LMS product directly in their LMS URL (eg: moodle.school.edu).” Not such a smart idea if you plan to ever change vendors.

A report from Public Agenda contends that few adults use websites like the White House’s College Scorecard to make their decisions about whether and where to attend school. More details via Inside Higher Ed.

Competitions/Contests

According to a long and confusing blog post, the Bammy Awards – a red-carpeted gala event copying the entertainment industry award shows in order to recognize teachers – will be discontinued “as we know it.” Good riddance.

The finalists of the annual Dance Your PhD contest have been announced. You can vote for your favorite here.

One of my favorite academic quitters, Rebecca Schuman (now an adjunct at the University of Missouri, St. Louis) has been running a contest that offers $100 to the first two people who include a photo of their butt as part of their portfolio – as “evidence of teaching excellence” to search committees. One #buttscan winner has already been chosen.

Help the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is seeking donations to help it rebuild after a fire damaged its scanning center. Thankfully, no one was hurt in the fire and no data was lost. But the organization lost about $600,000 in scanning equipment.

Photo credits: Alberto Garcia and The Noun Project

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Audrey Watters


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