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This Week in Standardized Testing

PISA has released the latest scores from its 2012 “creative problem-solving” assessments. US students didn’t suck, performing above average. NewSchool Venture Fund’s Benjamin Riley responds with a raised eyebrow about what the test actually measures. (It goes to show that no matter the score, no matter the subject, some folks get all worked up while others just shrug at the results. There's really no winning at this game.)

“’Unprecedented’ numbers opt out of state tests," writes Anya Kamenetz.

“Persistent computer glitches with state tests have prompted officials to add two weeks to this year’s testing period,” reported the Kansas City Star on Saturday. But by the end of the week, Kansas's “glitches” had morphed into “cyber attacks,” and the state suspended the tests saying that it was being DDOS’d.

There were glitches in administering computer-based exams in New Jersey.

Education Law and Politics

House Republicans unveiled their 2015 budget this week that includes cuts to Pell Grants, the end of the in-school interest rate subsidy for undergraduate federal loans, the elimination of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the end of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Interns in New York City are now legally protected against sexual harassment and discrimination based on race, religion and sexual orientation, thanks to a law passed by the city council.

Following the lead of Indiana, other states are moving to back out of the Common Core. This week the Oklahoma State Senate passed a bill that would repeal the Common Core there. (A similar bill has also passed the Oklahoma State House, but differences in the two pieces of legislation will need to be resolved before this becomes law.)

Tea Party backers, the billionaire Koch Brothers are bankrolling academic programs at universities, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, England's Chief Inspector of Schools, says that the country’s nursery schools aren’t tough enough and aren’t offering enough formal education.

This Week in Censorship

The school board of Idaho’s Meridian School District has voted to remove Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian from school shelves.

Today is 404 Day, an EFF action to highlight Internet censorship in public schools and libraries.

Ed-Tech Upgrades and Downgrades

We all know that cyberschool provider K12 Inc is pretty terrible (not everyone admits if, of course. But we all know it), with lousy education and business practices. So how you address a problem like that? You rebrand, of course. K12 Inc will now be Fuel Education.

New York State has pulled out of inBloom (which according to Politico, leaves the data infrastructure organization with no customers). While some are hailing this as a victory for student privacy, Funnymonkey’s Bill Fitzgerald notes it’s “only good news for the other players in the space” – players like Pearson.

“The University of Florida will pay Pearson Embanet an estimated $186 million over the life of its 11-year contract — a combination of direct payments and a share of tuition revenue — to help launch and manage the state’s first fully online, four-year degree program,” reports The Gainesville Sun. Phil Hill clarifies some of the numbers.

2U will end its Semester Online program, which offered a consortium of schools access to a shared pool of online undergraduate courses.

Nope, Harvard Library’s copy of Juan Gutiérrez’ Practicarum quaestionum circa leges regias Hispaniae is not bound in human skin, despite a story to that end that went viral this week.

MOOCs and Other April Fools' Jokes

Enterprise software company SAP is launching more MOOCs on its “openSAP” platform. From the press release: “Participants can learn about the latest technology and business trends directly from the market leader in business applications and enhance their understanding of how SAP solutions can help grow their business.”

The Sorbonne is launching MORCs – massive open robotic courses, using Parrot drones. “By melting robotics and teaching, the students will now be able to full advantage of all their educational opportunities whilst still living a student life.” April Fools! Because no one wants to automate education (well, surely not the Sorbonne.)

A faculty committee at MIT is “preparing to recommend a ‘face-time’ degree requirement, strong oversight of on-campus MITx experiments, and a ‘conservative initial approach’ to awarding credit for edX classes.”

Coursera has released two APIs (one for student profile information and one for enrollments) in an attempt to get third party developers to build apps on top of the MOOC platform.

Funding, Acquisitions, and IPOs

The Digital Public Library of America has received $594,000 in funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Language learning startup Fluentify has raised $410,000 in funding.

SoFi has raised $80 million in investment. The company, which offers peer-to-peer private student loans, has raised over $160 million in total.

The tutoring company Learn It Systems has raised $4.1 million from undisclosed investors.

GradeStack has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Times Internet Limited. The startup, which offers an online marketplace for courses, has previously raised $160,000.

Capture Education, which sells scheduling software to schools, has raised $1.2 million from North Coast Angel Fund LLC, Columbus’ Ohio TechAngel Funds, Fast Switch Ltd, and individual investors.

Medallion Learning, which offers a platform for corporate education, has raised $500,000.

Tarena International, which offers professional educational services in China, IPO’d this week.

Textbook publisher Cengage has emerged from bankruptcy.

The Wall Street Journal’s Lora Kolodny writes that “Education Investors, Startups Hopeful Following Solid IPO by 2U.” Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy isn’t so optimistic.

From the HR Department

Brendan Eich has stepped down as Mozilla CEO after outcry over his support for an anti-gay marriage ballot measure.

The University of Phoenix has picked a new president: University of Michigan’s CFO Timothy Slottow.

History professor Jeff McClurken is poised become the Special Assistant to the Provost for Teaching, Technology, and Innovation at the University of Mary Washington. I think that’ll make him Jim Groom’s boss, so good luck Jeff!!

Julien “@moodleman” Ridden is stepping back from the Moodle community and joining Instructure. (He will be renaming his Twitter account and the Moodleman blog will go dormant.)

EDUCAUSE president Diana Oblinger announced she’d retire in March 2015.

Elsewhere in Labor News

University of California grad students are on strike, protesting unfair labor practices. 20 picketers were arrested at UC Santa Cruz.

Michigan State University could risk losing $500,000 if it does not stop offering courses that allegedly promote unionization,” according to Michigan Radio.

Declara, “a company focused on personalized learning,” has been selected by Mexico’s largest teachers union to handle its professional development. Declara’s investors include Ayn Rand-isto Peter Thiel. Oh the irony. 

“Research” and Data

Summarizing the findings of several recent “big data MOOC research” efforts, HarvardX's Justin Reich writes that “students who do stuff also do more stuff, and they do stuff better.” Research!

Taking Notes by Hand Benefits Recall, Researchers Find.” That’s the headline, but the research isn’t actually published yet. So be sure to jot down a note so you can remember to look this study up later. 

Almost half the jobs in New York City’s tech sector are filled by folks without college degrees.

The Bezos Family Foundation (an organization run by the parents of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos) is funding a pilot program in Washington that would “gives parents tools to boost babies’ brains.”

The Department of Education released data this week on the default rates for Parent PLUS loans (that is, loans that parents take out to pay for their children’s college expenses). “Of all parent borrowers whose PLUS loans entered repayment in the 2010 fiscal year,” writes Inside Higher Ed, “the data show, 5.1 percent were in default three years later. That figure has risen steadily from the 1.8 percent default rate for the cohort of borrowers in the 2006 fiscal year.”

This Week in Awesome College Admissions (and Awful Op-Ed Responses)

Congratulations to 17 year old Akintunde Ahmad who was admitted to Yale, Columbia, Northwestern, the University of Southern California, UCLA, Howard, Chapman, Cal Poly and Cal State East Bay. “‘Oakland public schools all the way through,’ he says, jokingly pounding a fist to his breast. ‘No private tutors or private schools. This is strictly OUSD.’”

Congratulations to 17 year old Kwasi Enin who was admitted to all eight Ivy League schools – Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, the University of Pennsylvania and Brown.

Congratulations to 17 year old Avery Coffey who was admitted to all five of the Ivy League schools to which he applied – Harvard, Princeton, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and Brown.

Responding to the admissions, The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss asked “can we stop obsessing on the Ivy League.” Um. Funny how we decide to stop celebrating achievement when it’s young Black men who achieve.

Image credits: Andreas and The Noun Project

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