Education Law and Politics

Looks like the Department of Education screwed up FAFSA calculations again for a hundred thousand or so students. Well, at least there aren’t any high stakes efforts associated with the Department of Education being able to count and calculate and rate and rank things, right?

Google has settled with the FTC and will refund some $19 million to accounts in which kids made in-app purchases without parental consent.

California Governor Jerry Brown has appealed the recent court ruling (Vergara v California) that would have ended teacher tenure as it currently works in the state.

The school board in Durham, North Carolina has severed ties with Teach for America, citing the recruits’ “lack of experience.”


Stanford CS PhD candidate Jonathan Mayer posted on Thursday about a series of security flaws he’d discovered in Coursera while preparing for a class on government surveillance, including:

1. Any teacher can dump the entire user database, including over nine million names and email addresses.
2. If you are logged into your Coursera account, any website that you visit can list your course enrollments.
3. Coursera’s privacy-protecting user IDs don’t do much privacy protecting.

Coursera has responded (pretty defensively) saying they’ve addressed the issues. “Given our partnership philosophy, we have focused less effort on deflecting malicious attacks that might be made by one of our trusted partners. This has left open some gaps.” I guess $85 million in venture funding buys something other than security and privacy for learners. Go figure.

(For what it's worth, I bet these sorts of security vulnerabilities are rampant across ed-tech. Rampant.)

Meanwhile, Coursera is now accessible in Sudan and Cuba, thanks to licensing from the US Department of Treasury. Because “open” has an asterisk: some restrictions may apply.

Edcast, “Silicon Valley’s latest contribution to the ed-tech space,” built on top of the edX open source platform. Kanye shrug.

The AI class that started the whole MOOC thing (cough) is back. That is, Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig are once again offering their AI class – with a verified certificate – via Udacity.

Meanwhile on Campus

You can carry a concealed weapon onto school campuses in Idaho. Bonus points if, with the gun in your pocket, you shoot yourself during class.

Some 4000 Starbucks employees have applied to Arizona State University. Bonus points if, as a university president, you can make shitty comments about baristas and English majors.

About 25% of the student population at Kentucky State University, a HBCU, are being kicked out for failing to pay their fees.

54% of DC public schools had gunfire within 1000 feet during the 2011–2012 school year.

Purdue University will create a competency-based bachelor’s degree.

Colleges have licensed their logos to Jell-O for shot molds and to Franklin for peer pong balls. Because higher education.

Go, School Sports Team!

Researchers at Division 1 school Vanderbilt University find that multimillion dollar salaries for college football coaches are totally worth it.

Durrell Chamorro, who played football at Colorado State University, has filed a class action lawsuit “seeking damages for football players who were affected by the NCAA’s longstanding rule banning multiyear scholarships.”

A University of Texas student was detained for flying a drone over football game.

Almost 2 years after a student accused Florida State University’s star quarterback Jameis Winston of sexually assaulting her, the university says it’s launched an inquiry.

NFL Fantasy Football in K–12. What could go wrong.

From the HR Department

Piss off Pearson; find your tenure jeopardized: the case of UT professor Walter Stroup.

Uncivil on Twitter; find not just your job but your freedom jeopardized: the case of MIT professor Noel Jackson.

The fallout from the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign’s decision to withdraw its job offer to Steven Salaita continues. Updates from Corey Robin: 1, 2, 3. Updates from the Academe blog. Updates from IHE. The latest: a university trustee member weighs in.

“A 23-year-old teacher at a Cambridge, Maryland, middle school has been placed on leave and—in the words of a local news report—’taken in for an emergency medical evaluation’ for publishing, under a pseudonym, a novel about a school shooting.” Via The Atlantic.

The most gender-balanced computing program in the USA: Computational Media at Georgia Tech

New social media rules set by the Pompton Lakes (New Jersey) Board of Education dictate, among other things, “there can be no communication between students and staff from the staff’s personal social media accounts.”

Upgrades and Downgrades

Politico writes about the revamped GED, now offered as a computer-based-test by a for-profit venture between Pearson and the American Council on Education. “The pass rate on the old GED hovered around 72 percent and dipped only slightly after the last major revision to the exam in 2002. The new exam, aligned to the Common Core, is meant to be much harder - and indeed, just 53 percent of test-takers have passed.” And “through the end of July, just 105,000 students had taken the new GED. In a typical year, 750,000 students take the test.”

Because education companies make sure they can profit from almost every aspect of bullshit education policy: “Tutoring Companies Stand to Cash In on States That Lose Waivers.”

Amazon has launched KDP Kids and the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator, initiatives aimed at supporting children-focused self-published authors.

College in a Box: Textbook giants are now teaching classes.”

Round 2: College bookstores versus online textbook-sellers.

Online learning startup Versal has launched a widget platform, hoping to get developers to “build interactive and customizable ‘learning gadgets.’”

Funding and Acquisitions

Via Edsurge: “‘Everyone says dropouts are the biggest problem in higher-ed. But academics isn’t the only thing in higher education,’ says Karan Goel, founder and CEO of GetSet.” GetSet has just raised $2.5 million to help support students throughout all that “stuff.”

College rating site Unigo has acquired college marketing site Cinergy Education.

Wonder how venture capitalists view education technology? Well, here are John Doerr’s thoughts on “smart phones for smart kids.” (Doerr is co-founder of NewSchools Venture Fund and partner at Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byer. His wife, Ann Doerr, cut one of the first major checks to Khan Academy.)


Which VC-Backed Apps are Winning?” where “winning” is “which apps are being assigned for back-to-school.” #winning

Analysis: Lecture Capture Market To Grow 24.1 Percent By 2019.” You know it’s totally for reals because of the point 1.

The Shanker Institute’s Matthew Di Carlo examines what research says about “paying teachers for advanced degrees.”

Example #1238901: How journalists and headlines misconstrue education research.

US schools are ranked 19th out of 30 countries in terms of “efficiency.”

The First Successful Demonstration Of Brain-To-Brain Communication In Humans.” (Because speech and writing are so inefficient.)

The market for learning management systems is “red hot,” says Forbes contributor Josh Bersin. Oh. Great.

“Education is just starting to figure out what measurement actually means,” says the co-founder of survey startup Panorama in this NYT tech blog profile of the company. Oh. My. God.

Image credits: Carlos and The Noun Project

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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