Education Law and Politics

The US Department of Education released the latest version of its “gainful employment” rules this week, pleasing nobody. No longer will career training programs be held accountable for their student loan default rates. They’ll just be judged on graduates’ debt-to-earnings ratios. About 1400 programs, mostly at for-profit schools, will be affected, meaning that if they don't meet these new guidelines, their students will not be eligible for federal financial aid. (More on this over on Educating Modern Learners. Free subscription required.)

It looks as though Ramon Cortines, the interim superintendent of LAUSD, is going to make some changes to the district’s infamous iPad initiative. He doesn’t seem to like the idea of spending construction bond money on the project, for starters. Meanwhile, it looks like students might actually be able to take their iPads home. Soon.

Because of problems LAUSD has experienced with its new student information system, Cortines has ordered a review of all senior transcripts. “To aid with transcript reviews, the district will temporarily hire 25 to 50 retired counselors and administrators at an estimated cost of $15,000 to $25,000 a day,” reports The LA Times.

The LAUSD school board will vote next month on whether or not to make ethnic studies a required course for high school graduation.

A panel appointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says the state should push for more K–12 online education. On the three-person panel, Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt, so I’m shocked – shocked! – that “moar technology!” is the recommendation.

“A coalition of 22 organizations is opposing the reclassification of about 1,500 schools and libraries that have been considered ‘rural’ into a category called ‘urban clusters’ under changes to the Federal Communication Commission’s E-rate program—changes that will go into effect in the 2015–16 school year,” reports EdWeek. These reclassified institutions stand to lose a significant amount of funding.

The state of Wisconsin is suing the for-profit chain Corinthian Colleges, charging it has engaged in “unfair, false, misleading, and deceptive trade practices.”

How Kentucky became a rare Common Core success story

Apple donated some iPads in support of President Obama’s ConnectED initiative, so hey, that was good for PR in EdWeek, Techcrunch, Edsurge, etc.

There’s been “dramatic testimony” in the trial over “whether the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges broke the law when evaluating City College in 2012 and 2013 before voting to revoke its accreditation.” (Here, “dramatic testimony” means that the president of the commission admits that she edited out favorable language about the CCSF.)

Stanford University and Dartmouth College issued an apology to Montana voters after a mailer they sent out about candidates on the state’s ballot.

Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai says she will donate $50,000 from her World Children’s Prize to help rebuild schools in Gaza.

The United Federation of Teachers filed a brief this week, asking the court to throw out a lawsuit over teacher tenure in New York State.

The trial of Dante Martin began this week. Martin is accused of manslaughter and has been described as the ringleader in the “hazing” death of a fellow Florida A&M University marching band member.

Lawyers in British Columbia have voted to have the provincial law society withdraw accreditation from a proposed law school at Trinity Western University. The vote came in part because of the evangelical university’s plans to have “staff, faculty and students sign a Community Covenant that among other tenets restricts sex to traditional marriage between a man and woman.”

This Is What Happens When You Criticize Teach for America. (They mention you in internal memos. Shudder.)


Coursera might soon add video chats, reports Wired. “It’s a way to get some money out of the lifelong-learner population, as opposed to the career builder,” says CEO Richard Levin, who previously failed spectacularly on that front when he was the chairman of AllLearn, but that's history. MOOCs are the future. Video chats are the future.

Or maybe MOOCs were overhyped. The New York Times is on it (with several articles about MOOCs this week, which in no way contributes to the ongoing hype. Not at all.)

A student report from a Coursera class on human trafficking:

Abusive comments flourished in this unmoderated learning environment. In one case, a student who was a sex trafficking victim suggested destigmatizing victims: “One attitude that I run into often is that trafficking survivors, sex workers, and even abuse and rape victims are somehow essentially damaged,” she wrote. “It really really bothers me, because as a trafficking survivor I believe one way people can help is to acknowledge that we are whole human beings.”

“To be honest in real life I would [avoid] you,” another student responded. “In my version of life bad actions affect the person.” Although this comment was down-voted, the instructor never responded to it and students continued to make similarly stigmatizing and abusive comments throughout the class.

(Read the whole post.)

Coursera has hired a chief marketing officer, Kurt Apen, formerly with Disney.

The upcoming E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC has a “teacher bot” that is “is programmed to automatically respond to tweets sent to the course hashtag, and designed to offer help and advice, or engage in conversation.”

A(nother) Wired article on the for-profit wannabe-elite university startup Minerva. “The entire first year at Minerva is dedicated to teaching three things and three things only: critical thinking, creative thinking, and effective communication. ‘It’s basically like brain hacking,’” says founder Ben Nelson.

“Are Online Courses Democratizing Education or Killing Colleges?” asks The Wall Street Journal. Betteridge’s Law of Headlines tells us the answer to this question is “no.”

Meanwhile on Campus

UC Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks is shrugging off a vote from the student group that picks the unversity’s graduation speakers. The group voted to rescind the invitation to Bill Maher to address graduates in December, but Dirks says that the invitation will stand.

17% of female MIT undergraduates report having been sexually assaulted, according to a survey on sexual assault and harassment conducted by the school.

Copenhagen University and the University of Southern Denmark say they will not admit foreign students.

Benedictine University of Springfield will close its undergraduate program next year.

Western Governors University launched a website about competency-based education. (I love it when launching a website makes the news.) Competency-based education is the “Next Big Thing,” says this Inside Higher Ed headline, and I can confirm CBE will make it onto my annual “Top 10 Ed-Tech Trends” list this year. So it’s official.

Another victim from last week’s school shooting in Washington died this week.

Seniors at Broken Bow High School in Nebraska can pose with their guns in their senior portraits. Because freedom.

Pot is legal in Colorado, and The New York Times looks at what that means for UC Boulder. (tl;dr: Students are getting high. Just like they were before.)

The father of a student at La Plata High School in Maryland was banned from campus, after the former Marine objected to a lesson his daughter was being taught on Islam. “They are making Islam sound like its followers are peaceful,” his wife told Yahoo Parenting, clarifying that when he threatened to create a shitstorm, he meant in the media, not on school grounds. Totally peaceful.

For-profit Grand Canyon University is making a move to become a non-profit.


Two middle school students who recently moved to the Bronx from Senegal report having been bullied, taunted by chants of "You’re Ebola!” (Senegal has been declared Ebola-free.)

The Milford School District in Connecticut is being sued by the father of Ikeoluw Opayemi, who contends that the district’s decision to bar her from attending school over Ebola fears violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. Opayemi had visited Nigeria (which is now Ebola-free) this summer.

“Due to travel advisories issued by the Centers for Disease Control, Murray State University has deferred any application from students in Ebola-affected West African countries until the fall of 2015,” reports the Murray Ledger & Times.

Louisiana has warned that any attendees at the upcoming meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in New Orleans had better stay away if they’ve been in Ebola-affected countries in Africa in the last three weeks, or they’ll be quarantined in their hotel rooms.

School Surveillance and Data Security

The ACLU and EFF are accusing a Tennessee school district of violating students’ rights with its new policy that “ allows school officials to search any electronic devices students bring to campus and to monitor and control what students post on social media sites.”

A reminder: “Filtering and Surveillance Should Not Be Considered Protection.” It’s an equity issue. Or maybe it’s about ethics in... oh nevermind.

The Lewisburg Area School District revealed a data breach this week – “an internal file was accessed earlier this month, and students’ addresses, phone numbers and social security numbers were accessed.” Local police say they have a suspect, who is a district student. Since the breach the district says it will no longer use Social Security numbers, a move that every single school really really really should follow. Good grief.

Go, School Sports Team!

California University of Pennsylvania has called off a home game scheduled for this weekend after 5 members of its football team were arrested this week.

Florida State University running back Karlos Williams is under investigation over an accusation of domestic battery,” reports The New York Times.

From Inside Higher Ed: “Alcorn State University has enrolled Jamil Cooks, who has become a star player on the institution’s football team. ABC News reported that Cooks moved to Alcorn State University after he was convicted in a court martial of sexual assault while a student at the Air Force Academy, which expelled him. Last year, Alcorn State was criticized for having a transfer on its football team after being arrested on rape charges while he was on the team at Vanderbilt University. Cooks is a registered sex offender. He was recently named Alcorn State’s male athlete of the week.”

University of Georgia football player Todd Gurley must sit out 4 games because he sold autographed memorabilia, something that’s against NCAA rules. NCAA rules do not care if you’ve been arrested for rape or sexual assault or domestic violence, but hell no you cannot sell your autograph. HELL NO that would be wrong.

“Eighty-four percent of Division I athletes who entered college in 2007 graduated within six years,” reports the NCAA. Oh well then. Carry on, NCAA. You’re doing great.

See, actually, it’s about ethics in sports journalism.

From the HR Department

Racist substitute teacher in Illinois – school says “she wouldn’t be allowed to work at the school again.” Racist teacher in North Carolina – she’s “under investigation.”

A teacher at Pines Lake Elementary School in New Jersey was suspended after mocking a student’s name on Facebook.

Francis Schmidt, who teaches at Bergen Community College, will not lose his job because of a photo he took of his daughter wearing a Games of Thrones t-shirt saying “I will take what is mine with fire & blood.” The school apparently interpreted this as a threat and in turn put him on leave, made him see a mental health counselor, then threatened him with suspension or termination.

Upgrades and Downgrades

Reclaim Hosting, which makes it easy for teachers and students to have their own websites, is launching a “Domain of One’s Own” package for institutions or organizations for $199/month. More on this project – really, one of the best things in ed-tech right now – via Jim Groom’s blog.

From Techcrunch: “Google has just updated its Google Play Books eReader application with a focus on efficient reading.” Efficient reading! Whee!

Also via Techcrunch: “Connected car technology platform Automatic hopes to help … young drivers develop better habits, and is launching a new program today called License+ that offers parents a toolset for encouraging and coaching their teens as they improve their driving skills.”

There’s a brewing cheating scandal involving South Korean and Chinese students and the SAT.

Funding and Acquisitions

MassiveU has raised $1.08 million in seed funding from undisclosed investors. The startup offers a “project-based, social learning Platform-As-A-Service (PLAAS) that delivers learning content via mobile apps.” Sounds unique.

Bertelsmann continues its string of education technology investments with a $4.9 million investment in iNurture Education Solutions, an Indian company which offers “online, accredited ”career-ready“ courses in fields including business, finance, teacher training, IT and software engineering.”

Picmonic has raised $1.25 million in convertible note financing from Blackboard founder Matthew Pittinsky, along with Arizona Tech Investors, The Desert Angels, and Canal Partners. The startup, which makes audio-visual study cards, has raised $2.6 million total.

Via Edsurge: “ Truenorthlogic, a professional development and human resource management system, announced the acquisition of Avatar Training Management System (TMS), a tool that helps district automate course registration and certification tracking created by Generation Ready.”

VC John Doerr and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have each pledged $500,000 to’s IndieGogo campaign. Ya know, because crowdfunding is for the little guys.

Taylor Swift is donating the proceeds from her “Welcome to New York” single to New York public schools.


MIT’s Les Perelman, one of the leading critics of automated essay graders, writes that “The Educational Test Service (ETS) won’t let me continue to test a product that they are trying to sell to schools and colleges across America. Specifically, the company will not allow me access to the Automated Scoring Engine (AES) unless I agree to let them censor my findings.”

“Student Diversity at 4,725 Institutions,” via The Chronicle of Higher Education

Curiosity: It Helps Us Learn, But Why?” asks NPR. (Answer: we don’t really know.)

Schools With No Playgrounds Teach Kids Not to Play

Hiring is up for college graduates. Starting salaries, not so much.

Via The Atlantic: “The Economic Impact of School Suspensions: A recent report found that African-American girls were suspended at much higher rates than their white peers, a phenomenon that leads to lower earnings and educational attainment in the long run.”

Several upcoming surveys will ask about the school climate for LGBT students.

Educause’s “Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology” (PDF) finds among other things that “Undergraduates value the learning management system (LMS) as critical to their student experience but rarely make full use of it.” Bless their hearts.

Pearson conducted a survey about OER, and its findings may surprise you. Or not.

“Teachers Favor Common Core Standards, Not the Testing,” says Gallup.

Teachers want to talk more about technology, says a survey administered via a Twitter hashtag.

Faculty members think online courses are inferior to offline courses, according to a survey conducted by Inside Higher Ed.

USC’s Morgan Polikoff writes about what we can actually glean from polling about education topics.

This week in education charts, maps, and listicles: “’I Teach For Seven Straight Hours In Stilletos And Never Stop Smiling’—What Stock Photos Tell Us About Teaching.“ ”Three ways fearful parents are ruining Hallowe’en.“ The projected fall in teacher union membership. ”This school paid teachers $125,000 a year — and test scores went up.“ ”Common Core in the States Fall 2014: Mapping the Future of Testing in America."

Image credits: Brenda Gottsabend

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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