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US Midterm Elections


Americans voted on Tuesday — or, a small percentage of them did. According to early figures, about 36.6% of the eligible population cast their ballot in this year’s midterm elections, the lowest turnout since 1942 (which was, it’s worth noting, in the middle of the Second World War).

As such, it’s a little hard to trumpet the results as a mandate. Nevertheless, the results, as they were, were a major win for the Republican party, which now takes control of the US Senate and maintains control of the House of Representatives. The Republicans also won 31 governorships. And they now control “at least 66 of 99 state legislative chambers nationwide.” This could have a major impact on education policy, particularly as those state legislatures dictate public education funding. Yahoo. The Republicans are also probably going to fuck with any semblance of progressive environmental policies we have on the books too, so ya know. Maybe climate change can take us all out before the government has a chance to pass too much legislation. Who knows.

Anyway, here’s how Politico summarized the results of Tuesday's voting as they pertain to education:

It was a crushing night for teachers unions and their allies. After pumping well over $60 million into races across the country, the unions could point to just two bright spots: They succeeded in ousting Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett. Incumbent state Superintendent Tom Torlakson came out on top in California. Otherwise, it was a bloodbath. And not just because of the near-total Republican sweep of the mostly hotly contested Senate seats and gubernatorial races. Ardent foes of the Common Core were poised to take over as schools chiefs in Arizona and in Georgia, defeating more moderate candidates that the unions had fought hard to elect. A ballot measure to raise money for public schools by hiking certain corporate taxes went down to a huge defeat in Nevada. A proposal to reduce class sizes (and hire new educators) was trailing in Washington state, despite a huge lead in pre-election polling. And the unions’ preferred measure for expanding access to pre-K — and raising wages for child-care workers — failed in Seattle.

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander (formerly the Secretary of Education under President Bush) will now likely lead the Senate’s education committee. The Chronicle of Higher Education profiles him.

From Inside Higher Ed: What a GOP-led Congress Means for Higher Ed

Voters in New York approved a $2 billion ed-tech bond measure. Maybe they can talk to LAUSD about how to spend billions on iPads.

The most expensive political contest in California was for the state superintendent of public instruction. The race was between two Democrats – incumbent Tom Torlakson, who was supported by teachers unions and challenger Marshall Tuck, a former charter school executive. As noted above, Torlakson won (by 4% points).

Billionaire-Backed Group Spends Unprecedented $290K in Minneapolis School Board Race.” The billionaire in question is former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, who poured over $1.3 million into the campaigns of state and local “education reform” candidates.

86% of the candidates backed by Michelle Rhee’s group Students First won their respective races.

In Other Education Legal and Political News…


The New York Times looks at how Russian President Vladimir Putin is purging his country’s textbooks (and how one of his friends is profiting). Phew – good thing there isn’t any insidery political bullshit in the US textbook industry.

Security guards escorted about a dozen students out of a Jefferson County School Board meeting this week. The students are protesting the board’s plan to review their AP curriculum to make sure it encourages patriotism and discourages civil disobedience.

The Department of Education has found Princeton to be in violation of Title IX “for failing to promptly and equitably respond to complaints of sexual violence, including sexual assault, and also failing to end the sexually hostile environment for one student. In addition, the policies and procedures used by the university to investigate and respond to assaults and violence did not comply with Title IX.”

For-profit university lobbyists (specifically, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities) are suing the Obama Administration – again – over the new “gainful employment” rules.

Leicester City Council is the first local government authority in the UK to give its 84 community schools permission to openly license their educational resources.

Internet connectivity continues to be a problem for online assessments, according to Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium field testing. And in related news, Louisiana plans to delay online assessments. The state will continue to use the paper and pencil version of the PARCC assessments.

The Louisiana Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit by some 7000+ former Orleans Parish School Board employees, who claimed they were illegally terminated after Hurricane Katrina.

“The North Carolina State Board of Education has issued a warning to a charter-school chain for failing to comply with an agency order to disclose the salaries of school administrators,” reports ProPublica, who wrote about financial improprieties of that same chain, Charter Day School Inc, last month.

The Chronicle of Higher Education trolls us with this headline “Are We Forgiving Too Much Student-Loan Debt?

“What’s Big Business Got to Do With Education Reform?” asks Edsurge’s Charley Locke.

Iguala, Mexico mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, have been arrested in Mexico City. The two are suspected of being involved in the disappearance of 43 students from a local teachers college.

Dante Martin, a former member of the Florida A&M University marching band, has been found guilty of manslaughter in the hazing death of fellow band member Robert Champion.

MOOCs and UnMOOCs


The History Channel, which features intellectually rigorous shows like Ancient Aliens, will be offering “the very first television network-branded online course for credit” in partnership the University of Oklahoma. (Here are Laura Gibbs’ thoughts on the MOOC.)

Can Libraries Save the MOOC?” Is this a trick question?

FutureLearn made an animated film to promote its MOOCs, and it’s… um… interesting.

From the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning: “The Employer Potential of MOOCs: A Mixed-Methods Study of Human Resource Professionals’ Thinking on MOOCs.”

From The Chronicle of Higher Education: “What Georgia Tech’s Online Degree in Computer Science Means for Low-Cost Programs.” And from Rolin Moe: “What We Cannot Learn from the Udacity/GT Partnership.”

The Indian School of Business. has joined Coursera.

Pearson Partners with LPGA to Launch an Online Course to Help Teach Female Golfers

Meanwhile on Campus


Harvard University has been spying on folks again. Last year it was caught searching faculty emails. This week, “the university acknowledged that as part of a study on attendance at lectures, it had used hidden cameras to photograph classes without telling the professors or the students.” The Chronicle of Higher Education write-up of the revelation contains this wonderful sentence: “But putting aside the question of whether the methodology was ethical, what did the researchers learn about classroom-attendance patterns from their study, and what were the motives behind the experiment?” Yes. Let’s put aside the ethics of surveillance and data collection in education. Carry on!

The University of Texas System plans to launch a competency-based degree program.

The publisher Elsevier has refused to make a deal with Dutch universities, which are demanding open access to academic publications.

A student was shot in a Delaware State University residence hall.

Another student has died from injuries she sustained at the recent school shooting in Washington, bringing the death toll from the incident to 4.

Ikeoluwa Opayemi, age 7, has been allowed back to school in Milford, Connecticut after her school reversed its decision to make her stay home due to fears of Ebola. Opayemi has been in Nigeria - where there is no Ebola.

Via The New York Times: “A sexual harassment case that has been unfolding without public notice for nearly five years within the Yale School of Medicine has roiled the institution and led to new allegations that the university is insensitive to instances of harassment against women.”

LAUSD is still struggling with its new student information system. (See a related HR update below.) From the LA School Report: “Superintendent Ramon Cortines called for Microsoft to send in the calvary and the Seattle-based company responded by sending a total of one — count ‘em, one — expert to help with the glitch-plagued student data program serving 650,000 students.” I love that. Anything on your computer breaks, you call Microsoft, as if the company is just some sorta IT help desk.

Coming soon to China: Apple University

Oh sure, public funding of universities is getting slashed, but apparently it’s boom time for higher education consultants! Whee!

Unboxing the Chomsky archive at MIT.

Go, School Sports Team!


From Inside Higher Ed: “The National Collegiate Athletic Association does not have a rule against allowing convicted felons to participate in NCAA sports and it does not anticipate changing its policy, even as it faces public pressure following the revelation that a star football player at Alcorn State University is a registered sex offender.”

Academic Fraud Prompts NCAA to Consider Broader Role in Enforcement

What happens to former UNC employees, perhaps involved in the massive academic fraud scandal, who are now employed elsewhere?

Tom Corbett, who (thankfully!) lost his reelection bid as governor of Pennsylvania says that Penn State “probably” should not have fired Joe Paterno for his role in the university football team’s sex abuse scandal.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Six Indiana University men’s basketball players have been cited for alcohol violations or have failed drug tests this year, including a student who was hospitalized Saturday after being struck by a vehicle driven by a teammate. That player had also been drinking, and neither student is of legal drinking age.”

From Slate: “The resignation of the Wolverines’ villainous athletic director is why we like college sports.” Wait. We like college sports?

From the HR Department


Ron Chandler, LAUSD’s CIO, has resigned. Chandler was the “public face” of the iPad rollout and student information system upgrade. So yeah.

A teacher at a Catholic school in Kentucky has resigned after parents were concerned about Ebola following her trip to Kenya – where there is no Ebola.

Keith Miller, the president of Virginia State University, has resigned.

The ex-boyfriend of an LA high school teacher Richard Rosa emailed nude photos of Rosa to over 250 students and school staff. Some day. Some day, we’ll have a discussion about info security and edu. Some day.

Upgrades and Downgrades


Blackboard and Chegg are teaming up, and the latter’s tutoring services will be available via the LMS. Why, it’s almost as though the whole walled garden, Internet portal thing is still going strong in ed-tech.

Pearson has been granted a patent on adaptive learning, specifically “entropy-based sequences of educational modules.” (It’s worth noting that there are lots of patents for adaptive technologies, including those held by ACT and Apollo, parent company to the University of Phoenix.)

Sounds like Farmville, but its name is Jobville, and The Chronicle of Higher Education saysthe app “makes career counseling more like a video game.”

ReskillUSA is a new workforce development program, whose partners include Codecademy, Flatiron School, DevBootcamp, Sabio.la, Grand Circus, Wyncode, and Thinkful. People will be able to take programming classes online and then be connected to jobs. According to Wired, “As part of the new initiative, Codecademy, which has traditionally offered online coding education only, is launching its own offline classes called Codecademy Labs. These courses, which [founder Zach] Sims says will cost $150-$200 — far less than the traditional bootcamp — will be hosted by other ReskillUSA partners across the country, but will be taught by former Codecademy students.”

Learn-to-code startup GoCode claims it’s the first “first travel-focused coding bootcamp” and is offering a 8 week class at “an ‘all-inclusive beach paradise’ in Costa Rica.” Which I think means we really have reached peak exploitative bullshit with this trend, no?

From GoldieBlox, an action figure that aims to subvert the fashion doll industry.

A bit of ed-tech history about Apple in honor of Tim Cook’s coming out.

Skype will soon offer a real-time translation feature, and Edukwest’s Kirsten Winkler says it will “revolutionize language teaching.”

Skype is also partnering with Code.org to bring tech speakers into classrooms. Well, to Skype them into classrooms.

Funding and Acquisitions


HarukaEdu, an Indonesian online education company which according to Edsurge offers MOOCs, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding.

West Corporation has acquired its second school messaging tool this year. This time, the company bought School Reach. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Chinese testing company ATA has made a $5 million strategic investment in Master Mind, a K–12 tutoring company.

Berkery Noyes has released its latest report on education industry mergers and acquisitions.

Edsurge profiles education investor Rethink Education.

“Research”


The number of homeless children in Britain is at a three-year high. Child poverty in the US is at a 20-year high.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “AI software scored higher on the English section of Japan’s standardized college entrance test than the average Japanese high school senior.” I look forward to the future where we replace both teachers and students with robots.

Horizon Report Europe 2014 Schools Edition

David Wiley responds to the recent Babson survey about OER.

Academic Science Isn’t Sexist.” Oh. Okay then.

According to a study conducted in Washington state, “Short-term community-college certificates, which have been growing rapidly in popularity as a way to get students quickly and cheaply into jobs, do not, in fact, help most recipients land employment or earn more money.”

The ultimate #Slatepitch?: “The Downside of School Police Using Pepper Spray on Kids

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Audrey Watters


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