Education Law and Politics

President Obama took executive action on immigration reform this week, offering limited legal status (a temporary reprieve from deportation, that is) to up to five million of the country’s 11.4 million undocumented immigrants. The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed examine the potential impact on higher ed; The Huffington Post has a look at the impact at the K–12 level.

The White House also hosted superintendents this week to sign a “Future Ready” pledge, promising to buy more digital stuff from textbook publishers and tech companies and telecoms. Because future.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed a major financial boost to the E-rate program, increasing its cap by $1.5 billion. That’ll bring the total earmarked for the fund, which helps support and subsidize public schools’ and libraries’ network and telecom costs, to $3.9 million.

The FTC has reached a $200,000 settlement with TRUSTe over deceptive labels and promises. The company purports to certify that companies handle data safely. But nope. So yeah. Just because that ed-tech company proudly displays a TRUSTe seal doesn’t mean your data is safe; it means that they paid for the seal.

Senator Tom Harkin is set to retire in a few weeks. But he’s just released his proposal to revise the Higher Education Act. Inside Higher Ed has more on the legislation, which will likely go nowhere. Because Congress.

Certain-to-be-a-Republican-Presidential-candidate Jeb Bush made comments about education this week as he delivered the keynote at his education group’s 2014 National Summit on Education Reform.

The Department of Education and the Minneapolis Public School District have reached an agreement after an investigation which “revealed that black students in grades K–12 were significantly overrepresented in the district’s disciplinary actions.”

“Worried about facing national ridicule if a Satanic group is allowed to give out coloring books to children, the Orange County School Board moved Thursday toward preventing any outside group from distributing religious materials on campus.” Ha. Since when is Florida concerned about facing national ridicule?!

LAUSD’s board has voted to add ethnic studies to the district curriculum. It’s part of a larger effort to make ethnic studies a required class for graduation.

LAUSD has argued that a middle schooler can consent to sex with a teacher. The case involves a 14 year old student and her 28 year old teacher. The district, which is being sued by the girl’s family for negligence, says that the girl bears some responsibility. Wow. Fuck you, LAUSD.

Colleges and universities have received most of the scrutiny about how they’ve mishandled sexual assault cases. But the Department of Education is also investigating 24 elementary and secondary schools of violating Title IX by mishandling these sorts of incidents.

LAUSD and the Zombie iPad Contract

Back from the dead! LAUSD has not canceled all its contract with Apple and Pearson apparently, and the district will spend $22 million to buy 20,000 iPads just in time for spring standardized testing season. But this time around, instead of spending $504 per device, the district will pay $552 per iPad. Niiiiiiiiiiice.


Last week Coursera announced free verified certificates for veterans; this week, it’s free verified certificates for teachers. Thanks Obama, for taking such a strong stance against for-profit higher ed.

Not to miss out on the PR opportunity, edX is also offering free certificates for teacher training.

Coursera is bringing data to teaching. Because data dashboards “help instructors understand their learners and make informed decisions.” Education has, up until now, never had a way for instructors to understand learners, I guess.

What went wrong with the online education for-profit K12 Inc.? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

How Online Education Can Save Conservatism.” Shudder.

Elsewhere in “Openness”

Creative Commons has released its State of the Commons report. “Sharing is winning. In 2015, we’ll pass one billion Creative Commons–licensed works.”

The K–12 OER Collaborative, supported by 11 states, has released an RFP seeking OER materials to cover math and language arts at the K–12 level. As districts are poised to spend some $8 billion to buy new CCSS-aligned textbooks, the hope is to offer an alternative that not just saves money but that can be localized, shared, and remixed.

The Gates Foundation has adopted an open access policy “that enables the unrestricted access and reuse of all peer-reviewed published research funded, in whole or in part, by the foundation, including any underlying data sets.”

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, open education has a publicity problem.

Meanwhile on Campus

A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA

Parents have been sent home “what to do in case of an emergency” notes. But in the St. Louis area, the fear-mongering isn’t about bad weather. It’s about the results of the grand jury investigation of Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed the teenaged Michael Brown this summer. St. Louis schools will apparently get a 3 hour advanced notice of the decision.

Three people were shot at the Florida State University Library.

Meanwhile, an assistant principal in Polk County, Florida staged a live shooter drill in which police went classroom to classroom with their guns drawn. “…The school resource officer involved in the drill was carrying a loaded Glock .45-caliber pistol, while a patrol officer was holding an AR–15 rifle, though it was not loaded. Some students became terrified and ducked for cover.” Terrified?! Are you serious?!

An elementary school in Los Alamitos will let parents pay $100 to buy their kids a week free of homework. Because the public school system in America is sooooo damn equitable.

University of Maryland University College will stay a public university, says its president.

Some 43 students in a “Sports, Ethics, and Religion” class at Yale have been accused of academic dishonesty. Apparently, they cheated with clickers. In an ethics class.

The University of California Board of Regents has voted to raise tuition by up to 27% by 2020. Governor Jerry Brown and pretty much every public school student (and their parents?) oppose the hike.

Students have ended their sit-in at Syracuse University. More details on their demands via Inside Higher Ed.

Students at BYU are campaigning to change the campus’s ban on beards. Heads up, BYU students! Kin Lane will be visiting you next month. Enlist him in your battle!

Looks like some 5000 students have been affected by the disaster that is LAUSD’s multimillion dollar new student information system.

Not to let LAUSD’s student information system get all the laughs, New York City says it’s dumping the system it spent $95 million on. Joel Klein, now touting how great his ed reform efforts were in his new book, oversaw the development of the ARIS system. The company he now works for, News Corp’s Amplify, has been overseeing the program since. Heckuva job.

Incidentally, NYC schools aren’t buying Amplify tablets either. They’re going with Google Chromebooks.

Via The Atlantic: “The backlash against no-excuses discipline in high school.”

Go, School Sports Team!

A Florida State University football player, P. J. Williams, was in an accident, driving his car into the path of an oncoming vehicle. He fled the scene. “Mr. Williams, driving with a suspended license, had been given a break by the Tallahassee police, who initially labeled the accident a hit and run, a criminal act, but later decided to issue Mr. Williams only two traffic tickets. Afterward, the case did not show up in the city’s public online database of police calls — a technical error, the police said.”

The NCAA has released documents relating to its sanctions of the Penn State and the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. More via Inside Higher Ed.

Oregon State University will review its response to a 1998 report that football players gang raped a woman. No charges were ever filed.

“A math instructor at Weber State University completed coursework for five football players, including a final exam,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

27 college football coaches make more than $3 million a year. Only 27.

From the HR Department

“Did the California Institute of Technology ignore faculty reports that an Israeli spy might be working at a campus-controlled research facility so as not to jeopardize an $8 billion National Aeronautics and Space Administration contract?” A whistleblower lawsuit says yes.

By Sarah Kendzior: “Professors Making $10,000 a Year? Academia Is Becoming a Profession Only the Elite Can Afford

The Yale Medical School has removed, effective immediately, Dr. Michael Simons as director of its Cardiovascular Research Center after an investigation into sexual harassment allegations.

Steven Salaita is suing the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for violating open records laws. The lawsuit is related to the university’s decision to withdraw its job offer to Salaita, following pro-Palestinian comments he made on social media.

Upgrades and Downgrades

Some folks were excited when Mattel said it was going to make a computer engineer Barbie. And why wouldn’t they be. The doll has such a great track record of strong messages for smart girls. Messages like “Math is hard. Let’;s go shopping.” This week, Barbie came out with a new book, I Can Be A Computer Engineer, published by Random House (owned by Pearson). I’d say OMG DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK, but apparently Mattel has already pulled it from store shelves. See, Barbie has a pink computer. She can’t program. She breaks things. She recruits two guys to help her write the code because she only good at “creating design ideas.” She infects Skipper’s computer with a virus, who then gets so mad – I mean, she’s lost her homework because she didn’t create a backup! – that she gets into a pillow fight with Barbie.

Thankfully, the Internet has given us Feminist Hacker Barbie.

Disney plus Hour of Code. Because we’re supposed to believe that Disney's Frozen princesses offer a better role model for girls to learn computer science than Mattel, I guess.

From the BBC: “Ayan Qureshi is now a Microsoft Certified Professional after passing the tech giant’s exam when he was just five years old.”

Harvard Researchers Build $10 Robot That Can Teach Kids to Code

Pearson’s “charitable wing,” the Pearson Foundation, will be closing its doors at the end of the year. The organization has come under intense scrutiny for how much of a division really exists between it and its parent company. Last year, the organization paid an almost $8 million settlement to the state of New York over accusations that its actions were really funneling money to the for-profit Pearson. Shocking, I know. The Gates Foundation recently gave the foundation $3 million to develop curricula for the Common Core. I’m curious what’ll happen to the projects that the foundation supported. And, of course, the content and the student data.

Politico says that “The PARCC consortium was supposed to have decided by now whether to approve Pearson’s plan to use computer algorithms, rather than human beings, to grade student essays on Common Core exams in the coming years. But that deadline appears to have been postponed — and both PARCC and Pearson are tight-lipped about why.”

Oh noes! Early adopters of Google Glass are “losing faith,” says Reuters! Never fear. I bet there will be dozens of sessions at ISTE about how to integrate these silly, spendy surveillance devices into your instructional practices.

The New York Times investigates the behaviorist behavior tracking app Class Dojo for privacy concerns. In response to the NYT story, Class Dojo says it has now adopted a data deletion policy and will only keep students’ behavioral records for one year. But it’s keeping the Skinnerism, I reckon.

Facebook is apparently testing a “business product” – collaboration tools for work something something data-mining all aspects of your life professional and personal something something. Really looking forward to the Facebook for education version too.

Oh. LOL. Look at that. Summit Public Schools, a Silicon Valley charter school chain, is working with Facebook on just that. More details on what Edsurge calls a “personalized learning platform.”

Also via Edsurge: San Quentin inmates learn to code.

Smart Technologies has a new interactive whiteboard that you can write on with dry erase markers. Holy shit, slow down with the innovation, guys. You’re making the rest of the industry look bad.

Ernst & Young has named Josh Coates, CEO of Instructure, the “EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2014 National Technology Award winner.”

More standardized testing! [Inside Higher Ed looks](Aspiring Minds) at the Indian skills-testing company Aspiring Minds and its attempts to break into the US market. (It’s partnered with edX.)

From Inside Higher Ed: “Rafter, the course content provider that spawned from the textbook rental company BookRenter, on Wednesday announced a new service that ties textbook costs to tuition and automatically delivers course materials upon registration. The service, known as Rafter360, enables faculty members to select the course materials they intend to use in their courses, which are then delivered to students either digitally or shipped to homes or campus bookstores for pickup and returned at the end of the course.” So I guess there’s no looking for used copies or cheaper copies, no sharing copies, just forcing students to buy textbooks. Sounds great. For Rafter.

The Hamilton Project’s newly-released student debt calculator includes information about college majors and projected earnings.

Twitter says it now indexes every public tweet since 2006. The blog post announcing the news, which makes no mention of the company’s original plans to outsource this work to the Library of Congress, has lots of technical details about the tech under the hood.

From Techcrunch: “LinkedIn Sharpens Education Focus: Self-Serve Widget Lets Users Add Certifications While On Other Sites.” Nothing says “disruptive innovation” in education like “self-service certification widgets,” man.

Funding and Acquisitions

The non-profit ECMC Group is buying 56 Corinthian College campuses and will reportedly keep the WyoTech and Everest campuses (and brands) intact. The organization, which services student loans – do not let that “non-profit” label fool you that its some sort of noble organization here – will pay $24 million for the campuses. Great insight and great questions from “Dean Dad.”

Pluralsight has paid $75 million for Smarterer, a company that offers multiple choice quizzes to assess employees’ skills. But there is no ed-tech bubble.

Craftsy, which The New York Times describes as a blend of YouTube and Etsy and “a platform for people who want to dive deeper into the world of arts and crafts mastery via online video courses,” has raised $50 million. The company has raised $106 million total, totally highlighting what a grassroots movement this whole “maker” thing is.

Uversity (formerly known as Inigral) has raised $660,000 in funding. This brings to $11.4 million the total raised for the “student engagement platform” (formerly Facebook app). New investors this time around include Learn Capital, where Uversity founder Michael Staton is now a partner.

Programming bootcamp Bloc has raised $6 million in funding from Shasta Ventures. This brings to $8.3 million the total raised by the company. Its classes cost between $4000 and $5000, says Edsurge.

Galvanize Inc, a company that runs various software development training programs, has acquired Zipfian Academy, a “data science boot camp.” Zipfian’s 12-week long bootcamp costs $16,000 – ya know, because college is too damn expensive.

The Wall Street Journal headline: “Kik Raises $38 Million to Battle Snapchat for Teens.” The messaging platform has now raised $65.8 million total.


According to a study by Augenblick, Palaich and Associates, a Denver education research firm, “Colorado state government and school districts spend up to $78 million a year on testing, and some kind of standardized testing takes place during every week of the school year.”

According to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 26% of college students are raising children. Single mothers make up 43% of these student parents.

According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, “preschoolers whose parents received text messages with brief tips on reading to their children or helping them sound out letters and words performed better on literacy tests than children whose parents did not receive such messages.” Sounds legit.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, college enrollment has gone up since 2008, but the percentage of students who’ve graduated has gone down.

According to a report by Express Scripts, “in 2012 about one in 54 youngsters ages 6 through 17 covered by private insurance was taking at least two psychotropic medications — a rise of 44 percent in four years.”

Apple has released a report on “iPad in Education Results.”

Renaissance Learning, maker of the Accelerated Reading program, has released a report on “What Kids Are Reading: And Why It Matters.” Remember kids, it matters that you ask good, critical questions when you read corporate PR disguised as research.

From Vox: “82% of Americans want Congress to make student loans cheaper, but it’s a bad idea.”


RIP Leslie Feinberg. Stone Butch Blues was one of the most powerful and, for me personally, politically transformative books I’ve ever read.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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