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In previous years, the week of Thanksgiving often means that I write something like “not a lot of news out of the US” as folks focus on turkey, football, and shopping. Not this year. Not this week.

It’s been just over 100 days since police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. Brown was walking to his grandmother’s house in Ferguson, Missouri. He was unarmed.

It’s been just over 100 days since protests erupted in Ferguson in response. It’s been just over 100 days since the story was featured in an earlier Hack Education Weekly News or EML “What You Should Know This Week.”

What you should know this week is something that probably most people expected: that a grand jury has declined to indict Wilson for Brown’s death. Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced the decision at 9pm Eastern on Monday night. Interesting timing.

In his statement, McCulloch spent a good deal of time condemning social media for spreading questionable and inaccurate information about the shooting. He read the state’s timeline of events, and then pronounced that Wilson would not face criminal charges. In an unusual move (grand juries are usually short and usually secret), he then released much of the testimony and evidence to the public.

Ferguson had been bracing for this (and frankly, probably expecting that this would be the outcome of the grand jury). Stores had boarded up their windows; schools were closed. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon had already declared a state of emergency, and there were National Guard along with police officers patrolling the streets.

Yet once again, as in August, Ferguson found itself in flames. Buildings burned. Arrests were made. There have been protests all over the United States (and elsewhere too) about the decision.

Some schools in the St. Louis area remain closed (it is the Thanksgiving holiday after all). The Ferguson Public Library has remained open.

This affects all schools – whether they handle this well or not. And as students and teachers walk back into classrooms everywhere — on the heels of McCulloch’s announcement, President Obama’s call for “calm,” fiery protests in Ferguson, and news of yet another young black boy killed by police (Tamir Rice age 12) — it is clear that we have to make a space at school where we can listen and learn and grieve in a safe and supportive learning environment. And it’s clear too, oh my god it’s clear, schools need to do a lot better there.

Back in August, Science Leadership Academy principal Chris Lehmann asked “What Do We Teach When Kids Are Dying?” I think I quoted him then; and I’ll quote him again:

“So what do we do as educators? What is our role? For to pretend that this does not enter our classrooms, our schools, is to run the risk of allowing ourselves to be complicit in the system that left Mike Brown’s body in the street for hours. How we teach, how we frame this issue with students is incredibly difficult and complex, and so many of the resources, ideas and suggestions created after Jordan Davis’ killer was not convicted of murder are appropriate again. It is incredibly daunting to think about how we frame this issue in our classrooms, but that cannot be the reason for educators to shy away from it. And, if nothing else, now is a moment where educators need to listen deeply to students who need to express what they are feeling.”

Education Law and Politics

The US Department of Education announced a plan to “strengthen teacher preparation.” The new guidelines, writes The Chronicle of Higher Education, “would require states to evaluate teacher-training programs based, in part, on how many of their graduates get and keep jobs and how much their graduates’ future students learn. Only programs deemed effective by their states would be eligible to award Teach Grants, which provide students with up to $4,000 a year.”

LAUSD has reached a settlement worth almost $140 million with the 81 victims in the the sex abuse scandal involving former teacher Mark Berndt at Miramonte Elementary School.

Texas has approved new social studies curriculum. Among its glorious contributions to the intellectual development of young people, it lists the four people who influenced the Founding Fathers as William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles de Montesquieu, and Moses. Better add a new face to Mount Rushmore for that last one, man.

Students in Finland will no longer learn handwriting, but will learn typing skills instead. I look forward to the responses from those who hail Finland as the model for all education reforms .

Via Politico: “The blockbuster contract Pearson signed earlier this year to deliver the new PARCC Common Core exams based its pricing on a minimum of 5.5 million students nationwide taking the tests next spring. But several states dropped out, leaving just under 5 million students to take the exams. (Another 325,000 children in Louisiana will take a modified test that uses PARCC questions but is delivered by another vendor.) At that volume, Pearson will earn a minimum of $138 million in the first year of the contract. But because the contract was crafted in anticipation of a higher revenue flow to Pearson, PARCC member states have agreed to scale back the amount of work the company must do on the exams.”

Norway has decided not to charge non-EU residents college tuition.

Judge Denise Cote has approved a settlement in which Apple will pay some $400 million to some 23 million consumers over charges that it violated antitrust law by conspiring with publishers to raise e-book prices.

MOOCs and UnMOOCs

JetBlue announced a number of measures to improve its profitability this week: charging for checked bags, for example. But hey! Look! It’s partnered with Coursera to offer MOOCs as part of the “in-flight entertainment” system. Sounds like the future of ed-tech to me!

Meanwhile on Campus

A bit of a kerfuffle this week involving 22-year-old Ted Morris who was granted a charter to open a school in Rochester, New York. After media scrutiny that revealed Morris exaggerated his credentials, he resigned.

I’m confused. I thought that the LAUSD contract with Apple had been cancelled. Apparently not? “We just made the determination not to place an order against that contract,” says facilities director Mark Hovatter. Oh. Um. Okay. Onward.

Congratulations to Kean University for its recent purchase of a $219,000 conference table.

Georgetown University has joined the HathiTrust.

AltSchool, a chain of private schools founded by former Google exec Max Ventilla, is expanding to Brooklyn.

A school in Los Alamitos, California will no longer run a fundraiser in which parents could pay $100 to opt their children out of homework. Nice work, Internet. You helped dismantle this unequitable crap.

Congratulations Penn State for being named EFF’s “Stupid Patent of the Month” for your patent on an improved collaborative “decision-making process.”

Via The LA Times: “Rather than increasing tuition, Cal State has reduced enrollment targets for this fall. And trustees recently discussed the dark scenario of having to stop accepting freshmen.” Meanwhile, students are protesting proposed tuition hikes for public universities in the state.

“Students in University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate Journalism Program will pay an additional $7,500 in tuition per year, after the Board of Regent’s approved a supplemental fee this week,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

Students at Emory University are in violation of the honor code for selling seats in popular courses.

Good thing we’re really cracking down on this whole “honor code” thing, right? Right? No really. Guys. Do not make me create a “Rape” section for the weekly education news, okay?

Responding to the recent Rolling Stone article on a brutal rape at a UVA fraternity, the school has banned all school fraternities until January 9. (Is school even in session now?! It's the holidays.) The university has expelled 183 for honor code violations in the last decade, but has expelled no one over sexual assault, even though the perpetrators in the Rolling Stone story are known. More from the op-ed section of the university student newspaper.

San Diego State University has suspended all fraternity activities after members “pelted participants in Friday’s Take Back the Night protest against sexual assault with eggs and waved dildos at them.”

Fuck you, LAUSD: “Los Angeles school district therapist: Low-IQ girls ’suffer less’ trauma from sex assault.”

Three girls at Norman High School in Norman, Oklahoma say they were raped by the same male student. Students have been protesting how the school responded to the incidents, particularly as the victims have been the targets of bullying by the assailant’s friends.

“The University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where Bill Cosby was awarded a doctorate more than 35 years ago, has asked him to resign as an honorary co-chair of the school’s capital campaign,” reports The Washington Post.

Spelman College also issued a statement about its ties to Cosby, insisting that its connections are to the whole family not just the accused rapist.

Go, School Sports Team!

MIT’s football team is 10–0 and The New York Times is on it.

From the HR Department

Chris Bourg has been named the director of MIT Libraries. (There's so much shitty stuff in this weekly roundup, so let's just pause for a moment and note that this hire is a great thing. Congrats, Chris.)

US Department of Education deputy assistant secretary for external affairs and outreach Massie Ristch will join TFA as executive VP.

Upgrades and Downgrades

Betteridge’s Law tells us that the answer to this Chronicle headline – “Can Digital ‘Badges’ and ‘Nanodegrees’ Protect Job Seekers From a First-Round Knockout?” – is “no.” Frankly, logic tells us the same.

Khan Academy has partnered with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Via Edsurge: “‘Hot or Not’ Founder Launches YouTube Safety App for Kids.” Because ed-tech.

Funding and Acquisitions

Monday Envelope, which helps PTAs manage fundraising, has raised $350,000 in seed funding from undisclosed investors.

Yik Yak has raised $62 million in funding from Sequoia Capital, reports The New York Times. The startup, which targets mostly universities with its anonymous, geofenced social network, has raised $73.5 million total.

“Research”

I am shocked SHOCKED to learn that “personalized instruction” is overhyped. A study released this week by Noel Enyedy, an associate professor of education and information studies at UCLA, says that computer-mediated learning produces uneven results (or, ya know, zero results), often at great expense to school districts. Oh well! Carry on, ed-tech!

Via The New York Times: “Even Among Harvard Graduates, Women Fall Short of Their Work Expectations.” Even among Harvard graduates.

Via Vox: “The students who get the most out of college wake up and go to class.” ORLY.

Via the Pacific Standard: “Rich Kids Are More Likely to Be Working for Dad.”

According to the Software & Information Industry Association, “the market for pre-kindergarten through grade 12 testing has grown by about 57 percent over two years ago, and now stands at an estimated $2.5 billion.” More via Education Week.

Worldreader, an organization that distributes pre-loaded Kindles in the developing world, has released a study of its effectiveness in Ghana.

“Levels of education and income in U.S. households carve a digital divide of up to 47 percentage points separating those who own computers and have connectivity, and those who don’t, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report.” More via Education Week.

In the last example of the bullshit you can make up based on brain scans, “The Teen Brain ‘Shuts Down’ When It Hears Mom’s Criticism.”

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Audrey Watters


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