Education Law and Politics

132 children and 9 staff died in a Pakistani Taliban attack on an army-run school in Peshawar – the “deadliest single attack in the group’s history.” (Globally, terrorist attacks on schools are on the rise.) "“I am heartbroken by this senseless and coldblooded act of terror,” said Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who was the target of an assassination attempt by the Pakistani Taliban in 2012.

This year cannot end soon enough.

The Department of Education released its college ratings framework. Sorta. “The plan, the product of more than a year of discussion and debate, is less a proposal than a progress report—an update on metrics the department is considering using in its system,” reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. More via Inside Higher Ed.

The Obama Administration made a surprise announcement on Wednesday that it plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. Many travel restrictions between the US and Cuba will be lifted as well.

In a Facebook status update, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced he’s “decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.” Cue lots of articles about how his education policies will or will not help or hurt him.

The ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit against Missouri’s Ferguson-Florissant School District (the district from which Michael Brown graduated, “charging the district’s electoral system is locking African-Americans out of the political process.”

According to an Inspector General audit of how it handles student loans, the Department of Education lacks “a coordinated plan for preventing borrowers from defaulting.”

From Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy, “Whistleblower Suit Alleges For-Profit College Tricked Veterans Into Debt.”

York, Pennsylvania is poised to turn all its public schools into charter schools, run by the for-profit charter chain Charter Schools USA.

The Salter Schools, a for-profit chain in Massachusetts, has settled with the state’s attorney general, Martha Coakley, over allegations of misrepresented job-placement rates and deceptive student recruitment,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

A US District Court judge signed a settlement this week involving families of students “who claimed their children were unlawfully sent to emergency rooms as a form of discipline, in violation of their federally protected civil rights.” As a result of the settlement, the New York City schools will no longer call 911 to deal with disciplinary issues.

LAUSD superintendent Ramon Cortines is asking California state education officials for “a delay in using the results of the 2014–15 Smarter Balanced computerized test as means of measuring academic growth next year.”


“What Are MOOCs Good For?” asks the MIT Technology Review, but forgets to list “good for ed-tech clickbait” as one of the answers.

Top 2014 LinkedIn Skills That Tie Back to Top Coursera Courses

3 more schools have joined the digital learning consortium Unizin: Ohio State University, Penn State University and the University of Iowa.

“The American Council on Education on Monday announced that 25 colleges have agreed to accept all or most transfer credit from students who have completed courses from a council-created pool of 100 low-cost online courses,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

ITT Technical Institute is expanding into the K–12 online charter school market. What could go wrong.

Meanwhile on Campus

Oh look. LAUSD students can start to take their iPads home. I’m struck by this comment about the students getting their devices home safely: “School Police Chief Jose Santome estimated it would take 80 more officers to scale up the patrols to the district’s 800 campuses.”

Virginia teen “Austin Martin, 18, was charged with possessing firearms on school property and released on a $1,500 bond.” Officers found “four loaded guns, several knives and more than 600 rounds of ammunition” in his car and arrested him. Police say he was super cooperative and didn’t actually plan to hurt anyone. And that’s what white privilege looks like, folks.

UC Berkeley began notifying approximately 1600 people people week that “that their personal information may have been hacked by an individual or individuals who gained access to servers and databases in the campus’s Real Estate Division.”

Cardboard cutouts of black people were hung in effigy around the UC Berkeley campus last weekend. An anonymous group says they’re responsible for the “art.”

Some 60 students who participated in a “die in” to protest police brutality at Boston College will be subject to “disciplinary action.”

From Newsweek: “Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, is facing a $7,500 charge covering the cost of local police overtime after students staged a demonstration protesting—wait for it—police brutality and racism.”

Augustana College has barred access to its WiFi network to the anonymous messaging app Yik Yak.

Professors at Colgate University took to Yik Yak in a campaign to “ bring some positivity to digital communications on the campus.” Eric Stoller has more on the professors’ efforts.

The women’s college Barnard is weighing admitting transgender students.

Spelman College has suspended an endowed chair named for Bill Cosby and his wife, in the wake of numerous allegations that Cosby had drugged and assaulted women.

Bryan Alexander looks at the “queen sacrifice” at the University of New Orleans.

Johns Hopkins University accidentally sent hundreds of acceptance letters to students that the school had actually rejected. Oops.

The for-profit Career Education Corp is selling Le Cordon Bleu, its chain of culinary schools.

Lots of chatter about US schools scrapping foreign language instruction – following the lead of the Success Academy Charter School chain – even though there are many benefits to being bilingual.

Go, School Sports Team!

More and more athletes are wearing “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts to draw attention to police brutality. Following the discovery of the effigies hung on their campus, the UC Berkeley women’s basketball team showed up to their game last weekend wearing t-shirts honoring Black people lynched and killed by police. Their coach said, “As student-athletes at Cal, our young women have a voice and a platform, and they chose to use it today.”

The Michigan State Legislature has passed a bill banning student athlete unions.

“The University of Texas’ flagship campus will open a sports-leadership center that will help coaches instill strong character in high-school players and teach college athletes how to manage their money better,” reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Speaking of managing money well, according to Sports Illustrated, the University of Michigan has reportedly offered Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, a six-year $48 million contract to become its head football coach.

Via The Chronicle: “At Top Athletics Programs, Students Often Major in Eligibility.” About one-third of the football players on the UO and FSU teams are majoring in “social sciences,” an interdisciplinary liberal arts degree.

From the HR Department

Arizona State University is demanding its full-time non-tenure-track writing instructors teach five writing classes a term – up from the current four course teaching load – without an increase in pay. I cannot fathom how you can possibly provide quality writing instruction at that level. Hell, I’m not sure how you can provide mediocre writing instruction at that level, unless you plan to outsource all grading to teaching machines.

Meanwhile, regents have approved a $95,000 pay increase for ASU President Michael Crow, who’ll now make almost $900,000 a year.

E-Literate reports that Gary Lang, Blackboard’s SVP of Product Development, has resigned.

1.2 million American teachers aren’t covered by Social Security.”

Teach For America could miss recruitment mark by more than 25 percent.”

“Nine out of 10 New York City teachers received one of the top two rankings in the first year of a new evaluation system that was hailed as a better way of assessing how they perform, according to figures released on Tuesday” (according to The New York Times).

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The United Auto Workers, acting on behalf of teaching assistants and research assistants at Columbia University and the New School, has asked the National Labor Relations Board to hold elections on bids by the UAW to represent the T.A.s and R.A.s.”

Marquette University has suspended associate professor of political science John McAdams, pending an investigation into a controversial blog post he wrote about a teaching assistant. Inside Higher Ed has more details.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer wouldn’t hire Gwyneth Paltrow as a Yahoo Food contributor because the actress doesn’t have a college degree. Mean girls.

Upgrades and Downgrades

Pearson says it’s “Preparing for a Renaissance in Assessment.” Whee.

The New York Magazine ran an unbelievable story on Monday about a Stuyvesant High School senior named Mohammed Islam who reported had made $72 million investing in the stock market. Turns out Islam has actually made $0.

The Class of 2015 – the writers whose work will enter the public domain * next year. (* Except in the US, where nothing will enter the public domain.)

George Kroner offers a “Year in Review: Top LMS Developments of 2014.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary picked “culture” as its word of the year.

Lots of Elf on the Shelf panic this week, including rumors that the toy was first created by the NSA.

Re/Code looks at “Who Is Behind After School, the Anonymous App Taking Over American High Schools.” (The app has been pulled from the app store multiple times after it was used to threaten school violence.)

Pro tip: it’s probably not a good time to describe your startup as “Uber for Tutors,” what with all the sexual assaults and shadiness of the “ride-sharing” company.

“The Freedom of Information Act gives members of the public, including journalists, the ability to request documents from the government and organizations we support with our tax dollars. But at least one startup is trying to use it to harvest email addresses of current students at public universities.” Motherboard’s Adrianne Jeffries reports that Campus Job has filed some 18 FOIA requests for students’ email addresses.

Desmos has rolled out a new activity, Polygraph, to help student build their math vocabulary.

The New York Times writes about efforts to give low-income students in NYC eye exams and glasses.

Lego is reissuing its sets of female scientists working in laboratories, which were so popular when they went on sale this summer that they immediately sold out.

iRobot Launches Roomba-Based Robot Platform for STEM Ed.”

Flickr has removed CC-licensed photos from its Wall Art program following outcry and confusion about Yahoo’s plans to make money off of the users on its platform.

David Wiley has publishedAn Open Education Reader, a collection of readings on open education with commentary created by students in my graduate course Introduction to Open Education taught at Brigham Young University, Fall 2014.”

The online presentation-sharing tool Slide Bureau is shutting down on December 24. (According to its website, it marketed the tool to teachers. Frankly, I’d never heard of it before.)

Vibewrite (formerly Lernstift), maker of a pen that vibrated when you held it incorrectly, is bankrupt. The company had raised over €1 million from investors and crowdfunding. (It had just raised €560,000 three months ago apparently. So congrats on that burn rate, guys.)


Norman Ray Bridwell, author of the Clifford the Big Red Dog series, passed away last Friday.

Funding and Acquisitions

NewSchools Venture Fund has invested $100,000 into the education unconference Edcamp Foundation. “How Will Edcamp Change with a New Executive Director and $100,000?” asks Edsurge. More startups hawking their wares at these events would be my guess.

Clever has raised $30 million in funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners, GSV Capital, Peter Thiel, and Sequoia Capital. This brings to $43.3 million total investment raised by the company that helps get facilitate the movement of student data between apps and student information systems.

Helix Education is putting its competency-based LMS up for sale. Details via E-Literate.

DeVry Education Group has acquired the Brazilian bar exam test prep company Damásio.


According to research by the University of Chicago Crime Lab, a summer jobs program for teens in Chicago significantly reduced violent crime arrests.

According to UNICEF, some 5 million children in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia aren’t in school because of Ebola.

Teens are smoking fewer cigarettes. They are smoking more e-cigarettes.

According to data from DonorsChoose, 41% of projects posted to the site this past year came from teachers who work in the “highest poverty” schools. Books remain one of the most often requested classroom items.

The latest panic over the so-called “skills shortage”: apparently we’re not teaching kids “big data skills” in schools.

A Georgia Institute of Technology study has found that confusion over copyright has “chilling effects” on online creative publishing.

From Vox: “Kids in the US do a lot of pointless homework, in 2 charts.” From The Atlantic: “Where Teens Have the Most Homework.”

Most US kids lack sleep. News at 11.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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