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The State of the Union


Tuesday night, President Obama gave the annual State of the Union pep-talk. Among the education-related proposals: free community college, a law protecting student’s data and privacy, streamlined higher education tax credits, and universal pre-school.

Reponses: Via Ben Schmidt, the changing language over time in State of the Union addresses. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal makes the case for the Common Core and for more rigorous grammar and punctuation instruction. John Boehner invokes Taylor Swift animated GIFs.

Education Politics Elsewhere


A new law in Illinois would require students hand over their social media passwords to schools if the school has reason to believe that their social media accounts have evidence she or he violated a school policy. Even if it’s posted at home, after school hours. Remind me again how the federal government is going to protect student privacy again?

LAUSD announced that it will keep email records for two years. Shortly after news broke about emails detailing close ties between former superintendent John Deasy and Pearson officials, the LAUSD Board voted to delete emails after one year. Some divisions can opt to keep their emails for longer than two years. Does storing email really take up that much space? Couldn’t the district just buy a couple 64 GB iPads to store the files?

Chicago Public Schools will only give 10% of students the new PARCC exam, going against the state of Illinois’ decree that all students take the test.

The Wyoming House of Representatives is taking steps to overturn a budget provision that bans the state from adopting the Next Generation Science Standards.

NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña is poised to re-centralize a district hierarchy, making principals report to regional superintendents and reversing a policy of the Mayor Bloomberg / Joel Klein era.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a number of new education reforms “that would impose stricter teacher evaluations, extend the period of time to earn tenure, expand charter schools and boost state oversight of failing schools.” He will also propose legislation to cut the student loan burden of state residents, with the state paying for two years of loan repayments for those who earn less than $50,000 a year. “Cuomo's Education Agenda Sets Battle Lines With Teachers' Unions,” says The New York Times.

Vermont governor Peter Shumlin says he wants to outlaw teachers going on strike.

Ed-Tech and the Courts


A lawsuit charging that Google and Viacom illegally tracked kids using the Nickelodeon website has been dismissed, reports Re/code.

Tim McGettigan, a sociology professor at Colorado State University Pueblo, is suing the school for violating his free speech rights, charging that the university blocked his computer access after he tried to organize protests in response to planned layoffs. More on the story via The Denver Post.

Tech and Surveillance


Via the EFF: “The Associated Press reports that healthcare.gov–the flagship site of the Affordable Care Act, where millions of Americans have signed up to receive health care–is quietly sending personal health information to a number of third party websites. The information being sent includes one’s zip code, income level, smoking status, pregnancy status and more.” Remind me once again how the federal government is going to protect student privacy?

After initially refusing to sign Google has now added its name to the list of companies who’ve signed a “student privacy pledge,” that contains a number of provisions “including not selling student information, not using online behavior to target advertising, using data for ”authorized education purposes“ only, agreeing to strict limits on retaining data, and giving parents access to information collected about their children.” Organizers of the pledge insist that this is more than a pinky-swear: “companies that sign could face government sanction if they are deemed to be deceiving consumers by going back on their word.”

Online Education


Inside Higher Ed has more details on the sexual harassment charges against MIT physics professor Walter Lewin, as one of his accusers has come forward with details about the the harassment which, she says, “started day one” of her signing up for his edX class.

Speaking of online harassment, Marquette University grad student Cheryl Abbate has posted the details of what she experienced following professor John McAdams’ blog post about how she handled a discussion of gay marriage in one of her classes.

Coursera's new partner Xi'an Jiaotong Universitylaunches new on-demand courses.” (On-demand courses don’t have start dates or deadlines, sorta like, ya know, courseware.)

2048: Super MOOC Pioneers Edition

Meanwhile, On Campus


All 31 UVA fraternities have now signed the new rules designed to enhance safety at their events and curb binge drinking. And in related news, Ben Gorman, a member of Phi Kappa Psi – the fraternity that was accused in the infamous Rolling Stone article of being a site of an alleged gang rape – was elected president of the university’s Inter-Fraternity Council.

Arizona State University is backing away from some of its controversial plans to up the amount of courses its writing instructors have to teach – from four to five without any additional pay.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “A group of 24 colleges and universities have teamed up to develop and share online courses that are designed to help students complete general-science education courses. Arizona State University and Smart Sparrow, an ‘adaptive’ learning company, helped create the group, which is dubbed the Inspark Science Network. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributed a $4.5-million grant to Smart Sparrow for the project.” If you can’t make ’em teach five classes for the price of four, replace ’em with software, right?

Duke University has suspended the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity following reports that a woman was sexually assaulted at one of its parties.

The Oklahoma State University Library has joined the HathiTrust.

University of Oregon unlawfully releases 22,000 pages with confidential faculty, staff and student records,” reports The Oregonian.

The Flatiron School has partnered with Teach for America to teach computer science to TFA members and alumni.

Two Illinois high school students face felony charges after hacking into their school’s computer system and changing attendance records.

David Nichol, a senior at Rice University, turned his dorm room into a ball pit (and commenters at Inside Higher Ed are not amused).

Thanks to anti-vaxxers, California is now experiencing the largest measles outbreak in 15 years. The outbreak started at Disneyland. There are now 54 patients with the disease that can be traced back to the unhappiest place on earth. Health officials in Orange County are ordering students to stay out of class if they cannot prove they’ve been immunized.

75% of college campuses employ armed officers.

Go, School Sports Team!


The NCAA has agreed to restore 111 victories to Penn State, again making Joe Paterno the winning-est college football coach in history. Those victories were stripped following the sex scandal involving assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

Two former University of North Carolina students are suing the university and the NCAA for failing to provide the quality of education they were promised. The case is the second to be filed since a report last year revealed that university staff had steered some 1500 students into “no show” classes.

The “NCAA Says It's Investigating Academic Fraud at 20 Colleges.”

At the NCAA’s annual convention, the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific 12, and Southeastern Conferences all voted to expand their athletic scholarships to cover the full cost of an athlete’s university.

Five high school football players in Florida were charged with gang-raping a fellow student. Police say that the victim recorded the attack with her iPod.

Solano Community College has expelled three women’s basketball players after they were arrested and jailed for allegedly assaulting a fellow student,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

The University of California Board of Regents has tabled a plan to tie coaches’ bonuses to students’ academic performance.

Is Quidditch a Sport? An Investigation.”

From the HR Department


Condoleeza Rice will take over as the head of the Foundation for Excellent in Education, an organization founded by former Florida governor (and likely presidential candidate) Jeb Bush.

John O’Brien will be Educause’s new president and CEO.

James Willcox, the CEO of the charter school chain Aspire Public Schools, is stepping down.

The University of North Carolina president Thomas Ross was forced out of office last week by its Board of Governors, which as The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the political machinations, “has 32 voting members, 29 of whom have been appointed by the legislature since Mr. Ross took office.”

Members of Columbia College’s adjunct union have voted to disaffiliate from the Illinois Education Association. More via Inside Higher Ed.

Upgrades and Downgrades


Headline of the week: “Everybody hates Pearson.”

Pearson, however, loves Pearson: “Pearson Announces Revolutionary Tablet-Based Interactive Assessment for English Language Learners.” And “Thousands of Students Realize Dramatic Grade-Level Gains Learning With iLit, Pearson's Tablet-Based Reading Intervention Program.”

AT&T has launched an ed-tech accelerator program. Among those on the Board of Advisors: Edusrge’s CEO Betsy Corcoran and Udacity’s CEO Sebastian Thrun.

Thanks to a grant from AT&T, Khan Academy has launched an iPad app that has over 150,000 exercises.

Starting next week: Dust, a very cool looking alternate reality game for teens.

Arduino-compatible Quirkbot lets kids build robots out of straws.”

New SAT, New Problems.”

FERPA gives students the right to demand access to their educational record. The New York Times reports on Fountain Hopper, a newsletter that encourages students to do this in order to view copies of their admissions records (including recommendation letters).

The Museum of the Future Is Here,” pronounces The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer on the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt.

Remind (101) has launched a Spanish-language version of its app, or rather, users can select Spanish as their preferred language.

The open-source photo storage tool Trovebox is shutting down.

What we’ve all been waiting: “Amazon Launches Kindle Textbook Creator.”

Funding and Acquisitions


The learn-to-code startup CodeHS has raised $1.75 million from Learn Capital, the NewSchools Seed Fund, Kapor Capital, Chmod Ventures, the Stanford-StartX Fund, and Seven Peaks Ventures.

Chalk.com has raised $500,000 from MaRS Investment Acceleration Fund, BDC Capital, Ryan Holmes (CEO of Hootsuite), and John Baker (CEO of Desire2Learn). The startup is described by Edsurge as “Microsoft Office for Teachers.”

Slate Science has raised $12 million from “existing angel investors.” The company, which makes math software, has raised $13.1 million total.

Testive has raised $500,000 in “a bridge round from Walter Winshall, David Gardner, and ‘inside investors,’” reports Edsurge. The test prep company has raised $1 million total.

Citelighter has raised $2 million from Propel Baltimore Fund, Maryland Venture Fund, Gulf Ventures, New York Angels, Baltimore Angels, Blue Ventures, George Roche, Ed Hajim, and Frank Bonsal Jr. The writing tool has raised $4.5 million total.

SingSpiel, a startup that “gamifies piano practice,” has raised $350,000 from the Investment Accelerator Fund.

The homework help app XueXiBao has raised $20 million from SoftBank China Venture Capital and GSR Ventures.

The ed-tech startup accelerator LearnLaunchX has raised $1.13 (out of a planned $1.9 million), reports the Boston Business Journal.

Simplilearn has raised $14.66 million from Mayfield India, Helion Ventures, and Kalaari Capital. The Bangalore-based company offers online professional certification and has raised $27 million total.

Coding school Hack Reactor has acquired coding school MakerSquare. (A 12-week program at the latter costs $13,880; a 12-week program at the former costs $17,780.)

Via Edsurge: “Pearson is injecting $50 million of new capital for its Affordable Learning Fund, which invests in education projects in developing countries.”

“Research” and Data


The Council of Graduate Schools “is organizing a new effort to create a set of standards for what information to collect about Ph.D.'s and how to collect it,” reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. “If the project goes well, it could be the first step toward establishing a national clearinghouse for Ph.D. jobs that would potentially allow prospective students to compare career outcomes for different programs.”

These headlines seem to appear regularly and stir up panic about schools’ and students’ technology usage. From Salon: “Wi-Fi exposure may be worse for kids than we thought.” From The Chronicle: “Facebook Addiction and GPA.”

According to MDR’s State of the K–12 Market 2014 survey, “Nearly 90% of districts expect their 2014–2015 technology budgets in hardware, software, teacher training, and technical support to stay the same or increase.”

A report released by the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows a discrepancy between how “career ready” soon-to-be college graduates describe themselves and how “career ready” employers think college graduates actually are.

From 1987 to 2013, the number of associate’s degrees conferred in academic disciplines classified by the Humanities Indicators as being within the humanities increased by an average of 4.3% each year." More from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences here.

The US might lag in test scores, but it beats other nations in child poverty, violent death, and teen pregnancy. USA! USA! USA!

According to a study published in the European Journal of Sports Sciences, “more than half of secondary school boys and two-thirds of girls never shower after PE.” We’ll let you win that one, England.

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Audrey Watters


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