Education Politics

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (and Republican presidential candidate hopeful) announced a $300 million budget cut to the state’s higher education system, couching it in terms of “independence.” He says that the plan will make universities "do things that they have not traditionally done" – including require professors teach more classes per semester.

President Obama is backing away from his proposal to end the "529" college savings accounts. The Chronicle of Higher Education looks at “who’s saving for college in 529 plans.” (3% of families.)

Education Week obtained a draft of President Obama’s proposed “Student Digital Privacy Act” which has apparently been renamed to include the word “innovation.” “Unlike the California law, the draft version of the proposed federal bill obtained by Education Week does not contain an explicit prohibition on vendors amassing profiles of K–12 students for non-educational uses. Nor does the draft federal bill follow California’s approach of prohibiting vendors from collecting student information via an educational site, service, or application, then using that information to target advertising to students elsewhere.” Because innovation.

Chicago Public Schools board member (and ed-tech investor) Deborah Quazzo faced criticisms at this week’s school board meeting over her investment portfolio. Companies she’s invested in have seen their business with the district triple since she was appointed to the board.

The Department of Education is threatening to withhold some $1.2 billion in funding for Illinois and Chicago in response to CPS’s decision to only administer the new PARCC exam to 10% of district students.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has signed an executive order allowing parents to opt their children out of the PARCC exam.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (via Politico), “Federal revenues for public elementary and secondary education dropped by a whopping 21.5 percent in fiscal year 2012.” Per pupil spending dropped by 2.8%, as “schools across the country spent an average of $10,667 per student.”

A proposed bill in Texas would allow teachers to use “force or deadly force on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event in defense of the educator’s person or in defense of students of the school that employs the educator” – that is, to kill a student.

The Wyoming legislature is weighing a measure to allow concealed weapons on school campuses.

Proposed legislation in Colorado would teach schoolchildren about sex abuse (although it’s anticipated that Republicans in the legislature will kill the bill).

A proposed bill in Kentucky would allow computer science courses to count as a foreign language requirement.

The Ohio Department of Education is proposing to eliminate the “5 to 8” rule, reports the School Library Journal. “The 30-year-old rule states that at least five of eight of the following full-time education personnel positions must be filled for every 1,000 students in the district: librarian, art teacher, music teacher, physical-education teacher, counselor, nurse, social worker, and visiting teacher.”

A law in Taiwan now curbs the amount of time that children under age 18 can be exposed to electronic devices. It doesn’t specify how much time is “too much,” but will fine parents whose children become “physically or mentally” ill from too much tech exposure.

No Child Left Behind May End, But The Industry It Spawned Is Here To Stay,” says Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy. In other words: NCLB-mandated standardized testing is (maybe) dead; long live standardized testing.

Education and the Courts

Steven Salaita has filed a lawsuit against the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign – administrators, trustees, and university donors – over the school’s decision to revoke the job offer for tenured professorship because of pro-Palestinian comments he made on social media.

A class action lawsuit in Alabama alleges that school police officers used excessive force on students. From The Marshall Project,

“The eight lead plaintiffs, all former Birmingham high school students, are represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Incident reports show that Birmingham school officers have used a pepper spray/tear gas combination product on over 300 students since 2006, in 110 separate incidents at eight of the city's nine high schools, according to SPLC attorney Ebony Howard. (The only school where chemical spray was not used requires high test scores for admission.) The lawsuit seeks to curtail the practice and win damages for several of the plaintiffs, all of whom are black – like 96 percent of Birmingham public school students.”

Garfield High School teacher Jesse Hagopian – instrumental in that school’s “opt out” efforts – is suing the city of Seattle for $500,000 after he was pepper-sprayed by police after speaking at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally.

From the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, “A federal judge in Missouri has ordered a charter school operator to pay nearly $1 million to the board of Renaissance Academy in Kansas City for saddling the school with unreasonably high lease payments.” (The charter school chain in question: Imagine Schools Inc.)

According to The Stanford Daily, Joe Lonsdale – the co-founder of Palantir and founder of the VC fund Formation 8 – has been accused of sexual assault while he was a student at Stanford. A lawsuit by the alleged victim was filed this week.

The Department of Justice has agreed to pay Nicholas George $25,000 after detaining him at an airport for 5 hours because he had Arabic language flash cards in his pocket.

Davos’ Education “Fix”

Private equity investor Stephen Schwarzmann thinks that public schools should not get more money but can instead be “fixed” with unpaid labor:

“I’ve always wondered, what you do in a society with people who just retire,” he told conference attendees. “If you could get those people, like a board, [to be an] unpaid workforce, pay them next to nothing or nothing, and have them go into the school system to be mentors to kids, and be an example of a certain type of success that you would get dramatically different outcomes. If you can get unemployed people that cost nothing, that can have this dramatic difference, that costs nothing. I love things that cost nothing that have great results. Imagine if you laid on technology and other types of things, you could really set the world on fire with this type of stuff.”

From the BBC: “The man with 26 million students” – that is Codecademy Zach Sims and his Davos argument about the so-called “skills gap.”

The full program from the World Economic Forum is here. What happened to the MOOC hype?!


U Michigan Launches Residential MOOC on Healthcare Policy.” I have no idea why this is a MOOC. Enrollment is openly open to UM students, so it’s not open. There’ll only be 800 students, so it’s not massive. And while there are TV show episodes, it’s not online.

Dissertations on MOOCs published in 2014.”

P2PU and the Chicago Public Library are among the recipients of the Knight News Challenge on Libraries grant. The partnership will support open online learning in local libraries.

The Grand Plan to Give Everyone a Free Year of Online College” – on investor Steven Klinsky’s plan to pay for freshmen to MOOC.

Meanwhile on Campus

The business of fake diplomas” – a (fake) Harvard diploma will run you $650 and you needn’t sit through any MOOCs. Elsewhere in fake schools, federal investigators are cracking down on schools that selling documents to foreigners in order to obtain student visas.

“Google, a long-time supporter of Singularity University (SU), has agreed to a two-year, $3 million contribution to SU’s flagship Graduate Studies Program (GSP). Google will become the program’s title sponsor and ensure all successful direct applicants get the chance to attend free of charge.” Singularity University is a for-profit, non-accredited school. “Participants spend a fast-paced ten weeks learning all they need to know for the final exam—a chance to develop and then pitch a world-changing business plan to a packed house.” LOL.

The measles outbreak tied to Disneyland continues. The New York Times profiles Carl Krawitt, whose six year old son is recovering from leukemia and is asking the Marin County school district to keep unvaccinated students out of school. 70 students from Palm District High School have been banned from classes because they are not immunized and a classmate has the measles. More on kindergarten vaccination rates via Kieran Healy.

Meanwhile, at Hampden-Sydney College, some 300 students (almost a third of those enrolled) have norovirus, prompting the school to cancel classes.

Harvard still has the largest university endowment ($36 billion), followed by University of Texas ($25 billion) and Yale ($24 billion). Endowments returned an average of 15.5% in 2014, up from 11.7% in 2013.

In related endowment news from Vox: “Why Harvard owns 10,000 acres of California vineyards.”

The son of New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow was detained at gunpoint at Yale, where he is a student, this week. More details on this and other racial profiling incidents in Blow’s column.

Charitable donations to universities hit a record high last year – $38 billion.

Dartmouth is banning hard liquor at college- or student-sponsored events. (Good luck with that.)

Purdue University president Mitch Daniels (formerly the governor of Indiana) wants standardized testing on campus to assess whether or not Purdue students are learning.

Still struggling with its technology implementation – you guessed it – LAUSD, which this week announced it would delay distribution of some 19,000 laptops. North Carolina’s Guilford County has apparently (finally) got its Amplify tablet initiative up and running.

The University of Florida is changing the name of its ISIS student record system so that no one will confuse it with the Islamic terrorist group. Because Florida.

Virginia Commonwealth University will drop its SAT requirement for admissions.

Minnesota’s Metropolitan State University has admitted to a data breach involving personnel records, including Social Security numbers.

A former Oregon State University student has been accused of filming a pornographic video in the school’s library. She faces as much as one year in jail and a $6250 fine if found guilty.

University of Oregon Professor Bill ­Harbaugh has returned some 22,000 university documents – “uncensored UO presidential documents” – that the school says were given to him in error.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, “Ohio State University has spent a combined $900,000 in a follow-up investigation of the marching band and defending itself in a lawsuit filed by fired band director Jonathan Waters.”

From the press release: “The leaders of 18 colleges of education and teacher-preparation programs, who collectively enroll 15,000 teachers annually, announced today a new organization to promote a collective vision to improve teacher preparation in the US: Deans for Impact.”

Former NFL star Deion Sanders’ Dallas charter school Prime Prep Academy will surrender its charter. The school has been facing financial and accreditation problems for years.

The Great Yik Yak Panic of ’15

Do your kids Yik Yak? Time for a chat.” “The Folly of Banning Yik Yak on School Campuses.” “A New Faculty Challenge: Fending Off Yik Yak.” “Investigating the Yik Yak Attack.” “If Yik Yak is the problem, education is the answer, say local school boards.” “Student Government Poses Yik Yak Resolution.”

Go, School Sports Team!

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Colleges Raised a Record $1.26-Billion for Sports in 2014.”

According to The Miami Herald, in order to help pay for hosting the Miss Universe pagent (estimated price tag: $544,073), Florida International University proposed dipping into funds intended for female athletes.

Via Buzzfeed: “Study Links Playing Tackle Football Before Age 12 To Cognitive Impairment.”

Two former Vanderbilt football players, Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey, were convicted of raping a fellow student “after a jury rejected claims that they were too drunk to know what they were doing and that a college culture of binge drinking and promiscuous sex should be blamed for the attack.”

Via The LA Times: “A former Stanford University swimmer will face several felony charges after prosecutors say he raped a woman as she lay unconscious on campus grounds.” He’s “former” because he withdrew from the university this week.

Via Vice Sports: “Inside an Elite High School’s Culture of Hazing and Bullying.”

According to Inside Higher Ed, “college athletes vastly overestimate their chances of playing professional sports.”

From the HR Department

The Department of Education is seeking (unpaid) summer interns.

The University of Bristol is seeking an Associate Dean of Eureka Moments.

Upgrades and Downgrades

The Gates Foundation is betting that “better software will revolutionize learning.” It’s not clear to me where you place your opposing bet.

Known already for the dearth of female editors, Wikipedia has stirred up more controversy recently over entries related to Goobergate. The site is in the process of sanctioning some of the editors involved and banning them from updating any articles related to gender. From the Wikipedia blog: “Civility, Wikipedia, and the Conversation on Gamergate.” In related news, the site is also desperately lacking when it comes to Black history.

Meet the Radical Brownies: Girl Scouts for the Modern Age.”

From the press release: “A 17 year-old just dropped out of high school to launch Leangap, a 6-week summer entrepreneurship accelerator for teen startups.”

iOS 8.1.3 is out which “adds new configuration options for education standardized testing.”

New Texas Instruments TI–84 calculators are thinner and lighter and now come in hot pink because, ya know, girls and STEM or something.

Nature Publishing Group is moving to CC-By 4.0 as the default license for its open access journals.

Via Techcrunch: “Homeroom Brings Private Photo Sharing To The Classroom.” (Prediction: slapping “private” and “privacy” labels onto products will be the big feature promise – a false promise – for ed-tech in 2015.)

Vine has launched Vine Kids, for short “kid friendly” videos. Not sure how COPPA plays here as this is clearly designed for those under 13.

According to The Washington Post, “More than a week before the SAT was given to students in Asia on Saturday, Jan. 24, some if not all of the questions on two versions of the exam given that day were posted online, and a week in advance of the exam, a U.S. nonprofit organization known as FairTest received a PDF of one of the SAT test forms.”

Via Education Week: “K12 Inc., a publicly traded online education company that had experienced significant drops in its stock value in recent years, was the second highest ‘gainer’ on the New York Stock Exchange at the close of business on Thursday, following the release of its second quarter earnings report for fiscal year 2015.” In other words, the stock market loves cheap, shoddy, shady for-profit online education. Nice.

Funding and Acquisitions

Ed-tech and charter school investor NewSchools Venture Fund is spinning out its seed fund into a separate for-profit organization. More on the news from one of its portfolio companies, Edsurge.

Earnest has raised $17 million in funding from Maveron. The company, which describes itself as a “merit-based lender” will bring “data science” to student loans. It’s raised $32 million total.

STEAM Engine has raised $8 million, according to an SEC filing. The startup, founded by former National Geographic president Tim Kelly does not have a website or a product yet. But hey.

Straighterline has raised $5.4 million in funding, according to an SEC filing. This brings the total raised by the online course provider to $15 million.

Koru has raised $8 million from Maveron, City Light Capital, Trilogy Equity Partners, Battery Ventures, and First Round. The company, which offers training programs for new college graduates, has raised $12.6 million total.

SpecialNeedsWare has raised $3 million from undisclosed investors.

Redshelf has raised $2 million from the National Association of College Stores. The company, which distributes digital textbooks, has raised $3 million total.

Globaloria, which offers STEM courses in programming and game-making, has raised $995,000, according to an SEC filing.

Querium has raised $800,000 from ICG Ventures and “private investors.” The company, which makes assessment tools, has raised $2.8 million total.

“Skills” training company Pluralsight has acquired Code School for $36 million.

Microsoft has acquired Revolution Analytics, provider of support services for the statistical programming language R. The terms were not disclosed.

Fingerprint has acquired Cognitive Kid and Scribble Press. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.


From the investment firm Berkery Noyes: highlights from investments, mergers, and acquisitions in the education industry in 2014. The firm says 2015 looks to be “a good year for M&A activity” too.

De-anonymized data is not a thing. According to research by MIT’s Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, “knowing just four random pieces of information was enough to reidentify 90 percent of the shoppers as unique individuals and to uncover their records.” More via The New York Times.

Oh my, the differences that Pew Research found between how the public and scientists view science.

The Carnegie Foundation says we should probably keep the Carnegie Unit.

Digital reading company conducts survey, finds teachers think there will be more digital reading in the future.

Online education could maybe lower tuition costs, says non-peer reviewed research paper.

“The idea that teachers have consistently come from the lower third [based on SAT scores is just wrong,” says Stanford University’s Susannah Loeb. More on the research in The Hechinger Report.

The number of English majors is on the decline, says Inside Higher Ed.

This week in education-related Betteridge’s Law of Headlines: “Could Video Feedback Replace the Red Pen?” “Is ‘Grit’ Racist?

The week in education-related graphs and maps and charts from Edsurge and Vox and Vox again.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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