Education Politics

Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) have negotiated a bipartisan revision to ESEA. According to The New York Times, “The bill retains the requirement for yearly tests in math and reading for every student in third through eighth grade, and once in high school, and requires that the scores, broken down by race and income, be made public.” “Is America Nearing the End of the No Child Left Behind Era?” Perhaps, if only because the name of the bill this time around is “The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.”

A “discussion draft” of a revision to FERPA was released to the US House of Representatives’ education committee.

From the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund:

Three similar bills recently introduced in the Minnesota legislature would require school districts to notify parents or guardians every time a fellow parent, guardian, or an adult student deems instructional material such as books or movies to be “sexually explicit or obscene and therefore harmful to minors.” Although the bills do not require discontinuing use of the disputed material, the most extreme version would force districts to publicly justify its retention in the curriculum. To make matters worse, all three bills would apparently allow complainants to remain anonymous.

Nine states attorneys general have written a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, calling for loan forgiveness for Corinthian Colleges’ students.

Meanwhile, some states (like Montana) are looking at revoking the driver’s licenses and other professional licenses from students who default on their student loans. Because that’s going to help them pay the money back.

Timed with the ASU-GSV Summit, the Department of Education released an ed-tech developers guide this week. (Here’s Edsurge’s coverage.) Justin Reich’s alt-preface is much better than the department’s.

The Texas legislature is debating a bill that would repeal in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.

Via Vox: “Rand Paul wants to close the Education Department. Here’s how that would work.”

The best education photo of the week comes from the UK, where Prime Minister David Cameron is on the campaign trail. Lucy, girl, I feel you.

Education in the Courts

The Marshall Project’s Dana Goldstein compares the convictions and (possible 20 year) sentences of the Atlanta educators to others accused/convicted of tampering with students’ standardized tests. (Spoiler alert: cheaters “hardly ever get punished this severely.”)

Consumer groups have filed a complaint with the FTC over the YouTube Kids app, “claiming it misleads parents and violates rules on ‘unfair and deceptive marketing’ for kids.” More via Wired.

Johns Hopkins is facing a $1 billion lawsuit “its role in U.S.-government experiments in Guatemala in the 1940s that infected hundreds of people with sexually transmitted diseases.”

Virginia’s Attorney General weighed in this week to say that Ellen Bowyer, the Amherst County attorney, does not have the legal authority to challenge Sweet Briar College’s closing.

The New York Attorney General is investigating board of Cooper Union, which announced last year that it would charge tuition for the first time in its history – its “management of its endowment; its handling of its major asset, the Chrysler Building; its dealings with Tishman Speyer Properties, which manages the skyscraper; and how it obtained a $175 million loan from MetLife using the building as collateral.”

GeekDad has settled its legal issues with Condé Nast, which in a huge jerk move tried to retain control of the GeekDad brand even though it started long before the blog moved under the Wired domain. The GeekDad folks are having to pay to keep their name.

Testing, Testing… (Privacy, InfoSec, and Edu Data)

The New York Times’ Natasha Singer looks at the controversy at Rutgers over ProctorTrack, an “anti-cheating” online testing platform.

“You have to put your face up to it and you put your knuckles up to it,” Ms. Chao said recently, explaining how the program uses webcams to scan students’ features and verify their identities before the test.

Once her exam started, Ms. Chao said, a red warning band appeared on the computer screen indicating that Proctortrack was monitoring her computer and recording video of her. To constantly remind her that she was being watched, the program also showed a live image of her in miniature on her screen.

…Proctortrack uses algorithms to detect unusual student behavior – like talking to someone off-screen – that could constitute cheating. Then it categorizes each student as having high or low ‘integrity.’

According to the Dallas News, Texas officials are not too concerned about students’ STAAR-related tweets.

The Tewksbury Public School District in Massachusetts published private student information online last week – specifically, “information for the out of district placements of 83 students [which] rates their parents according to their ‘cooperativeness’ with the district.”

A crowdfunding campaign to robocall all New York parents, urging them to opt their children out of standardized testing. Gee, no issues with privacy or data brokering there.

“Are Colleges Invading Their Students’ Privacy?” asks The Atlantic. Duh?


Iowa Presidential Caucuses: the MOOC

How 'Elite' Universities Are Using Online Education.” (It’s not really clear to me how it’s different than the non-elites.)

What public media reveals about MOOCs: A systematic analysis of news reports” in the British Journal of Educational Technology.

Starbucks is expanding its partnership with ASU Online. Starbucks employees can now apply for tuition reimbursements for all four years of a degree at the school.

Via the Hechinger Report: “Online courses might offer a path to more degrees – and to reducing the carbon footprint.”

“Let Prisoners Take College Courses,” says a NYT op-ed. I say, let prisoners receive federal financial aid so that they can get real degrees, not just MOOC certificates. (Related: “Past Drug Charges Derail a Law Student's Education.”)

Rolling Stone’s Horrific Journalistic Failure

Rolling Stone officially retracted its story from last November detailing a brutal gang rape at a party at a University of Virginia fraternity. After it was published, the veracity of the rape accusation quickly came into question, and the Columbia School of Journalism agreed to review how the magazine got the story wrong. (The full text of that review is here.) Despite the errors – which it acknowledges, Rolling Stone insists its editorial process was not at fault. The magazine’s publisher, Jann Wenner, calls Jackie (the woman who was the primary source for the story and the victim of the alleged gang rape) “an expert fabulist storyteller.” So pretty much, this whole thing is Jackie’s fault, according to Rolling Stone; not shitty journalism. The fraternity at the center of the story, Phi Kappa Psi, is suing the magazine. Considering the track record of sexual assault at that frat and others at UVA, I’m not sure how well that lawsuit will go for them. For the best summary of the report, read Melissa McEwan.

Meanwhile on Campus

Colleges Launch Food Pantries to Help Low-Income Students..”

Brazil: Where Free Universities Largely Serve the Wealthy.”

To Attract Students, Professors Produce Hollywood-Style Previews

Texas State University joins the list of schools which have accidentally sent acceptance letters to the wrong students. Not sure how that compares to this: “University of Florida admits 3,000 students — then tells them it is only for online program”

For a family whose ancestors were slaves at the Sweet Briar plantation, a loss.”

Go, School Sports Team!

There was a big basketball thing. Students rioted because… basketball thing. Go team.

“At Least 15 Athletics Programs to Offer More Than $4,000 in Extra Aid to Athletes,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

From the HR Department

The revolving door of ed-tech/education reform:

Scott Benson, who oversaw grants to blended and charter schools as a program officer at the Gates Foundation's Next Generation Learning Model team, is now a managing partner at NewSchools Venture Fund. Another Gatesie, program manager Emily Dalton-Smith, joined Facebook in March as product manager for its K-12 education team, which is working with Summit Public Schools on software to manage project-based learning.

The LA Times reports that unionized doctors at UC campuses’ student health clinics started a rolling strike this week, “accusing the university of unfair labor practices during negotiations for the physicians’ first contract.”

Harvard graduate students “start movement to unionize.”

A husband and wife – him, a senior lecturer and her an academic administrator – have been fired by the University of Bolton “for allegedly leaking information to the press about the vice-chancellor.”

Warwick University is outsourcing adjunct academic labor to a temp agency of sorts, “a national company, which intends to be rolled out across UK universities.”

Upgrades and Downgrades

The ASU-GSV Summit was held this week at a resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Apparently, the entrepreneurs, investors, politicians, and celebrities talked about ed-tech and other technological and market-oriented solutions for “equity” at their $2995 per person three-day event. LOL.

When Princeton Review and 2U founder John Katzman launched Noodle, it was described as a search engine for education programs. Now Noodle is going to help colleges build online programs, and the company is described as an “enabler.” Or a “disruptor of enablers.” I have no idea, but IHE and CHE spilled a lot of words on the story, so see if you can figure out if there’s substance there.

Also with a new startup that’s “hard to categorize,” Paul Freedman. His last startup Altius Education ran into problems with accreditors shut down the Ivy Bridge College program it had developed at Tiffin University. Freedman’s back, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education, with a new company called Entangled Ventures that is “part incubator, part investment fund, part consultant, and part reseller of services.”

I’m not really a fan of the color scheme on the Bloomberg Business site. But damn, the hot pink on this headline was marvelous: “News Corp.'s $1 Billion Plan to Overhaul Education Is Riddled With Failures.” My favorite quote from the story comes from a seventh grader describing the Amplify tablets: “I think they're evil.”

In other Amplify-related news, a Q&A with education game developer Zach Barth, founder of Zachtronics which had been building games for Amplify – the company has “gone dark.” Key quote: “Once we found out what the market is like for educational games, that totally destroyed any hope of doing that.”

Chegg is partnering with InsideTrack for career coaching services.

WeFinance, a crowdfunding + student loan provider, has launched. Here’s the Techcrunch write-up.

SIIA’s education division has announced the participants in its “Innovation Incubator Program.” One of them is some tiny little company called Adobe. Way to level the playing field in a startup competition, SIIA.

Intel is launching an Education Accelerator. Maybe Adobe can join that one too.

If Adobe can’t get a spot in Intel’s accelerator, perhaps it can try BoomStartup, another new accelerator program. This one, based in Utah, is run by “former Pearson pals,” says Edsurge.

Inside Higher Ed reports that NITLE, the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education, is undergoing a year-long review and “‘will migrate its operations’ to the Council on Library and Information Resources, or CLIR, in Washington, D.C.”

Funding and Acquisitions

LinkedIn is buying for $1.5 billion. It's a strong move into the education vertical, which LinkedIn has been inching towards by making it easy for you to add your MOOC certificates to your profile, for example. Considering how lousy LinkedIn handles data portability, I sure wouldn't trust it as the place to showcase your skills portfolio. But hey. What do I know. Wired’s #hottake: “LinkedIn's CEO Thinks His $1.5B Buy Will Make You Smarter.” Re/Code’s #hottake: “Three Reasons LinkedIn Broke the Bank for”

Valore (formerly SimpleTuition) has acquired Boundless, the textbook replacement startup. Terms were not disclosed.

Nearpod has raised ~$5.6 million from Reach Capital, Rothenberg Ventures, Storm Ventures, Emerson Collective, Stanford-StartX Fund, the Knight Foundation, Arsenal Venture Partners, Krillion Venture, Marc Benioff (CEO of Salesforce), and Deborah Quazzo. The startup, which allows teachers to share presentations onto students’ tablets, has raised $7.1 million.

The bibliographic references tool RefME has raised $5 million in seed funding from GEMS Global and others.

Educents has raised $2.9 million in seed funding from SoftTech VC, Crosslink Capital, Deep Fork Capital, Kapor Capital, Learn Capital also participating, Deborah Quazzo, and Joanne Wilson. “Educents’ mission is to create a more efficient marketplace that saves teachers both time and money,” says Edsurge.

Showbie has raised $2.3 million from Point Nine Capital, Kymbask Investments, Yaletown Venture Partners, and Imagine K12. The startup “wants to make it easier for teachers to share assignments with students and for those students to turn in their homework online,” says Techcrunch.

ProQuest has acquired digital materials management company SIPX. Terms were not disclosed.

Career hub AfterCollege has acquired career hub Collegefeed for an undisclosed sum.

The Learning House has acquired the coding bootcamp company Software Craftsmanship Guild. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Cheddar Up has raised $725,000 in a seed round from The Foundry Group. According to Edsurge, the startup offers “an online fundraising tool to help schools and Parent Teacher Associations up their cheddar from their communities.”

Purple Squirrel has raised an undisclosed “pre-series A” round of funding from Matrix Partners. The Indian firm, according to Tech in Asia, is “a supplementary education provider which conducts practical and industry-driven educational initiatives such as facilitating industry visits, workshops, and hands-on training sessions for students across engineering, arts, sciences, and commerce.”

Investment firm Ritz Ventures has acquired online education provider Classroom24–7 for an undisclosed sum.

Singapore-based XSEED Education has acquired Mumbai-based Pleolabs. Terms were not disclosed.

Chicago-based startups digedu and Modern Teacher are merging, reports Edsurge.

1105 Media Inc, which runs THE Journal and Campus Technology, has sold the ed-tech conference FETC to LRP Conferences.

In related news: The New York Times asked investors about ethics and (ed-tech) investment, specially relating to Yik Yak. It’s still waiting for a comment…

Data and “Research”

From the National Education Policy Center, a report called “On the Block: Student Data and Privacy in the Digital Age.” Education Week’s summary:

Its authors, Alex Molnar and Faith Boninger, both University of Colorado researchers, recommend that legal protections be extended beyond students’ formal educational records to include the wide range of student data – including anonymous information and “metadata,” such as what type of device a student is using or where they are accessing the Internet – that is now frequently collected and shared by ed-tech companies. The researchers also recommend that the legal burden to protect students’ information be shifted to include vendors, as well as schools and districts.

According to UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report, 58 million children worldwide do not attend primary school.

From the American Enterprise Institute: “Employer perspectives on competency-based education” and “Measuring mastery: Best practices for assessment in competency-based education.”

A study by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Human Development examines the language development of Mexican-American toddlers and the gap between those children and white toddlers of the same age.

Pacific Standard looks at research on the benefits of foreign language learning (and notes that learning a programming language isn’t the same thing.)

Following an unflattering profile of Success Academy Charter Schools in The New York Times, the Shanker Institute’s Matthew Di Carlo runs the numbers of the chain’s claims about teacher turnover. From Freddie deBoer: “Success Academy Charter Schools will never, ever scale.” Of course, that rarely stops education companies from trying.

According to Alexander Russo, “Big Chunk Of DonorsChoose Goes To Schools Below 65 Percent Poverty.”

From the Pew Research Center: “Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015.” (Lots of really interesting information in this report, particularly about race, class, and gender. I’ll have an article about the report next week in Educating Modern Learners.)

From the Berkman Center: “Digitally Connected: Global Perspectives on Youth and Digital Media.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Female students – especially in their first year – are more likely to actively participate and less likely to feel anxious if they have the chance to work in small groups that are majority female, according to a new study that will appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

The Brontosaurus is back! [Insert education-related joke here. Bonus points if you can work "disruptive innovation" into the punchline.]

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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