Education Politics

Via the AP: “Linking reading to technology, the White House marshaled major book publishers to provide more than $250 million in free e-books to low-income students and is seeking commitments from local governments and schools across the country to ensure that every student has a library card.” The initiative is part of his ConnectED program, in which ed-tech companies push their products into schools. Hooray for libraries, though. Here’s the DPLA’s announcement.

US Representatives Jared Polis and Luke Messer have introduced the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015, which “would prohibit operators of websites, apps and other online services for kindergartners through 12th graders from knowingly selling students’ personal information to third parties; from using or disclosing students’ personal information to tailor advertising to them; and from creating personal profiles of students unless it is for a school-related purpose.” The ed-tech industry is “wary,” says Education Week. LOL, of course they are.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has entered the US presidential race, pledging “a ‘revolution’ in how higher education is funded. His plan is for the federal government to award $18 billion per year in matching grants to states over and above existing federal aid.Bernie Sanders This would allow public colleges to cut tuition rates by 55 percent, he said.”

In other presidential candidate news – good lord, do I have to do this for another whole year?! – Florida Senator Marco Rubio apparently “went to bat” for Corinthian Colleges last year, asking the Department of Education for leniency with the for-profit college chain. (More on the big news from Corinthian below.)

“Education Groups Were The Biggest-Spending Lobbyists In New York Last Year,” reports Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy. The pro-charter school group Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. spent $9.6 million on lobbying in 2014, outspending the next four highest groups on the list combined.

Via The New York Times: “Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan unveiled a proposal on Thursday to overhaul the failing Detroit public school system by creating two districts - one to manage paying off billions of dollars in debt, the other to oversee the day-to-day operations of the schools.”

The White House has named the Teacher of the Year: Amarillo, Texas high school teacher Shanna Peeples.

Education in the Courts

The judge in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial has reduced the prison terms from 7 to 3 years for 3 of the educators sentenced last week.

A lawsuit against Western Educational Inc. which runs the for-profit college chain Heritage College can proceed, according to Inside Higher Ed, as “a federal appeals court Wednesday ordered a for-profit college to defend itself on charges it defrauded the U.S. government by altering grade and attendance records in an effort to receive more federal student aid.”

After successfully challenging California’s teacher tenure rules in the courts, Student Matters is now looking to do the same in New Mexico, says Politico.

Testing, Testing…

95% of students at Seattle’s Garfield High School have opted out of the Common Core assessments.

“Several Florida School Districts Cut (Way) Back On Tests,” reports NPR.

NAEP scores were released, so cue the panicky headlines: “Don’t know much about history? Many 8th graders do poorly on tests focused on social studies.”

Edsurge reports that a school district in Texas is piloting Desmos during the 8th grade STAAR tests as an alternative to graphing calculators.


The MOOC Research Initiative has released a report on MOOC research – “Preparing for the Digital University,” written by George Siemens, Dragan Gašević, and Shane Dawson. (PDF) Stephen Downes responds in the OLDaily. George Siemens responds on Twitter. Stephen Downes responds in a blog post. George Siemens responds in a blog post.

Thanks to a public records request by Inside Higher Ed, we now can read the edX-Arizona State University contract. This in turn has prompted more thoughts on their freshman-year-of-MOOCs deal announced last week from Matt Reed, John Warner, and Jonathan Rees.

Via Times Higher Education: “The cost of developing massive open online courses for FutureLearn, the UK Mooc platform, has varied widely among some institutions, an analysis by Times Higher Education has revealed. While Loughborough University says that it has produced two courses for about £10,000 each, the University of Dundee has allocated £130,000 to a programme that has so far produced one course, although another is imminent.”

The University of Nottingham has trademarked “NOOC,” “Nottingham Open Online Course.” The trademark covers “NOOC” on beer mats, gift wrap, pencil sharpeners, CD-ROMs, and much, much more. Because “open.”

Meanwhile on Campus

Corinthian Colleges announced that it would immediately close its doors, leaving some 16,000 students at its Everest, Heald, and Wyotech College schools without a school to attend. The chain of for-profit colleges has been under fire for some time now. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has accused the company of predatory lending. And last year, the US Department of Education reached a deal with the chain to close or sell off all of its 107 campuses and online programs, following a number of investigations into its marketing practices. The collapse could cost taxpayers $200 million in loans, Bloomberg Business frets. The Department of Education posted this statement from undersecretary Ted Mitchell, while still directing former Corinthian students to other troubled for-profits.

Europe’s largest arms dealer will take over a struggling school in the north of England. What could possibly go wrong?

Via University World News: “The number of Russian universities will be cut by 40% by the end of 2016, according to Minister of Education and Science Dmitry Livanov. In addition, the number of university branches will be slashed by 80% in the same period.”

Texas A&M professor fails entire class, rage-quits.

Public schools in Baltimore were shut down this week following violent clashes between police and protestors, stemming from the death of Freddie Gray, who died after suffering a spinal injury while in police custody. Al Jazeera looks at what happens when students who normally eat breakfast and lunch at school do not have food as they’re forced to stay at home.

What is Columbia University’s responsibility when it comes to Dr. Oz’s unscientific, “dangerous,” and “wrong” medical device? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Via Boing Boing: “French media reports that a 15-year-old Muslim girl in the northeastern French town of Charleville-Mezieres was banned from class–twice!–for wearing a skirt that was too long.”

“The University of Florida closed its chapter of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity Tuesday over allegations that members insulted and spat on disabled veterans during a spring formal earlier this month at Panama City Beach,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

On the campus of Lebanon Valley college, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education, “chicken tenders are a teaching tool.”

Via The Wall Street Journal: “Venture Capitalists Enlist Student-Run Funds to Find the Next Facebook.”

Go, School Sports Team!

FSU’s Jameis Winston was selected as the number one pick in this week’s NFL draft, a move that's sure to clean up the NFL's reputation.

The US Department of Education announced it had reached an agreement with “LaPorte Community School Corporation in LaPorte, Indiana, to resolve a Title IX complaint involving sexually predatory behavior and sexual harassment of female high school volleyball players.”

From the HR Department

The CFO of the Apollo Group (parent company of the University of Phoenix) has resigned. His interim replacement will earn $80,000 per month but oh yeah sure, college tuition is so expensive because of climbing walls mmhmmm.

Bill Clinton is stepping down from his position as an “honorary chancellor” of Laureate Education because a) Laureate is going to IPO, b) his wife is running for President and for-profit education is a campaign albatross, c) all of the above.

Upgrades and Downgrades

Last year, plagiarism detection company TurnItIn acquired robo-essay grading startup LightSide Labs, and now TurnItIn has used that technology to release “Turnitin Scoring Engine, a service that provides automated scoring of short answer texts and written essays.”

While not directly marketed to schools (unlike it’s competitor Yik Yak), it appears as though anonymous app Secret is shutting down. The startup had reported raised $37 million.

Apple Watch is officially out, and I’ve been getting the email pitches from companies bragging they have an app on it. PBS Kids’ Apple Watch app will let you control your children’s viewing on the PBS Kids iOS app. Sounds progressive. And according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Penn State will experiment with Apple Watch on campus this fall. It bought 8 watches, so yeah… Not really a one-to-one wearable computing initiative, I guess.

According to Amazon PR, “Amazon’s Whispercast Now Used in More Than 130 of the 250 Largest School Districts and 24 of the 30 Largest Universities in the U.S.”

Edukwest reports that language learning site Open English has entered the US market, specifically targeting the Spanish-speaking population.

Also via Edukwest: “Education First (EF) announced a new pilot program with the professional social network LinkedIn today. LinkedIn users who indicate English as a second language will get the offer to take a free assessment test via email. Upon completion users will receive the option to add a certification to their LinkedIn profile.”

Remember Edmodo? They have an app for parents now.

Shocking, I know, but there are errors in Pearson’s textbook U.S. History: Reconstruction to the Present.

Via Edsurge: “One Amplify: Joel Klein’s Plan to Unify News Corp.’s Education Business.”

Duolingo is poised to offer Klingon language lessons.

Funding and Acquisitions

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is buying “a major portion of Scholastic Corp’s educational technology and services business” for $575 million, reports Education Week. More on the story from Buzzfeed.

ProQuest has acquired MyLibrary and Oasis from Ingram Content Group. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Campus Job has raised $7.8 million from General Catalyst. Index Ventures, SV Angel, Slow Ventures, BoxGroup, and Lerer Hippeau Ventures. The job search startup has raised $9 million total.

Raise Labs, a startup which lets high school students earn “micro scholarships,” has raised $4.5 million from Owl Ventures, First Round Capital, SJF Ventures, Deborah Quazzo, Mark Goines, Paul Freedman, and Thomas D. Lehrman.

LogicRoots has raised $400,000 in seed funding from Ah! Ventures’ investment network Club Ah!, Calcutta Angels, and 91SpringBoard for its educational games.

Data and Privacy

NYT’s Natasha Singer profiles Common Sense Media: “Turning a Children's Rating System Into an Advocacy Army,”

Is the online surveillance of black teenagers the new stop-and-frisk?

The Case for Audio Monitoring on School Buses.” Or, how education technology furthers inequality and surveillance.

Data and “Research”

Pitchbook Lists Most Valuable Ed Tech Companies.”

“The Education Industry Association is encouraging its members to contract with Johns Hopkins University’s school of education to study the effectiveness of those companies’ products and services,” Education Week reports.

Research on Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes’ (CREDO) study on charter schools.

Contrary to Conventional Wisdom, New Teachers Are Staying on the Job,” according to The Atlantic.

The results of the latest Speak Up survey are out. Expect to see this gem cited a lot: “24% of high school students saying they wish they could take all their classes online – a large increase from 8% in 2013.”

Eduventures’ “College-Bound Market Update Report” also found high school students are increasingly interested in “blended learning” options – cough – as now only 85% say they will take all their college courses in a face-to-face setting, down from 95% of students last year.

“Unhappy Anniversary, Google,” says IHE blogger Tracy Mitano. (Includes a link to her research on Google and student data.)

Via 9to5Mac: “Apple now says human medical research apps ‘must’ get ethics board approval.”

Edsurge touts the benefits of eye tracking.

Market research firms predict that lecture capture is going to be a big thing, and WaPo is on it.

Conservative think-tank, the Fordham Institute argues that school closures are actually good for kids. Side-eye.

Sexist peer review elicits furious Twitter response, PLOS apology.”

This week in charts: Vox on LSATs.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

Back to Archives