RIP Kalief Browder, 1993–2015

Kalief Browder, a young man profiled in a New Yorker story last year, who spent three years in solitary confinement on Rikers Island without ever being committed of a crime, has died. He committed suicide.

Education Politics

The Department of Education announced this week that it is forgiving the student loans of those who attended Corinthian College – or rather, those whose schools have been closed and those who believe that they were defrauded will be able to apply to have their loans discharged. More via The New York Times and Vox.

“The Education Department is beefing up its oversight over the hundreds of different companies that colleges hire for a wide range of services that it says are somehow related to federal student aid dollars and therefore subject to regulation,” according to Inside Higher Ed.

The Department of Education might issue new guidance on FERPA “after Oregon Democrats Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici inquired about the legality of a recent case at the University of Oregon. That institution caused a stir when administrators said they acted under FERPA when accessing a student’s therapy records for its legal defense.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren has “outlined a sweeping college affordability agenda to ‘dramatically reform’ higher education,” reports Inside Higher Ed. That agenda includes a “debt-free option.”

Senator Lamar Alexander has vowed to block the Obama Administration’s new “gainful employment” rules.

Texas agriculture commissioner Sid Miller wants to reverse the state’s ban on deep fat fryers in school cafeterias. Because freedom.

Former US Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was indicted recently for evading regulations around large bank withdrawals. It appears as though those withdrawals were being done in order to pay someone blackmailing him. And it appears as though the blackmailing involves accusations of sexual assault when Hastert was a teacher and wrestling coach.

FOIAs have uncovered that – surprise, surprise – following passage of the Louisiana Science Education Act which protects teachers who teach anti-scientific ideas, schools in the state are indeed using creationist materials in lieu of teaching about evolution.

Education in the Courts

The Virginia Supreme Court has sent a ruling on the closure of Sweet Briar College back to the lower court, which had denied a temporary injunction on the closure, for more arguments.

The University of Guelph has responded to complaints about its plans to trademark “OpenEd.” (Rolin Moe responds in turn.)

Testing, Testing…

Due to a printing error in the June 6 SAT, the College Board says it won’t score two sections of the test but it assures everyone that the test is still totally valid. “From fire drills and power outages to mistiming and disruptive behavior, school-based test administrations can be fragile, so our assessments are not.”

CTB/McGraw-Hill will pay the state of Georgia $4.5 million for problems it experienced with its testing service.

Arkansas plans to drop the PARCC test and use the ACT instead.

China’s Hot New Luxury Product: the SAT.”

“The Power of Parents Is on Display in Opt-Outs,” says Education Week, which adds that “The Opt-Out Movement Is Gaining Momentum.”

“Opt out” legislation moves forward in Oregon and Maine.


Via The Wall Street Journal: “Daphne Koller on the Future of Online Education.”

"If you put an instructor to sleep 300 years ago and woke him up in a classroom today, he’ll say, Oh, I know exactly where I am,” says Daphne Koller, co-founder of the online-education company Coursera.

If you put a reader of The Wall Street Journal to sleep 2 years ago and woke him up and showed him an article quoting Daphne Koller today…

Remember Unizin? If not, it’s probably because the university group which launched last year promising to “enhance colleges’ control of online courses” has been slow to do anything, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The British government plans to crack down on websites offering fake degrees.

Meanwhile on Campus

“Oakton Community College (OCC) is insisting that a one-sentence ‘May Day’ email referencing the Haymarket Riot sent by a faculty member to several colleagues constituted a ‘true threat’ to the college president,” FIRE reports.

Clearwater Christian College, a small Christian college in Florida, has announced it plans to close.

“Athabasca University’s troubles grow,” says Tony Bates. “The death of Athabasca University has been greatly exaggerated,” says George Siemens.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, a Commodore Amiga from the early 1980s runs the heat and air conditioning system at 19 district schools.

No charges will be filed against University of Virginia student Martese Johnson. When he was arrested earlier this year, photographs of him handcuffed and bloodied went viral, raising questions about racist police practices.

Kennesaw State University has apologized to a student after a video of him attempting to meet with an academic advisor (and being accused of harassment for doing so) went viral.

Chipotle is the latest company to offer tuition benefits to all employees, not just those who work on salary.

Go, School Sports Team!

UNC has been placed on probation by its accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, following investigations into academic fraud and student athletes.

From the HR Department

Newly minted PhD Dan Meyer is joining Desmos as its Chief Academic Officer.

Stanford president John Hennessy will step down next summer, in time to avoid the coming campus tsunami, I guess.

“The typical public-college leader who served for the entire 2014 fiscal year earned just over $428,000, almost 7 percent more than the median from the year before,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Nobel Prize winner Tim Hunt has resigned from the University College London after criticism of Hunt’s sexist comments about women in science.

Five members of the Cooper Union board of trustees and the university’s president have resigned.

Via the AP: “College professors in [Venezuela] plagued by a cash crunch, shortages and spiraling inflation are abandoning their jobs in droves, unable or unwilling to survive on salaries as minuscule as $30 per month at the widely used black market exchange rate.”

Upgrades and Downgrades

“Jott, a messaging app that works without a data plan or WiFi connection, has caught on among junior high and high school students,” says Techcrunch.

“When it comes to preventing sexual assault,” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education, “should there be an app for that?”

Prison ed-tech – “inmate tablets.”

Bill Fitzgerald continues his exploration of ed-tech Terms of Service with a look at Google Apps for Education.

Mike Caulfield looks at the “massive Blackboard fail” as embedded YouTube URLs no longer work in the LMS.

I used to think the main problem with Blackboard was that it applied an enterprise solution to a consumer software problem. I increasingly think the main problem is that it’s just lousy enterprise software.

Another name and ownership change for the Sakai partner formerly known as rSmart, according to Phil Hill. In other LMS news, also from Phil Hill: “Moodle Association: New pay-for-play roadmap input for end users.”

The cost of developing an open textbook, according to Tony Bates: $80,000 - $130,000.

“In response to criticism from the math community,, the group that bills itself as the Consumer Reports of common-core instructional materials, is making changes to its textbook review process,” Education Week reports.

The Barbara Bush Foundation is sponsoring a $7 million XPRIZE for adult literacy.

Funding and Acquisitions

Duolingo has raised $45 million from Google Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, New Enterprise Associates, and Union Square Ventures. The language-learning startup has raised $83.3 million total.

Maker Media, the parent company of MAKE Magazine, has raised $5 million from Obvious Ventures, Raine Ventures, Azure Capital, OATV, and Floodgate. The company has raised $10 million total.

Language skills training company Speexx has raised $5 million from Ventech and Alto Invest.

Digital Assess has raised $3 million from “new and existing investors.”

Packback has raised $1.5 million from Hyde Park Angels. The startup, which rents digital textbooks, has raised $2.5 million total.

“Edfintech” startup Allovue has raised $1 million in seed funding from Baltimore Angels, Serious Change II, Red House Education, and the Baltimore Boost Fund.

Learn-to-code startup Treehouse has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Red Ventures.

Bertelsmann and the World Bank’s IFC have acquired a 40% and 31% stake respectively in the Brazilian online training company Affero Lab.

TES Global has acquired Hibernia College UK. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

West Corporation has acquired K–12 content management system SharpSchool for $19 million.

Learnbrite has acquired Chat Mapper for an undisclosed sum.

Pearson subsidiary Pearson VUE has acquired online proctoring service ProctorCam for an undisclosed sum.

Data and “Research”

Education Week has released a report called “Tech Counts 2015: Learning the Digital Way.” Among the stories: “Why Ed-Tech Is Not Transforming How Teachers Teach.”

“Research” by the Fordham Institute’s Michael Petrilli on “What Twitter Says about the Education Policy Debate.”

An AAUP survey raises questions about the effectiveness of student evaluations.

See How Children Reacted to One of the First Sex-Ed Films Ever Shown.”

Can Digital Badges Help Encourage Professors to Take Teaching Workshops?

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Textbook and student services provider Chegg is getting into the research business and is partnering with CSO Research to turn the Outcomes Survey into a national study of career outcomes for recent college graduates.” “The research business.” LOL.

Also via Inside Higher Ed: “A national poll released by the Robert Morris University Polling Institute Monday found that only a little more than half of respondents viewed the college selection process favorably and less than half thought colleges were doing enough to help graduates find jobs.”

A study published in the journal Communication Education has found that “frequent messaging unrelated to class content interferes with student learning while in class; however, relevant messaging does not appear to negatively impact student learning.” Startling.

Course Report has released a study on the size of the learn-to-code bootcamp market, which it predicts will grow “by 2.4x to an estimated 16,056 graduates in 2015, up from 6,740 in 2014.”

With an op-ed in Edsurge, Conrad Wolfram argues “Don’t Let Evidence Stifle Innovation in Education.”

Via NPR: “A Wellesley College and University of Maryland study finds Sesame Street has a big impact on how well kids do in school. Children who watch the show are less likely to fall behind in later grades.” Edsurge goes with the headline “The Original MOOC: Can Sesame Street Replace Preschool?” – of course, Sesame Street is pretty much the opposite of the VC-funded MOOCs, in part because it was designed by education researchers, not software engineers. But hey, hype machine’s gotta hype.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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