Education Politics

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has chosen Donna Bahorich to chair the state’s board of education. Bahorich has never sent her children to public school, opting to homeschool her sons.

Governor Abbott has signed a bill that decriminalizes truancy in Texas.

Senate Bill 277 has passed in California, which will end the personal belief exemption for vaccination school children.

I’m not sure there are many prominent Republicans left who have yet to announce their presidential candidacy. (Oh wait. Christie. Palin.) This week: Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. (“Bobby Jindal's Biggest Troll Is His Friend's 21-Year-Old Son.”)

The Department of Education has decided not to move forward with its plans to create a college ratings system. Instead it’s going to make a “consumer-focused website.”

The Department of Education has axed the PIN number for FAFSA applications.

I’ve totally lost track of where we are on the NCLB waiver front, but the Obama Administration extended them to 7 more states and DC this week.

The White House is boasting about its ConnectEd initiative, which it says is “on track to achieve its goal of connecting students to tools they need for 21st century learning.”

Chicago Public Schools has released a catalog featuring 74 approved ed-tech vendors. (I haven’t gone through the list to see how many investor and CPS board member Deborah Quazzo has invested in, but I’m hoping Chicago Sun Times reporter Lauren Fitzpatrick, who broke the story last year about Quazzo’s portfolio and CPS contracts, will.)

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants search engines to crack down on student loan scams.

Education in the Courts

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a for-profit college trade group, challenging the Department of Education’s “gainful employment” rule. More via Buzzfeed.

Paperwork was filed this week in the appeal of last year’s Vergara ruling in California, which overturned the state’s tenure laws.

Via LA School Report: “High-profile attorney Mark Geragos, representing one of the most famous active teachers in the country, Rafe Esquith, told the Los Angeles Times he intends to file a class action lawsuit on behalf of ‘scores’ of district teachers who say they have been denied due process rights. Geragos said he had filed a legal claim on Monday, which is a precursor to a lawsuit.”

Testing, Testing…

A story by Motoko Rich in The New York Times notes that those who grade Common Core exams need not be or have been teachers. (USC professor Morgan Polikoff responds on the “Testing tradeoffs.”)

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has signed legislation that makes it easier for parents in her state to opt their children out of standardized testing.

Via The New York Times: “There is no easy translation or even a firm concept of the word ‘coping’ in French, so when it turned up last week in a question on the national exam to earn a high school degree, it set off a fracas among the 350,000 or so students who took the test.”


MOOCs were back in the news – or at least in the op-ed pages – this week. I wrote two MOOC-related stories. (I apologize.) See also: “The (Accidental) Power of MOOCs.”

Yonsei University joins Coursera.

"Open edX, the open source platform from MOOC provider EdX, is now available for free from the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Marketplace (AWS usage fees apply)," says Campus Technology.

Meanwhile on Campus

"Sweet Briar Survives," Inside Higher Ed reports. “In a deal announced Saturday evening by Virginia’s attorney general, the college’s current leaders agreed to relinquish control to a new president and a largely new board. Saving Sweet Briar, an organization of alumnae who have fought the planned closure of the college, has agreed to raise $12.5 million to continue operating the college in the 2015–16 academic year. The first $2.5 million would have to be provided by July 2.” More via The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Washington Post.

Columbia University will divest from private prison companies.

Apple, IBM, and Coppell ISD (Texas) are partnering to work on a “Student Achievement App.”

Is Houston’s School District Blocking Pro-Choice Websites?” Saved you a click: Maybe.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Students in China are being recruited in large numbers by their universities as an ‘army’ of online contributors to bolster the official party line, in a new drive by the Communist Youth League of China that will draw universities squarely into the country's attempts to control the internet within its borders.”

School Scrambles To Preserve Newly Discovered Chalkboards From 1917.”

Via Buzzfeed: “Baltimore’s Challenge: Buy Tablets For 100,000 Kids, And Don’t Mess It Up.”

Go, School Sports Team!

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Police officers at the University of California at Los Angeles on Monday arrested Sean Combs, the music star widely known as Diddy, on three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of making terrorist threats and one count of battery. The weapon referenced was a kettlebell. The university said the arrest took place at the Acosta Athletic Training Complex, where members of the football team work out. Justin Combs, son of Sean Combs, is a member of the UCLA football team.”

Vanderbilt Rape Case Is Declared a Mistrial.”

From the HR Department

LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines says he’s retiring.

Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson is also stepping down. (“Finally,” says Valerie Strauss in The Washington Post.)

Princeton University has rescinded its job offer to Michael LaCour, who has been accused of faking the data in his study of gay marriage.

Apple Insider reports that Apple exec Lisa Jackson is taking on “additional duties beyond company related environmental issues, and is to be responsible for all policy initiatives including worldwide government affairs, education, accessibility and social concerns.”

E. Chris Summerhill, a Boston history teacher, says he was dismissed following his arrest during a #BlackLivesMatter protest.

“Writing instructors at Arizona State University, who have since December been protesting a plan to change their compensation in ways they said were unfair and would hurt teaching and learning, have won both a gain in pay and a new option on course load,” Inside Higher Ed reports. I can’t even fathom teaching a 5–5 load in writing. But hey, “New American University.”

Upgrades and Downgrades


Enjoy your Google Apps for Education, people! Via Privacy Online News: “Yesterday, news broke that Google has been stealth downloading audio listeners onto every computer that runs Chrome, and transmits audio data back to Google. Effectively, this means that Google had taken itself the right to listen to every conversation in every room that runs Chrome somewhere, without any kind of consent from the people eavesdropped on.”

Via eCampusNews: Instructure has released Canvas Data, “a hosted data solution providing fully optimized data to K–12 and higher education institutions capturing online teaching and learning activity.”

Edsurge has announced a new “concierge” service, whereby companies can pay the publication to promote them to schools’ procurement teams. Edsurge takes a cut of any contracts awarded. Ethical? Disruptive? Ed-tech business-as-usual ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Apple is adding a new feature to iTunesU to “help teachers communicate with students, handle homework and incorporate educational apps into their course materials,” says Re/code. (A competitor in-the-making to Google Classroom, perhaps.)

LEGO Adds More Women in Science to Its Lineup.”

Former CNN host Campbell Brown has launched a new education news site, The Seventy-Four. (Reactions.)

Amazon has changed the Terms of Service and increased the price for Mechanical Turk, and according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, researchers are upset. It’s funny when and where higher ed cares about labor issues and when it doesn’t, no? (Not that the increase in fees is going to pay Turkers more, of course.)

The Rework America Connected – a partnership of “LinkedIn, Arizona State University, edX, the Markle Foundation, the State of Colorado, and a number of employers in Phoenix and Colorado,” according to The Chronicle of Higher Education – hopes to make the job search easier for “‘middle skill’ workers, including people who have two-year degrees or did not attend college.”

Via Jisc: “After 13 years delivering and sharing content to support teaching practitioners across higher education, further education and skills, Jisc will be retiring its Jorum service in September 2016.”

Some Educational Apps Go Missing as Apple Purges Images of Confederate Flags from the App Store.”

Funding and Acquisitions

LittleBits has raised $44.2 million from DFJ Growth, Morgan Stanley, Alternative Investment Partners, Grishin Robotics, Wamda Capital, Foundry Group, True Ventures, VegasTechFund, Two Sigma Ventures, and Khosla Ventures. This brings to $59.8 million total raised by the modular electronics kit company.

Online learning company Fuse Universal has raised $10 million from Education Growth Partners.

Andela has raised an undisclosed round of funding – “well over $10 million,” “sources” tell Techcrunch – from Spark Capital, Omidyar Network, and Learn Capital for its “network of top tier computer science education programs across the African continent.” The startup had previously raised $3 million.

EduKart has raised $1 million from Holostik Group's United Finsec, YouWeCan, 500 Startups, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Manish Kheterpal, Amit Patni, Arihant Patni, and Stanford Business School's alumni angels. The New Delhi-based “education marketplace” has raised $2 million total.

Online learning company CareerFoundry has raised an undisclosed round of funding.

Online learning company Simplilearn has acquired Market Motive for $10 million.

Level Data has acquired Student Sync. “The new solution automates the creation, deletion, and movement of student accounts, account properties, and home folders within your Active Directory,” says the press release which didn’t disclose any details about the terms of the sale.

Safari, a tech learning publisher and a subsidiary of O’Reilly Media has acquired the assets of Popforms, which the press release calls “a creator of courses and tools supporting technical leaders looking to advance in their careers.” No details on the terms.

Data and “Research”

Via Campus Technology: “More than one third of all malware events in 2014 happened within the education sector.” Congratulations on your leadership, education.

Here’s Kalief Browder’s Heartbreaking Research Paper On Solitary Confinement.”

Is Advanced Placement’s Value in the Class or the Test?” Education Week’s Sarah Sparks looks at one study that suggests it’s the latter.

Via The New York Times: “Unicef warned Monday of what it described as grim trend lines for the world’s poorest children over the next 15 years, saying in a new report that many millions face preventable deaths, diseases, stunted growth and illiteracy.”

About The D2L Claim Of BrightSpace LeaP And Academic Improvements” by Mindwires Consulting’s Phil Hill. And “68% of Statistics Are Meaningless, D2L Edition,” by his colleague Michael Feldstein.

I can't remember the last time I read one of D2L's announcements without rolling my eyes. I used to have respect for the company, but now I have to make a conscious effort not to dismiss any of their pronouncements out-of-hand. Not because I think it's impossible that they might be doing good work, but because they force me to dive into a mountain of horseshit in the hopes of finding a nugget of gold at the bottom. Every. Single. Time.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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