Education Politics

The Republican Presidential candidates had their first debate this week, and education was actually a topic. “Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio get in a fight about Common Core,” Vox’s Libby Nelson reports.

Via The Washington Post: “analysis, done by the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonprofit liberal watchdog and advocacy agency based in Wisconsin that tracks corporate influence on public policy, says that four companies – Pearson Education, ETS (Educational Testing Service), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill – collectively spent more than $20 million lobbying in states and on Capitol Hill from 2009 to 2014.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is reportedly investigating Citigroup’s student loan practices.

Education in the Courts

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit in Kentucky, highlighting the use of restraints in school and releasing a video of an 8 year old boy crying as a school police office handcuffs his arms behind his back. The ACLU claims that the schools’ practice of shackling students (this boy and a girl, age 9) violated the ADA. More via The Guardian and the AP.

A federal judge ruled against the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, which had sought dismissal of the lawsuit brought against it by Steven Salaita, a tenured professor fired for tweets criticizing Israel. More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“A civil lawsuit filed against the University of Oregon by a student who said she had been raped by three basketball players has been settled, the university announced on Tuesday. According to the settlement agreement, the woman, who remains unnamed, and her lawyers will be paid $800,000. She will also have her tuition, housing, and student fees waived for four more years,” The Chronicle of Higher Education says. There are still concerns that the university violated her privacy by accessing her counseling records, something that is apparently not illegal.

“Northwest Christian University in Eugene faces a $650,000 lawsuit filed by an assistant professor who alleges that she was fired two weeks ago for becoming pregnant out of wedlock,” The Register Guard reports.

Via CBS Detroit: “A teenager who was locked up for nearly 40 days in a dispute over a snowball has filed a lawsuit against the Detroit school district after a judge dismissed the criminal case.”

Testing, Testing…

Pearson is shaving $1 million off its contract with the state of Minnesota because of glitches in the online testing system.


How Nanodegrees Are Disrupting Higher Education.” LOL.

Coursera is renaming its verified certificates “Course Certificates.”

Why Employers Are Joining Coursera's Global Skills Initiative.”

FutureLearn adds new partners: Complutense University, Durham University, University of Manchester, Keio University, and the University of New South Wales.

Via Justin Reich: “Practical Guidance from MOOC Research: Learning Beyond the Platform.”

Meanwhile on Campus

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Christina E. Whitfield, vice chancellor for research and analysis at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, … has designed a ‘social-utility index’ to calculate the social good of degree programs that lead to low-paying jobs that may nevertheless be important to communities.”

The University of Akron is “drawing scrutiny,” says Inside Higher Ed, for hiring a startup for $840,000 to provide “success coaches” while at the same time eliminating “dozens of jobs” from its student success department.

The University of Michigan’s North Campus was “terrorized” by a turkey.

Go, School Sports Team!

“One day before a district court ruling was to go into effect that would force the NCAA to allow colleges to pay student-athletes $5,000 per year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has placed a stay on that order,” says NPR.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Vanderbilt University’s football program tweeted an image Thursday declaring that its players ‘don’t need your permission,’ prompting a backlash on Twitter. Earlier this year two Vanderbilt football players were found guilty of gang-raping another student. The trial was later ruled a mistrial on a technicality, and the case will go to trial again at a later date. ‘We are relentless, tough and intelligent, and …’ the since-deleted tweeted read, followed by an image that stated, ‘we don’t need your permission.’”

Youth Basketball Team Disqualified From Tournament For Having A Girl On The Roster.”

From the HR Department

Following news that Steven Salaita’s lawsuit against the university could move forward, UI chancellor Phyllis Wise announced her resignation.

PBS NewsHour’s education reporter John Merrow is retiring.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Bergen Community College has eliminated the positions of 64 full-time lecturers, who taught full course loads off the tenure track, reported. Those who lost their full-time positions are being asked to apply for course-by-course adjunct posts, for which the pay per course is lower. The individual course positions, unlike the full-time lecturer jobs, have no benefits.”

Upgrades and Downgrades

Mitch Kapor and Freada Klein announced $40 million in funding for diversity initiatives to “fix the leaky tech pipeline.”

Meanwhile, the Ada Initiative, a non-profit aimed at improving diversity in tech, is shutting down.

Second Life’s original inventor Philip Rosedale says “he and his team are big believers that kids will one day go to school through a VR headset.” More on the promise of “The Metaverse” here.

Via Inside Higher Ed: The language of learning analytics, as decreed by the LMS vendors. “Blackboard, Instructure and the more than 320 other vendors and universities that make up the IMS Global Learning Consortium have for years been working to agree on which words go into that vocabulary, and their work is finally nearing its version 1.0 release. Known as Caliper, the vocabulary – called metric profiles – and the mechanisms to detect the words in it – sensors – will serve as a framework for tracking and reporting learning analytics.”

Google announced the 20 finalists for its latest science fair.

Khan Academy has announced the winners of its talent search.

Chegg plans to launch a test prep service.

Versal is launching a new site to allow teachers to share lesson plans and other materials.

Sphero is marketing one of its programmable robots to education. According to EduKwest, “The robot is called SPRK and comes with a series of apps and lessons that aim to teach coding and spark interest in science.”

I imagine this is a growing trend: private loans – “with interest rates from 6% to 20% APR” – for coding bootcamp enrollees.

Speaking of loans: “Facebook patents technology to help lenders discriminate against borrowers based on social connections.” Imagine the ed-tech possibilities!

Education news site notes that there are lots of education news sites.

Funding and Acquisitions

Panorama Education, a startup that helps schools administer surveys, has raised $12 million from Owl Ventures and Spark Capital. The company has raised $16 million total.

AdmitSee has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from The Social+Capital Partnership, ImagineK12, and The startup “offers a marketplace where verified college students can share and sell their application materials.” Sounds legit.

LearnTrials, which rates ed-tech products, has raised $800,000 from Edovate Capital, Inception Mirco Angel Fund, Jean Hammond, Gregg Burt, and Walt Winshall.

Merger and IPO glee: “Why Edtech Exits Will Defy Historical Trends” from Edsurge. “Education Sector Hot for Merger, Acquisition Deals, Investment Banker Says,” says Education Week. “Following the Money in Ed-Tech Investment: Number of Mergers Grows,” via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

No buyer yet for Blackboard, but the speculation continues. Blackboard suffers from messaging problems according to Mindwire Consulting’s Michael Feldstein and a far worse problem, IMHO, “complexity problems” according to former Bb employee George Kroner.

In other speculation news, now that it’s officially its own company, “Barnes & Noble Education to Consider Digital Takeovers.”

Quarterly financials were reported this week from 2U (whose revenue is up), Bridgepoint Education (which posted a net loss), and ITT (which admitted to precipitously declining enrollments, prompting its stock to fall 40%).

Via CB Insights: “Who’s Who In Ed Tech? Top Investors And Their Board Seats.”

Data, Privacy, and Surveillance

Two school districts are adopting bodycams, THE Journal reports.

The University of Connecticut reported a “criminal cyberintrusion” of its engineering college, blaming Chinese hackers.

Windows 10 defaults to keylogging, harvesting browser history, purchases, and covert listening.”

Sorry, the way you type is exposing your identity online even if you're browsing anonymously.”

Data and “Research”

The latest report from the Pew Research Center: “Teens, Technology and Friendships.”

A study of 10,000 by TNTP “found that professional development – the teacher workshops and training that cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year – is largely a waste.”

According to a report by MDR, schools’ instructional spending went up 9% in the 2013–2014 school year. “Remarkable,” says Edsurge.

PE teachers biased against fat kids, study finds.”

More made-up data from ed-tech companies: “IBM’s Misleading or Just Incorrect National Ad on Student Retention” by MindWire Consulting’s Phil Hill.

From the Future of Privacy Forum (a think tank supported by companies like true friends of privacy AT&T, Facebook, and Google): “De-Identification and Student Data” (PDF).

The Gartner Hype Cycle for Education, 2015 edition.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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