Education Politics

The LA Times’ Howard Blume broke a story this week about the Broad Foundation’s “ambitious $490-million plan to place half of the city’s students into charter schools over the next eight years, a controversial gambit that backers hope will serve as a catalyst for the rest of the nation.”

The document cites numerous foundations and individuals who could be tapped for funding. In addition to the Broad Foundation, the list includes the Gates, Bloomberg, Annenberg and Hewlett foundations. Among the billionaires cited as potential donors are Stewart and Lynda Resnick, major producers of mandarin oranges, pistachios and pomegranates; Irvine Co. head Donald Bren; entertainment mogul David Geffen; and Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk.

“Who’s Funding Kevin Johnson’s Secret Government?” asks Deadspin. The former NBA star, now mayor of Sacramento, California and husband to former DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, is “just the sort of politician a lot of people want to believe, and a lot of people have done so.” Johnson has weathered several scandals. The latest “involves the mayor replacing civil servants with private citizens funded by the Wal-Mart empire and tasked with the twin purposes of working to abolish public education and bring in piles of cash for Kevin Johnson.” (The latest latest: “‘I’m A Grown-Up Now’: The Teen Who Accused Kevin Johnson Of Sexual Abuse Speaks Out.”)

PopeWatch 2015 (which has prompted a lot of coverage this week about Catholic education in the US).

Politico profiles US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

How America’s smallest cabinet department became a mass of unkillable pet projects. A POLITICO investigation.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Education has released a (competency-based-education) CBE Experiment Reference Guide.

The Department of Education also announced it had reached an agreement with the University of Virginia after an investigation into its responses to sexual violence on campus. UVA was found to have filed to comply with Title IX.

Teachers unions were among those cheering with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker suspended his presidential campaign.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has criticized presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ college plan. Hers, she boasted, would make low-income students work for aid – "skin in the game" or something. And echoes of the punitive “welfare reform” of her husband.

Testing, Testing…

Florida has closed its investigation into the DDOS attack that shut down its online testing system earlier this year. It found no motive and no leads. More via Education Week.


Students in MOOCs self-report MOOCs work. 87% said they felt MOOCs benefited their career. (Just 33% said there were tangible career benefits.) 88% said there were educational benefits. (Just 18% said there were tangible educational benefits.) The study, based on 52K Coursera students, is framed by Coursera thusly: “Coursera Study Shows Positive Career and Educational Outcomes for Learners.” Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “What the Results of a Survey of Coursera Students Mean for Online Learning.”

“Udacity Sets Up First Overseas Shop in India,” says Edsurge. (It’s not clear what this “shop” entails.) Here’s the company’s blog post.

Via Bryan Alexander: “More humanities seminars online, and they’re not MOOCs.”

Via Jonathan Rees: “How do you build a respectable all-online US History survey class?, Part I.”

Fortune is teaming up with Cornell University for an online business certificate. Sounds legit – certainly as legit as the partnership between Wired and USC and Forbes and Ashford University.

Via Politico: “Virtual schools are booming. Who’s paying attention?”

“Why My Kids Finished Their MOOC – When Most Adults Don’t,” charter school investor Alex Hernandez writes in Edsurge.

Meanwhile on Campus

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Nearly one-quarter of female undergraduate students who responded to a survey created by the Association of American Universities said they have experienced a sexual assault of some kind since enrolling in college.”

Venture-capital backed, ed-tech-as-surveillance-but-we’ll-call-it-personalization private school AltSchool plans to expand to Chicago. Great quote by founder and former Googler Max Ventilla: “Personalized education does not mean kids just doing what they want. In fact, quite the opposite.”

"Introduction to Computing and Programming" is now the most popular course in Yale College. The materials and lectures mostly come from Harvard’s class of the same name, just with a Yale TA.

Via The Seattle Times: “Seattle School Board halts suspensions for elementary students” (who commit certain non-violent offenses).

Meanwhile in Utah: “Native American 2nd grader kicked out of class for traditional Mohawk haircut.”

Via The Guardian: “School questioned Muslim pupil about Isis after discussion on eco-activism.” Elsewhere in the UK: “Student accused of being a terrorist for reading book on terrorism.”

Marquette University has rescinded Bill Cosby’s honorary degree.

From the HR Department

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The newly appointed University of Iowa president, J. Bruce Harreld, met in private with several members of the state’s Board of Regents in July, the day before the application deadline for the position, according to emails The Chronicle has obtained through an open-records request.”

Trustees at the State College of Florida have “ voted to end the continuous contract system and initiate one-year contracts for all newly hired faculty members,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Via The Atlantic: “The College President-to-Adjunct Pay Ratio.”

ISTE has named Jim Flanagan its new chief learning officer. Flanagan was previously the National Director of Sales at Amplify, News Corp's failed ed-tech business.

Upgrades and Downgrades

The University of Maryland University College will spin out into a startup its data analytics platform, to be called HelioCampus. MindWire Consulting’s Phil Hill says “it is part of a growing trend for universities to act as ed-tech startup.” I’m not sure this is really a new thing, however as the history of ed-tech is full of these endeavors. TurnItIn. Computer Curriculum Corporation. PLATO. Carnegie Learning. WebCT. And on and on and on.

GitHub has released Classroom for GitHub, which lets educators use the code repository tool for assignments. More viaWired.

Via Education Week: “A technology company called Shindig is challenging school districts and other education entities to be the first to deliver 1 million hours of online professional development to teachers on the company’s platform, and win $100,000 for their organization.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education looks at a new feature on that lets researchers post papers “in progress” and solicit feedback from others.

LittleBits launches littleBits Education, “a new line of educational products aimed at bringing its child-friendly modular electronics components to schools and libraries,” says Education Week, which wonders “Are 1-to–1 ‘Maker Space’ Tools the Next K–12 Trend?” Here’s the trend I’d identify: “making” being co-opted by other ed policy pushes. eg. “Building Connections Between Maker Ed and Standards” – sponsored content from littleBits on Edsurge.

Edsurge profiles Camelback Ventures, an incubator that “caters to entrepreneurs of color and women.”

The New York Times profiles Clever, a startup that helps schools move student data to the various software they utilize.

The winner of the latest Google Science Fair: 16-year-old Oliva Hallisey who created a cheap test for Ebola.

Edsurge notes that the NHL is creating a STEM-themed online course on the topic of hockey, run by the ed-tech company EverFi. The least diverse of the big four professional sports? Should be great for increasing diversity in STEM!

Print is not dead. And The New York Times is on it.

Funding and Acquisitions

MasteryConnect has raised $5 million from Zuckerberg Education Ventures. The assessment startup has raised $29.1 million total.

Portfolium has raised $1.2 million in funding from University Ventures, Seed San Diego, and Vertical Venture Partners. The e-portfolio startup has raised $2.1 million total.

Cengate Learning has acquired Learning Objects, which is the name of a company not the name of a lousy idea from 90s ed-tech. Terms were not disclosed.

Tutoring company TAL Education has acquired tutoring company FirstLeap. Terms were not disclosed.

Gutenberg Technology has acquired Neodemia. The former is an educational publishing tool; the latter helps university create MOOCs. Terms were not disclosed.

Data, Privacy, and Surveillance

The industry-backed Future of Privacy Forum released the results (PDF) of a survey it conducted, asking parents their thoughts on tech, data, and privacy. Here’s how Edsurge framed the results: “New Survey Shows That Parents Support Using Data in Schools – But Don’t Understand Laws.” I don't understand many things about this survey, but there you go...

“Sensitive personal information about millions of students is at risk because British Columbia’s Ministry of Education has misplaced a hard drive containing documents that were stored without a fundamental safety measure: data encryption,” The Globe and Mail reports. “The serious security breach includes student records detailing not just exam results but in some cases custody orders and files documenting substance abuse and mental-health issues.” This doesn’t just raise questions about the security of student data, but should also prompt us to ask why does the Ministry of Education collect all this information in the first place.

The data of 3000 students at Central New Mexico Community College has been compromised.

“A child monitoring phone app funded by the South Korean government has major security flaws,” the BBC reports.

Data and “Research”

Lots of questions about this “research” on what Wisconsin professors think about tenure.

Stanford education professor Larry Cuban on the recent OECD report on education and tech: Parts 1 and 2.

Breaking news: conservative colleges that purposefully do not report data to the federal government do not show up in the federal government’s data on colleges.

“Most Widely Known Online Educational Resources Not Most Effective, According to OpenEd Analysis of Data From 200,000 Teachers,” says the press release. (Lots of questions about the methodology here.)

A study to be published in CBE - Life Science Education has found that the flipped classroom (that is, videotaped lectures as homework and more hands-on activities in class) is beneficial for women and students with low grades.

Via The New York Times: “Education Gap Between Rich and Poor Is Growing Wider.”

Via Education Week: “Preschool participation among 4-year-olds nationwide is higher than typically thought, and so universal preschool expansion efforts are misguided, according to a new Brookings Institution analysis.”

A Pearson-solicited poll has found that college students prefer laptops to tablets. Nonetheless, as Campus Technology highlights, “83 percent of all college students said they believe tablets will transform the way students learn in the future.” LOL okay. The poll also found that K–12 students are using tablets more (80% of elementary students, 70% of middle school students, and almost 50% of high school students). Here’s the broken link to the survey results.

Via The New York Times: “An artificial intelligence software program capable of seeing and reading has for the first time answered geometry questions from the SAT at the level of an average 11th grader.”

From Deans for Impact, a summary of cognitive science research – or what some peddle as the “science of learning.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Faculty Members See Promise in Unified Way to Measure Student Learning.” One test to measure it all. Mmmhmmm.

Imagine if schoolteachers and college professors were immediately able to identify how each of their students learns, what learning style works best for each child and what new topics he or she is struggling with.” IMAGINE IF ED-TECH JOURNALISTS ASKED CRITICAL QUESTIONS AND DIDN’T JUST RE-WRITE PR.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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