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Education Politics


Via the Times-Picayune: “Texan who called Obama a gay prostitute might soon control textbooks.” Mary Lou Bruner, the Texan in question here, will face a run-off election in May to see if she will join the powerful Texas State Board of Education.

Via Education Week: “The Washington House passed a measure on Wednesday that would change the funding source of the state’s charter schools, which some lawmakers and advocates of the independent public schools say would ensure the future of the charter system. The schools have been in limbo since September when the state Supreme Court ruled the charter school law approved by voters in 2012 is unconstitutional.”

Tressie McMillan Cottom writes about the Bernie Sanders’ campaign’s approach to free college and HBCUs.

“Filers getting to the FAFSA finish line dropped 7 percent as of last month compared to last year,” Politico observes. Heckuva job with that FAFSA upgrade, Department of Ed.

Make magazine reports that “White House Backs National Week of Making, Building High School Makerspaces.” (I’m tempted to add the little trademark symbol after all these “make” words, but turns out it’s only Maker Faire™ that’s trademarked by Make:™.)

The state of California is weighing outlawing classes that “without educational content.”

Via The New York Times: “New U.S. Rule Extends Stay for Some Foreign Graduates.”

Via DNAinfo: “Next year’s incoming freshman at [New York] city’s most elite high schools will be even less diverse they were this year, according to data from high school admissions offers the Department of Education released Friday.”

The US Senate Education Committee has voted to advance John King Jr's nomination as the new Secretary of Education.

Via The New York Times: “The agency on Tuesday will circulate a final proposal to F.C.C. members to approve a broadband subsidy of $9.25 a month for low-income households, in the government’s boldest effort to date to narrow a technological divide that has emerged between those who have web access and those who do not. While more than 95 percent of households with incomes over $150,000 have high-speed Internet at home, just 48 percent of those making less than $25,000 can afford the service, the F.C.C.’s chairman, Tom Wheeler, has said.”

Via ZDNet: “The Brazilian government is relaunching one of its flagship schemes, the National Program for Access to Technical Education and Employment (Pronatec). Pronatec is focused on low-income young Brazilians and has played an important role in creating entry-level skills to fill the country’s existing expertise gap in the IT sector.”

Education in the Courts


Via AZ Central: “A prominent research administrator and scientist at Arizona State University has filed a lawsuit that accuses school administrators, including President Michael Crow, of abusing their authority, diverting funds intended for her lab and harassing employees who make allegations of ethics violations.”

This judge says toddlers can defend themselves in immigration court.”

Via ABC News: “2 Baltimore School Police Officers Charged in Assault of Student Caught on Video.”

“Federal Court Upholds Gainful-Employment Rule, Dealing For-Profit Group Another Loss,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Law school graduate sues law school for inflating job data.

Via The New York Times: “Supreme Court Declines to Hear Apple’s Appeal in E-Book Pricing Case.”

Via The Digital Reader: “Textbook Publishers Win Default Judgement Against Alleged Textbook Pirate.”

Via the San Jose Mercury News: “Responding to overwhelming public protest, a federal judge has backtracked on the potential release of records for 10 million California students – and decided that they won’t be provided to attorneys in a special-education lawsuit.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “A jury in Oakland, Calif., earlier this month decided the University of the Incarnate Word does not need to pay $10 million in damages to Learning Technology Partners, its former learning management provider. UIW and the company sued each other in 2014 over breach of contract after the private Catholic institution experienced performance issues with the learning management system and decided to stop using it. Learning Technology Partners, meanwhile, said the performance issues were related to students at the university using the system in ‘unauthorized’ ways.”

Trump, Trump, Trump


(I’m giving Trump his own section this own week because the story is one part politics, one part legal machinations, one part ed-tech, one part terror, and as the accompanying image suggests, ten parts bullshit.)

“Could Ben Carson be the Next U.S. Secretary of Education?” asks Education Week, upon hearing that the former neurosurgeon will endorse The Donald. Of course, Trump has said that as President, he’ll get rid of the Department of Education… but “not so fast!” says The Hechinger Report.

Via Vox: “Donald Trump tries to name and shame Trump University students who criticized him.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “In a Video Defense of Trump U., the Candidate Cites Rave Evaluations.”

Via The New York Times: “At Trump University, Students Recall Pressure to Give Positive Reviews.”

Via The Daily Beast: “Trump University Hired Motivational Speakers and a Felon as Faculty.”

The Better Business Bureau responds to “inaccuracies” about how it rated Trump University.

Via Politico: “Trump University: Teaching real estate – and making money.”

Roger Schank offers “A look at a Trump University course we built.”

Testing, Testing…


Lots of PR following the release last weekend of SAT’s new version. “One million students now using free SAT prep materials,” says USA Today, citing Khan Academy’s new test prep resources. The College Board issued a press release full of figures it gleaned from a survey of some 8000 students who took the test. We know nothing about how those students were selected or any of their demographic details, but hey. Cite away! The Princeton Review issued its own press release, insisting that many students opted to sit out the exam. Kaplan Test Prep also surveyed SAT-test-taking students because why not.

“SAT Test-Taking Declines in Settings Not Sponsored by States or Districts,” reports Education Week.

Via Vox: “The new SAT, explained in 7 annotated sample questions.”

The Chronicle of Education wrote an article based a handful of tweets from students who’d just taken the exam. Journalism!

According to Real Clear Education, criticism of the AP misses that it’s “this century’s biggest education success story.”

The Atlantic examines why some colleges and universities are getting rid of placement exams.

Via AZ Central: “Legislation that would make Arizona the first in the nation to adopt a ‘menu’ of standardized tests gained final approval in the Senate on Monday afternoon and now heads to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk ready to sign.”

“Online-Testing Stumbles Spark Legislation in Affected States,” Education Week reports.

“Competing Pressures Squeeze, Shake K–12 Assessment Landscape,” Education Week reports: high-stakes tests versus small-scale assessments.

MOOCs and UnMOOCs (a.k.a. Online Education)


Report: MOOC Instructors Need More Support.”

Meanwhile on Campus


“Universities Are Becoming Billion-Dollar Hedge Funds With Schools Attached,” writes Astra Taylor in The Nation.

Grand Canyon University will no longer pursue its efforts to become a non-profit as its accreditor will not support the change, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Via Colorlines: “Water in 30 Newark Public Schools Tests Positive for Lead. Officials have turned off the taps at half the district’s schools.” I’m not even in the mood to make a Zuckerberg-related joke about education technology solutionism. (More on the district’s lead levels in The New York Times.)

From Wisconsin: “Regents approve new policies for UW tenure over professors’ objections.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Melissa A. Click says that her dismissal last month from the University of Missouri at Columbia was punishment for standing ‘with students who have drawn attention to the issue of overt racism,’ and that she had been scapegoated as officials ‘bowed to conservative voices that seek to tarnish my stellar 12-year record at MU,’” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports, noting that the AAUP has also opened an investigation into Click’s firing.

“Oberlin Board Condemns Professor’s ‘Abhorrent’ Social-Media Posts,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Harvard Law School might change its seal, which is associated with a major early donor to the school who was heavily involved in the slave trade.

Harvard University Has A Bold Plan To Transform K–12 Education” because of course it does.

The New York Times gives us twoTWO – stories on Britain’s elite schools this week.

The University of Iowa has partnered with the startup Raise.me to offer high school students “micro-scholarships.”

Cornell president Elizabeth Garrett has passed away from cancer, less than a year after taking office.

Amazon is opening a brick-and-mortar store – or a pickup location at least – at Georgia Tech.

Via Buzzfeed: “We Looked Inside Yale’s Admissions Files And Found How They Talk About Applicants.”

“Officials at Zenith Education Group are hoping a new financial aid process that provides pre-enrollment financial literacy counseling will help students make better-informed decisions at the nonprofit Everest and WyoTech campuses,” says Inside Higher Ed.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Leader of U. of Phoenix Says It’s ‘Heads-Down Focused’ on Improvements for Students.”

Justin Bieber paid $5,000 per day to rent Matt Knight Arena in Eugene.” Go Ducks!

Baylor fraternity president charged with sexual assault.”

“At Gustavus Adolphus College, a 500-word essay can … be the institution’s punishment for students accused of rape,” Inside Higher Ed reports. “That’s the claim made by student activists at the small liberal arts college last week.”

Go, School Sports Team!


Via Inside Higher Ed: “The National Collegiate Athletic Association will distribute more than $200 million to Division I members next year to help institutions pay for benefits and services for athletes.”

Survey: Most Americans Think Coaches Are Overpaid.”

From the HR Department


Education sociology professor Sara Goldrick-Rab will join the faculty at Temple University this summer. She is leaving UW Madison, she says, because of the state’s attacks on tenure and academic freedom.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Sujit Choudhry, dean of the University of California at Berkeley’s law school, has resigned from the post one day after it was announced that he would take an indefinite leave of absence. Mr. Choudhry has been accused of sexual harassment by his former executive assistant, Tyann Sorrell.”

Google has hired Christopher Poole, the founder of the anonymous messaging board 4Chan, to run “social” at Google, which is pretty horrifying.

“James Kvaal, a top White House adviser and former official at the U.S. Department of Education, is leaving to teach at the University of Michigan's Ford School of Public Policy. His last day, after nearly seven years, is Friday,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Via the Lexington Herald Leader: “Morehead State announces 5-day unpaid furlough for faculty, staff.”

The NLRB says that ESL instructors at Loyola University Chicago can unionize.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “David Visin resigned from his post as the University of Iowa's interim public-safety director on Friday, less than a week after the Associated Press reported that he had interfered with the investigation of a hit-and-run incident involving his stepson.”

The algorithmic future of education/work will be discriminatory. Via DZone: “New Algorithm Tests Job Candidates for Cultural Fit.”

Upgrades and Downgrades


I’m hearing conflicting reports about the future of AltSchool, the private school startup that has raised $133 million in funding. That’s a lot of money, but it looks like AltSchool might be pivoting to software provider rather than school sooner rather than later. Edsurge has a shiny take on the new partner program “AltSchool Open.”

You can sign up for the waitlist for Amazon’s new education platform. There’s still no mention of licensing in this, despite all the reports (mostly based on that one Education Week piece, truth be told) that it’ll be a site for OER. But the splash page says “open” twice, so I’m sure it’s all good.

Education Week takes a deep dive into Mark Zuckerberg’s ed-tech investments and “giving strategy” and his plans to “personalize education.”

Men explain “personalized education” to you. Their definitions can be found here. Here. Or here.

“Yik Yak asks users to create user names in a step away from anonymity,” The Verge reports. What could possibly go wrong?

Via The Hechinger Report: “A new nonprofit takes aim at ed tech pricing. First target: The iPad.”

McGraw-Hill issued a press release, touting that “in 2015 unit sales of digital platforms and programs exceeded those of print in its U.S. Higher Education Group for the first time.”

Elsewhere in McGraw-Hill textbook news: the publisher, “after being told maps in a political science textbook were anti-Israel, withdraws the volume and eliminates all copies,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

Elsewhere in e-book-related news: “B&N Ed Retires Its Digital Textbook Platform, Replaces It With VitalSource.” And a nice reminder, as the NOOK pulls out of the UK, meaning customers might lose access to the digital materials they’ve purchased: “You Don’t Own Your Ebooks.”

“Sexism rife in textbooks, says UNESCO,” says the BBC.

LittleBits announced the launch of its new product, the STEAM Student Set. (Each box’ll run you ~$300, so you’re probably not going 1:1 with this one.)

Macmillan Learning announced the launch of iOLab, a handheld device for physics classes. (“Announced the launch” is code for “there was a big ed-tech event this week and we wanted to make sure folks wrote up our press release.” More on SXSWedu news below…)

“Google Docs now lets you export files as an EPUB ebook,” Venture Beat reports. But don’t bother. “Google Docs Exports EPUBs, But Not Well,” TidBITS cautions.

Via Buzzfeed: “This Student Adds A Woman In Science To Wikipedia Every Time She’s Harassed Online.”

Via The Atlantic: “Why Online Gradebooks Are Changing Education.”

Could Slack Be the Next Online Learning Platform?

You know what ed-tech really needs? Another “social learning platform.” Never fear, “HP Partners with EdCast to Launch Massive Social Learning Platform, HP LIFE 2.0.”

You know what ed-tech really needs? Another “Pinterest for Education.” Never fear, Stephen Fry has a new startup that does just that.

Bill Gates explains why classroom technology is failing students and teachers.” He fails to mention that most classroom is useless and derivative bullshit, as many of the news items in this section underscore.

Sound the “technology facilitates cheating” klaxon: “Smartwatches that allow pupils to ‘cheat’ in exams for sale on Amazon,” The Independent reports. “New Services Make Cheating Easier Than Ever For Students,” Buzzfeed reports.

From Pearson: “Everyone in Education Should Care About Digital Badges: Here’s Why.” (Not surprisingly, the real reason is not given here: because Pearson plans to monetize the hell out of badges.)

Elsewhere in badges: “Some thoughts on the evidence behind Open Badges” by Doug Belshaw.

From the Internet Archive: “Saving 500 Apple II Programs from Oblivion.” (Is there an archive for deadpooled ed-tech?)

From “everyone should capitalize on this latest trend”: “Computer science is the key to America’s skills crisis,” insists a Techcrunch op-ed. “As Schools Emphasize Computer Science,” asks Fast Company, “How Do We Teach Teachers To Code?”

This year’s DML Competition asks for folks to innovate around the “learning playlist,” which might be ed-tech industry-speak for “the syllabus.”

The winners of this year’s 2016 McGraw Prize in Education: Alberto M. Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade Public County Schools, Anant Agarwal, the head of edX, and Sakena Yacoobi, the CEO of the Afghan Institute of Learning. They each get $50K, quite a prize.

Dispatches from SXSWedu


(So this was a big week for news in part because many companies and organizations issued press releases timed with the annual ed-tech event in Austin. Nothing like making sure that your exciting announcement is drowned out by hundreds of others exciting announcements…)

Via Edsurge: “SXSWedu’s Opening Keynote, Temple Grandin, Revisits ‘Learning Styles’.”

Imagine a future in which learning is earning,” say The ACT Foundation and the Institute of the Future, who unveiled some future-forecasting blockchain-all-the-transactions things at SXSW. I’d rather not imagine such a future, thanks. This dystopia introduced via a game – aren’t they always – in Jane McGonigal’s keynote.

ELSA, a mobile app for English language learning, was the winner at this year’s Launch competition at SXSWedu.

Funding and Acquisitions


LightSail Education has raised $11 million in Series B funding from Scott Cook (the co-founder of Intuit) and The Bezos Family Foundation. The literacy app has raised $23.19 million total.

LTG Exam Platform has raised $5.3 million in Series A funding from Square Peg Capital, Atlas Venture, Jamie McCourt, Edward and Mitch Roberts, and Margot Lebenberg Carter. The company has raised over $8 million in funding.

Via Techcrunch: “Nasscom Foundation gets $4.78M from the Gates Foundation to support tech programs in Indian public libraries.”

Volley has raised $2.3 million in seed funding from Zuckerberg Education Ventures and Reach Capital. Via Techcrunch: “‘This is so fast it feels like cheating’ students tell Volley. The education startup’s app lets students point their phone’s camera at a textbook page or piece of homework, and instantly see resources about key facts and tricky parts, prerequisites, and links to snippets of online classes or study guides that could help.” The startup plans to build “learning algorithms,” according to Edsurge.

Constant Therapy has raised $2 million in Series A funding from Golden Seeds, Kapor Capital, Launchpad Venture Group, Pond Capital, and Community Health Network of Connecticut. From the press release: “Constant Therapy is revolutionizing the treatment of speech, language and cognitive disorders by using science-based digital brain therapy delivered on mobile devices.” The company has raised $2.74 million total.

Barnes & Noble Education has acquired LoudCloud Systems for $17.9 million. Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill offers his take on why the buy.

PASCO Scientific has acquired Ergopedia. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Weld North has acquired Performance Matters. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Also not disclosed: what happens to student data when these types of data/assessment companies are acquired.

Data, Privacy, and Surveillance


Via The Intercept: “The Unblinking Eye: High School Students Debate Surveillance in Post-Snowden America.”

“Former UCF student sued his alma mater this week in the wake of the computer hack at the university that compromised 63,000 Social Security numbers,” The Orlando Sentinel reports. “It’s currently at least the second pending lawsuit the school faces. A third lawsuit was dismissed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, court records show.”

“Direct Deposit Breach Strikes Illinois State,” Campus Technology reports.

Via The New York Times: “Genetic Test Firm to Make Customers’ Data Publicly Available.”

A nice explainer for education folks from Common Sense Media’s Bill Fitzgerald on the differences between “Encryption, Privacy, and Security.” In other Common Sense Media news: “With 40 US K–12 District Partners, Common Sense Launches Multi-Year ‘Privacy Evaluation Initiative’.”

Data and “Research”


According to UNESCO, some 63 million girls are out of school. “Almost 16 million girls between the ages of 6 and 11 will never get the chance to learn to read or write in primary school compared to about 8 million boys if current trends continue,’” the Associated Press reports.

A new column from FiveThirtyEight’s new science writer Maggie Koerth-Baker: “Science Questions from a Toddler.” The first article answers the question “Why am I right-handed?

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Lumina Releases Papers on Performance-Based Funding.”

Via Education Dive: “Andrew Kelly, director of the Center on Higher Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, called the narrative of the student loan crisis overblown.”

Meanwhile, a study published in the journal Race and Social Problems has found “that black young adults have 68.2 percent more student loan debt, on average, than do white young adults.”

College Presidents Say Race Relations Are Just Fine (Students, Not So Much).”

“Neuroscientists Study Real-Time Learning in Classroom Lab,” says Education Week.

Meanwhile here’s an excerpt from an abstract of an article in the March 2016 issue of Psychology Review: “The core claim of educational neuroscience is that neuroscience can improve teaching in the classroom. Many strong claims are made about the successes and the promise of this new discipline. By contrast, I show that there are no current examples of neuroscience motivating new and effective teaching methods, and argue that neuroscience is unlikely to improve teaching in the future.” Damn, because those “brain-based blah blah blah” stories are just so clickable!

“Why Has Charter School Violence Spiked at Double the Rate of Public Schools?” asks The Nation.

“The Ongoing Battle Over Ethnic Studies: A new study suggests that such courses can dramatically elevate the achievement of at-risk students,” Melinda D. Anderson reports in The Atlantic.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The first comprehensive global survey of science academies and gender has found that only 12% of the members of 69 national science academies are women – and just 6% in maths and 5% in engineering.”

Via Education Week’s research blog: “‘Deeper Learning’ Boosts Grad Rates, but Benefits Less for Students in Poverty.”

Can Science’s Reproducibility Crisis Be Reproduced?

Slate says that “an influential psychological theory, borne out in hundreds of experiments, may have just been debunked.”

“There Is No FDA For Education. Maybe There Should Be,” suggests NPR. Stephen Downes’ response for the win: “It’s a ridiculous proposition, the idea that lack of access to the same education rich people have can be solved like it were a disease or illness.”

The Gates Foundation has surveyed educators on their use of data and on their attitudes towards ed-tech.

Futuresource Consulting releases its latest report on the K–12 market share of computing devices.

Edsurge writes up the results of a TES Global survey that found that 73% teachers use OER more than textbooks. Not noted: that the survey offers nothing about its research methodology, so me, I’m having hard time believing these results since they run counter to other research on OER adoption.

The latest Pew Research study looks at the public’s predictions about the automation of work: “A majority of Americans predict that within 50 years, robots and computers will do much of the work currently done by humans – but few workers expect their own jobs or professions to experience substantial impacts.”

Via NPR: “America’s High School Graduates Look Like Other Countries’ High School Dropouts.” The story looks at the results from the Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies, which looks at adults’ math, literacy, and technology skills. Other news outlets have gone with more incendiary headlines: “Americans Rank Last in Problem-Solving With Technology,” frets The Wall Street Journal. (Meanwhile, The Pacific Standard looks at libraries and non-profits that work to improve adult (computer) literacy.)

Icon credits: The Noun Project

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Audrey Watters


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