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Education Politics


Via the Mail and Guardian Africa: “An Africa first! Liberia outsources entire education system to a private American firm. Why all should pay attention.” The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, has said that “Such arrangements are a blatant violation of Liberia’s international obligations under the right to education, and have no justification under Liberia’s constitution.” The company in question is Bridge International Academies, which has received funding from the Gates Foundation, Learn Capital, and Mark Zuckerberg’s investment company the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (among others).

Bridge’s model is ‘school in a box’ – a highly structured, technology-driven model that relies on teachers reading standardised lessons from hand-held tablet computers. Bridge hires education experts to script the lessons, but the teacher’s role is to deliver that content to the class. This allows Bridge to hold down costs because it can hire teachers who don’t have college degrees – a teacher is only required to go through a five-week training programme on how to read and deliver the script.


To keep tuition costs low – about $6 a term –Bridge depends on large class sizes. An ideal class size is 40 to 50 pupils, but the classes can get upward of 70 students.

Families must pay that tuition – this isn’t free public education – and the cost is wildly prohibitive for most. Moreover, outsourcing to scripted lesson delivery does not build the capacity – in terms of infrastructure or human resources – that a struggling African nation might need. Simply saying “Critics emerge” in response? Wow.

Via the Daily Dot: “The Federal Communications Commission voted at its monthly meeting Thursday to expand a low-income phone-subsidy program to Internet service and begin writing rules protecting the privacy of broadband customers’ data.” More from The New York Times and Education Week on the broadband subsidy.

Via HuffPo: “The U.S. Department of Education last week sent warning letters to two businesses, demanding that the companies stop using the Department’s official logos, or marks, without authorization. One of them, Arcadia, California-based MC Business Group LLC apparently has been running one of the many operations promising people help with managing their student loans, for a fee, even though, as the Department has been pointing out for some time, such services are available free of charge.”

An anti-trans bathroom bill is working its way through the Tennessee State House and Senate.

From the Detroit Free Press: “In its latest crackdown on school corruption in Detroit, the federal government today dropped a legal bomb on 12 current and former principals, one administrator and a vendor – all of them charged with running a nearly $1-million bribery and kickback scheme involving school supplies that were rarely ever delivered.”

Legislation introduced in Connecticut would go after the (tax-free gains in) Yale’s $26 billion endowment. Florida’s governor suggests Yale could move there.

Teachers in England oppose the government’s plans to convert schools to academies, says the BBC.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has dropped his plan to cut $485 million in state funding from the City University of New York, Inside Higher Ed reports.

“Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst will merge with education advocacy group 50Can,” according to The LA Times.

Shirley Hufstedler, the first Cabinet-level Secretary of Education, has died.

Education in the Courts


Public sector unions live to fight another day as the Supreme Court is tied 4–4 in Friedrichs v. CTA (thanks to Scalia not living).

Via Buzzfeed: “ Students Ripped Off By For-Profit Colleges Discover They Can’t Sue.”

Via The Wall Street Journal: “Judge Says Bankrupt Law Grads Can Cancel Bar Loans.” Federal student loans cannot be discharged by declaring bankruptcy, so this is an interesting ruling.

Via ABC: “The American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups filed a federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which Governor Pat McCrory recently signed into law last week.” Meanwhile, the University of North Carolina president Margaret Spellings has refused to criticize the anti-LGBT law. But the North Carolina Attorney General says he will not defend the law as it's a "national embarrassment."

Via Buzzfeed: “The elite all-girls Marlborough School in Los Angeles claims that a woman suing the school over sexual abuse by a former English teacher is responsible for the emotional and psychological suffering she’s experienced because she did not speak up sooner. For the same reason, the school argues, she is to blame for having ‘exposed’ other students to potential sexual abuse by the teacher.”

Via the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “A student who said he was wrongly expelled from George Mason University for engaging in consensual, sadomasochistic sex has won a federal lawsuit demanding his reinstatement.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “In a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education filed on Wednesday, the National Consumer Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Massachusetts demanded access to information on student-loan debt collection and its racial impact.”

Testing, Testing…


A Reuters investigation: Part One: “As SAT was hit by security breaches, College Board went ahead with tests that had leaked.” Part Two: “How Asian test-prep companies swiftly exposed the brand-new SAT.” More on the SAT’s security problems via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Meanwhile, via Edsurge: “How Khan Academy is Shaking Up the SAT.”

Online standardized testing glitches strike again – this time in Texas.

Via the Chicago Sun Times: “PARCC testing begins again but still no opt-out policy.”

Via Education Week: “Reach of PARCC, Smarter Balanced, Drops Sharply in 2015–16.”

“We Need to Assess Assessments,” says Freddie deBoer and it’s turtles all the way down.

Online Education (The Artist Formerly Known as “MOOC”)


Utrecht University is the latest Coursera partner.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is partnering with Coursera to offer a master’s degree in data science. The new buzzword, in this and in multiple other marketing efforts, seems to be “stackable.” “More Colleges Turn to ‘Stackable’ Degrees as Entries to Graduate Program,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

University of Zurich professor Paul-Olivier Dehaye writes about the latest in his case against Coursera: “Investigation by Zurich Data Protection Authority of data transfers between the local university and MOOC startup Coursera.”

“Have you always wanted to teach an art class but couldn't find an online resource on a Walmart budget?” Edsurge asks in its coverage of Walmart heir Alice Walton’s move into online education and teacher training via the museum she founded, Crystal Bridges.

A report from MIT: “Online Education: A Catalyst for Higher Education Reforms.”

Meanwhile on Campus


You know it’s gonna be … something when your education announcement is in Rolling Stone or when you call your teachers “illuminators,” amirite? Sean “Diddy” Combs is opening a new charter school in Harlem with Dr. Stephen Perry. José Luis Vilson has thoughts, and those include using the word “bamboozled,” on the celebrity-as-savior thing.

The Hechinger Report asks if we’re seeing “The end of ‘no excuses’ education reform?” Let’s ask Diddy.

A photo essay via The Atlantic on education in Senegal: “Schooled into Slavery.”

Via GayStarNews: “Kansas students to get $2,500 payout if they rat on transgender schoolmates for using ‘incorrect’ restroom.”

Via The New York Times: “High Lead Levels Found at More Newark Schools.”

Several universities reported that anti-Semitic fliers were printed from network-connected printers. “Weev” takes credit.

Via Buzzfeed: “University Of California Lowered Standards To Admit Out-Of-State Students.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Nonprofit Zenith Education Group is consolidating or closing 10 more campuses of the former Corinthian Colleges. The chain lost $100 million last year and is making changes to its business model, curriculum and leadership.”

George Mason University will rename its law school after the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The university gets lots of money from the Koch brothers, and $10 million towards the renaming (which is pretty expensive apparently) came from the Charles Koch Foundation.

Joi Ito announces that “MIT Media Lab Changes Software Default to FLOSS.”

Via Boing Boing: “CIA borrowed school bus for training, left explosive material on board while bus carried kids.”

Via Wired: “Why Some Students Are Ditching America for Medical School in Cuba.”

“Treating students like stocks is the idea behind an emerging kind of financial aid called income-share agreements,” writes The Hechinger Report on efforts to loan students money for school in exchange for a cut of their future income. Purdue plans to experiment with this. (See more on Purdue’s CBE experiments below.)

Accreditation and Certification


The new Education Secretary John King pens a blog post on “Strengthening Accreditation to Protect Students.”

Purdue University will offer a competency-based bachelor’s degree, Inside Higher Ed reports.

A venture capitalist offers “A Survival Strategy for Alternative Credential Providers.”

For more news on college degrees, read in the “HR” section below about Silicon Valley’s demand for software engineers to be “appropriately” certified.

Go, School Sports Team!


Harvard cheats. News at 11.

Coach K lies. News at 11.

Via the Houston Chronicle: “Prairie View A&M women’s basketball coach Dawn Brown was fired for enforcing a team rule that allegedly violates Title IX. The university made the announcement Tuesday. Brown removed two of her players during the season for dating each other. Brown’s rule stated that players may not have non-professional relationship with each other, coaches, managers, trainers or any others affiliated with the team.”

From the HR Department


Members of the Chicago Teachers Union have walked out today, a one-day strike in protest of the policies of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.

And speaking of Rauner’s destructive education policies… via the Chicago Sun Times: “Chicago State tells employees to turn in keys as layoffs loom.”

Via the Detroit Metro Times: “NLRB calls out Detroit charter school that refused to bargain with teachers.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “What Tenured and Tenure-Track Professors at 4-Year Colleges Made in 2015–16.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “In a case that has been controversial for several years, the National Labor Relations Board ruled last week, 2 to 1, that Columbia College Chicago violated federal labor law when it, in 2010 and 2011, unilaterally reduced the number of credit hours associated with 10 courses. The move was challenged by the Part-Time Faculty Union at the college, which is known as P-FAC. The college also refused to talk to the union about the issue until the union detailed exactly how it wanted to resolve the issue and for months refused to engage in any negotiations at all – also moves the NLRB found violated federal labor law.”

Five more trustees have resigned from the board of Mount St. Mary’s University, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Almost 8,000 jobs in UK libraries have disappeared in six years, about a quarter of the overall total, an investigation by the BBC has revealed.”

“Paul Mott, the Common Application’s chief executive, has left the organization after nearly two years at the helm,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

The University of Mary Washington’s DTLT continues to hire expand its reign of awesome with news that Kris Shaffer will be joining the team this summer.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The president of Essex County College, Gale Gibson, has been suspended by the New Jersey institution’s Board of Trustees as it investigates accusations of misuse of the college’s resources.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The U.S. Department of Education announced Monday that Kim Hunter Reed, a former Louisiana higher education official, has joined the Obama administration as a deputy under secretary of education.”

Via Edsurge: “So You Want to Be an Instructional Designer?”

Also via Edsurge: “Sizing Up Your Skills – How You Can Get a Job in the Edtech World.”

Well, if you want a job as a software developer in Silicon Valley do make sure you have a college degree. Badges will not suffice. Via The Wall Street Journal:

Seventy-five percent of job ads for those roles at technology companies specify an educational requirement, compared with 58% of openings posted by the full universe of employers that are hiring software developers, according to Burning Glass Technologies, a labor-market data firm that analyzed 1.6 million ads for software-developer jobs nationwide. And in 95% of the tech-sector job ads that list a minimum credential, the employer calls for a bachelor’s degree or higher, versus 92% of the ads from all employers seeking developers. … Nationally, 68% of adults over age 25 don’t have bachelor’s degrees. Burning Glass found employers in Silicon Valley were the most exacting in terms of credentials, listing education requirements in 77% of developer job postings, and in those ads, demanding a bachelor’s or advanced degree 98% of the time. (emphasis mine)

Via The Guardian: “Silicon Valley subcontracting makes income inequality worse, report finds.” The report: “Tech’s Invisible Workforce

Remind me again why we expect Silicon Valley to address educational inequality via ed-tech?

Upgrades and Downgrades


“Don't Grade Schools on Grit,” says Angela Duckworth in an op-ed in The New York Times. Here’s a link to the software her lab makes which allows schools to grade students on grit. And here’s a link to Mathbabe Cathy O’Neil’s response: “Grit metrics for kids: let's not.”

The Library of Congress has canceled the subject heading “Illegal Aliens.”

The Oculus Rift begins shipping. Cue pronouncements about education revolution. And read Ian Bogost: “Dystopian Virtual Reality Is Finally Here.”

The Future of Academic Style: Why Citations Still Matter in the Age of Google” by Kathleen Fitzpatrick.

The New York Times profiles former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and her educational video games.

An in-depth look at Minecraft from the tech blog CNET: “Microsoft’s popular video game Minecraft helps kids learn everything from programming, science and math to art, languages and history.”

In other Minecraft news, Microsoft says the game will “get more powerful on mobile.”

“NASA Backs Arizona State on Adaptive Science Courses,” says Inside Higher Ed.

In a move to improve accessibility, Twitter adds alternative text support for images.

3D printed toys because American kids don't already have enough junk plastic.

“Want to learn Arabic? These Syrian refugees will teach you via Skype,” according to The Daily Dot.

“Getting banned from Facebook can have unexpected and professionally devastating consequences,” writes the EFF’s Jillian York.

“Is There Really a Global Shortage of Colored Pencils?” asks The Digital Reader.

LinkedIn launches “Learning Paths.”

Following concerns last week about harassment via annotation tools, Vijith Assar wrote a tool to block Genius from marking up one’s site. Sarah Jeong reports on the controversy. And annotation startup Hypothes.is responds.

Pinboard v IFTTT

Edubuntu is dead (or will be in 2019).

Two publications wrote up conversations with Khan Academy’s Sal Khan this week – Edsurge (linked above in the “Testing” section) and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Is Khan Academy on the prowl for more funding? Is this the remnants of SXSWedu PR? Or has Khan Academy just faded from public view and, on the heels of that Pew study last week that said very few people said they were very familiar with the organization, is it time to remind everyone about it? I dunno. Anyway, via The Chronicle: “How Sal Khan Hopes to Remake Education.”

“Learning to Code Yields Diminishing Returns,” says Douglas Rushkoff.

Marketplaces for educational content. Still a thing. (This week Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced theirs.)

Edukwest’s Kirsten Winkler offers her analysis of “what went wrong” and why the language learning site Livemocha shutdown.

“Could the Language Barrier Actually Fall Within the Next 10 Years?” asks The New Republic. Well, I suppose technological imperialism could bring about the end to most languages other than English, but I don’t think that’s what “technology expert” Alec Ross is talking about when he makes his sweeping promises about technology and language learning.

Via NPR: “10 Seconds At A Time, A Teacher Tries Snapchat To Engage Students.”

The “4 Ed-Tech Ideas Face The Chronicle’s Version of ‘Shark Tank’” includes a way to more easily hire adjunct instructors.

From the British Library: “Utilising geolocation services and push notifications, Poetic Places can let you know when you stumble across a place depicted in verse. Alternatively, you can browse the poems and places as a source of inspiration without travelling to them.”

Finalists for 2015 EWA Awards for Education Reporting and Eddie Prize Announced. A shout-out to finalist (and my local NPR station) KPCC for its work on the LAUSD iPad fiasco.

Funding and Acquisitions (The Business of Ed-Tech)


From the press release: “Indianapolis-based Lesson.ly, which develops learning automation software, has raised $5 million in Series A funding. OpenView led the round, which included participation from High Alpha Capital and Allos Ventures.” Lesson.ly has raised $6.1 million total.

BridgeEDU has raised $3.25 million in seed funding from the Lumina Foundation and others for its first-year-of-college transition program.

Flashcard app-maker Memorang has raised $500,000 in seed funding from Michael Kane, Tom Palecek, Glen Friedman, and others.

From the press release: “China Distance Education Holdings Limited announced that it signed a definitive agreement on March 23, 2016 to acquire an 80% equity interest in Xiamen NetinNet Software Co., Ltd. for a total consideration of RMB212 million (US$32.6 million). Xiamen NetinNet is a leading learning simulation software provider specializing in practical accounting-related learning solutions for China’s college market.”

I missed this news back in January but I’m including it here now: Rustici Software (which developed SCORM and the xAPI) was acquired by Learning Technologies Group plc.

Data, Privacy, and Surveillance


Via NPR: “Software Flags ‘Suicidal’ Students, Presenting Privacy Dilemma.” (Let’s connect this to the study, below, that schools hire more cops than counselors, shall we?)

Speaking of counselors and an algorithmic performance of care, the University of Michigan will now offer algorithmic advising. “The Academic Reporting Toolkit (ART) 2.0 is actually a data visualization program that crunches historic data from 9,273 courses to inform users about the paths followed by students who have taken particular classes. It’s intended to be used not only by students but also by advisors, faculty and administrators,” says Campus Technology.

“Why Are Educators Learning How to Interrogate Their Students?” asks The New Yorker.

Via S. Krashen: “Pearson (Luckin et. al., 2016) has announced that they are developing programs that will monitor students as they participate in group work, showing how well each student is participating (p. 27), using, for example ‘voice recognition (to identify who is doing and saying what in a team activity.’ (p.34). This is designed to make sure students are participating according to the programmers’ ideas of what optimal participation is.” (Those pages cited are from Pearson’s recent report on how it plans to use AI.)

Via the Star Tribune: “Two faculty unions are up in arms over a new rule that would allow Minnesota’s state colleges and universities to inspect employee-owned cellphones and mobile devices if they’re used for work. The unions say the rule, which is set to take effect on Friday, would violate the privacy of thousands of faculty members, many of whom use their own cellphones and computers to do their jobs.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “About 6 percent of students who took an online final exam proctored by Examity last fall broke the rules. … Most of the attempts to cheat came in the form of a cheat sheet (21 percent) or using Google to look up answers or translations (14 percent).”

The privacy news site PogoWasRight.org has filed an FTC complaint against uKnowKids, a business that claims to monitor children online.

“Should schools ask students about their sexual orientation to protect LGBT rights?” asks The Washington Post. Will collecting this data help research? Will it make schools less discriminatory? And/or will the collection of this data put LGBT youth at risk?

Education Week reports on “The Quantified Baby.”

Via Education Dive: “Projections: 4 years to widespread wearable tech in K–12.” Imagine the surveillance possibilities!

From Common Sense Media: “Information Security Primer for Evaluating Educational Software.”

Data and “Research”


Here are Edsurge’s calculations for February 2016 ed-tech funding. Here are my calculations for March 2016 ed-tech funding.

Report on education inequality retracted. Tut-tut.

The Census has released its latest data on educational attainment.

From the NSF: “Doctorate Recipients from US Universities.”

Grade inflation continues, which should prompt us to ask questions about the practices of assessment and the meaning of these academic signals. But instead, we’ll just wring our hands about the failing education system and “kids these days” and so on.

“Do employers frown on for-profit colleges and online degrees?” asks The American Economic Association. Yes. Yes they do, although the mistrust is less for those completing vocational programs – good news for the coding bootcamp providers, I guess.

Via Vox: “A new study finds that sexism is rampant in the tech industry, with almost two-thirds of women reporting sexual harassment and nearly 90 percent reporting demeaning comments from male colleagues.”

Via the Pacific Standard: “How to win a science contest.”

Colorlines on a report originally published in The 74: “Study: Nation’s Largest Public Schools Have More Police Than Counselors.”

This week in political bias in education research comes with this headline in the Deseret News: “Can school choice help keep kids out of jail?” The study in question looks at vouchers in Milwaukee and comes from the University of Arkansas’s Department of Education Reform where the author holds the “21st Century Chair in School Choice.”

Via Education Week: “Poll: Parents Take Dim View of Careers in STEM Teaching.”

Via Fusion, reporting on a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health: “Teens are using a secret language on Instagram to talk about self-harm.”

Via Boing Boing: “Landmark study on the effects of copyright takedown abuse on online free expression.”

“Matrix-style” learning continues to garner money and research and, yes, headlines, as Edsurge reports that “DARPA to Explore Nerve Stimulation to Accelerate Learning Processes.”

Via Gizmodo: “Study: People Who Point Out Typos Are Jerks.”

Icon credits: The Noun Project

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