Education Politics

I haven’t seen a lot of education-related headlines about the “Panama Papers,” but here’s one from The Sunday Times: “Saudi oil tycoon revealed as investor in schools company.” “A Saudi oil tycoon is the joint owner of an education company involved in running some of Britain’s state schools, with his interest held by a British Virgin Islands company formed by the law firm Mossack Fonseca.”

“Sen. Lamar Alexander ripped into Education Secretary John King Jr. during a hearing on Tuesday, accusing the Obama administration of trying to unilaterally change key provisions of the nation’s new federal education law,” reports The Washington Post.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The main association of for-profit colleges in Washington on Thursday asked Education Secretary John B. King Jr. to delay implementation of the Obama administration’s ‘gainful employment’ rule that is aimed at cracking down on for-profit colleges.”

“States Call For Removal Of College Watchdog For ‘Spectacular’ Failures,” reports Buzzfeed. “Thirteen attorneys general said the Accrediting Council of Independent Schools and Colleges was guilty of ‘systemic and extreme’ failures.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Speaking of spectacular failure, the Department of Education failed to find any trouble at Corinthian Colleges, despite conducting a review of the for-profit.

“The Obama administration plans to forgive $7.7 billion in federal student loans held by nearly 400,000 permanently disabled Americans,” The Washington Post reports.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti gave his “State of the City” speech this week, and among his proposals, committing to a goal of “giving every hardworking graduate of the Los Angeles Unified School District one free year of community college.” No details on how he’d finance this or what constitutes “hardworking.”

The Pacific Standard on “The Teen Sexting Overcorrection”: “Last week, Colorado lawmakers rejected a bill that would have made sexting among teenagers a misdemeanor crime. As Colorado law currently stands, minors who sext can technically be charged with felony child pornography, which carries a mandatory sex offender registration, even when the act is consensual. Lawmakers, it seems, aren’t quite sure how to respond to libidinous teens in the digital age.”

“The Federal Communications Commission has approved an expansion of the federal Lifeline program to include subsidies for broadband service for low-income households, a move that could help bridge the digital divide that exists between disadvantaged students and their wealthier peers,” Education Week reports.

“Will Mississippi’s ‘religious freedom’ act impact children in public and private schools?” asks The Hechinger Report.

Via NPR: “Philly Wants To Tax Soda To Raise Money For Schools.”

The White House held the final Science Fair of the Obama Administration. (And perhaps the final science fair, depending on who’s elected President, I suppose.) More details on what was on display via Education Week.

Education in the Courts

Via The New York Times: “A California appeals court ruled on Thursday that the state’s job protections for teachers do not deprive poor and minority students of a quality education or violate their civil rights – reversing a landmark lower court decision that had overturned the state’s teacher tenure rules.” The plaintiffs in Vergara v. California say they’ll appeal.

Also via The NYT: “Opening a new front in the assault on teacher tenure, a group of parents backed by wealthy philanthropists served notice to defendants on Wednesday in a lawsuit challenging Minnesota’s job protections for teachers, as well as the state’s rules governing which teachers are laid off as a result of budget cuts.”

Via TPM: “Wisconsin’s right-to-work law, championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker as he was mounting his run for president, was struck down Friday as violating the state constitution.”

Again, The NYT: “Federal prosecutors on Friday for the first time provided details of sexual abuse allegations against J. Dennis Hastert, the former speaker of the House, asserting that he molested at least four boys, as young as 14, when he worked as a high school wrestling coach decades ago. Mr. Hastert, 74, is not charged with abuse because of statutes of limitation, prosecutors said, but he was accused last year of illegally structuring bank withdrawals to pay one of his victims in an effort to hide the abuse.”

Via the Salt Lake Tribune: “Prosecutors say Brigham Young University is jeopardizing a pending rape prosecution because the school refuses to delay its Honor Code case against the alleged victim. Deputy Utah County Attorney Craig Johnson brought charges against the woman’s alleged attacker and said he implored school officials to consider that their Honor Code investigation of her conduct would further victimize her. He asked them to postpone their investigation until the conclusion of the trial, originally planned for next month. He said they declined, and have barred the student from registering for future classes until she complies with the school’s investigation.” JFC.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Graduates of an online program at George Washington U sue the institution, saying they paid more to receive a worse experience than face-to-face students.”

According to the Lincoln Journal Star, “A Pennsylvania company that provided online purchasing software to the Nebraska Educational Service Unit Coordinating Council is suing the council for breach of contract and seeking $460,000.” The company in question: ESM Solutions.

The lawyers who fought the copyright case about the “Happy Birthday” song have filed a suit claiming that, similarly, “We Shall Overcome,” a song closely associated with the Civil Rights Movement, was also wrongly copyrighted. More details via Boing Boing.

Testing, Testing…

From the NY Daily News: “State exam advocates launch ‘Say Yes to the Test’ campaign.”

“Technical glitches plague computer-based standardized tests nationwide,” says The Washington Post.

Via Politico: “Stanford University researchers find that New York teachers who artificially upgraded student test scores primarily had ‘altruistic’ motives.”

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

Via The Street: “2U Announces 12-Year Contract Extension With USC Rossier School Of Education.”

Via The Wall Street Journal: “Trump University Staff Detail How School Changed Course.”

Coursera Passes 1000-Course Milestone.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “MOOC With a Community College Twist.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: George Mason University economics professor “Tyler Cowen Says Online Professors Should Think Like Bloggers.” (As in, like, work for “exposure”? I dunno…)

(See the “Courts” section above for details about the George Washington University alumni lawsuit over the quality of its online master’s degree program in security leadership. See also the “Research” section at the end of this article for the latest MOOC-related PR.)

Meanwhile on Campus

“UC Davis spent thousands to scrub pepper-spray references from Internet,” the Sacramento Bee reports. Thousands as in at least $175,000. The university hired “reputation management companies” to improve search results for the school, so that stories and images of Lt Pike unleashing pepper spray into the face of peaceful protesters weren’t the first thing that people found about the school online. Laugh all you want about the Streisand Effect, but it’s quite chilling that a public institution would do this, removing from its own websites many of the reports that it commissioned on the incident. The university defends its decision.

Via Anya Kamenetz in Wired: “Pearson’s Quest to Cover the Planet in Company-Run Schools.” Horrific.

Angus Johnston has a couple of updates on US campus occupations: here and here. The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story about the end of the recent sit-in at Duke.

Students Were Mad Their College Banned Yik Yak. So They Went on Yik Yak.”

Police Respond To Robocall Bomb Threats At Several Massachusetts Schools.” (Robocall bomb threats?!)

I admit, I’m more than a little jealous of the 1300 NYC students who got to see Hamilton this week. NPR has more details on a program to work the Broadway musical into school curriculum.

Via the AP: “Elevated lead or copper levels have been found in water in 19 Detroit schools amid ongoing testing at schools around the country in response to the crisis in Flint, Michigan.”

Via Salon: “California school district votes to allow teachers to carry guns in the classroom.” What could possibly go wrong?!

Airbnb Becomes Dormbnb.”

Via The New York Times: “Yale University has made progress in minimizing its endowment portfolio’s exposure to less environmentally sound investments such as stocks of companies that contribute to climate change, a letter released on Tuesday showed.”

Harvard’s in the news again. Because Harvard. Via “The president of Harpoon Brewery issued an apology Wednesday after he received backlash for suggesting that admitting female members to one of Harvard’s exclusively male social clubs could increase sexual assaults.”

Accreditation and Certification

For details on the 13 state attorneys general who want the ACICS to have its accrediting powers stripped, see the “politics” section above.

Here’s the headline from the press release: “Pearson and Capella University Partner to Issue Digital Badges, Demonstrating Growth of Badging and Connecting Higher Education to Employability.” There are many remarkable things here, including the fact that the for-profit university is “designated by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense.” And now those agencies are cool with badges for national security-related courses.

Go, School Sports Team!

Via the AP: “A former Vanderbilt football player has been found guilty of raping an unconscious student in a dorm. It took less than three hours for the jury of nine men and three women to find Cory Batey guilty of aggravated rape, two counts of attempted aggravated rape, facilitation of aggravated rape and three counts of aggravated sexual battery.”

Via the Waco Tribune: “Waco police Wednesday arrested former Baylor University football player Shawn Oakman on charges he sexually assaulted a fellow student after leaving a Waco nightclub with her early April 3.”

“NCAA Reaches $8.8 Billion Broadcast Deal,” Inside Higher Ed reports. (That’s just for the men’s basketball tournament for the next 8 years.)

Via Inside Higher Ed: “In a case showing the reach of college sports corruption, a former head men’s basketball coach at the University of Southern Mississippi instructed his assistants to complete junior college course work for recruits.” The Chronicle of Higher Education has more details about the cheating ring. Ars Technica details the role that online courses’ metadata played in the investigation.

Via The Chicago Tribune: “Illinois has reached financial settlements totaling $625,000 with former football coach Tim Beckman and seven former women’s basketball players, the university said in separate news releases Tuesday. Beckman was fired a week before last season kicked off after allegations of player mistreatment arose and an investigation by a university-hired law firm confirmed many of the claims.” Beckman will receive a one-time payment of $250,000. That’ll sure show him.

“The University of California at Berkeley has agreed to pay $4.75 million in a settlement with the family of a deceased football player, Ted Agu, who died after an off-season conditioning session in 2014,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

In other UC Berkeley news: “Yann Hufnagel, the former assistant basketball coach who was fired last month by the University of California at Berkeley after being accused of sexually harassing a female reporter, has a new job at another university. He was hired on Friday by the University of Nevada at Reno,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

From the HR Department

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Despite an online petition and rumors, the president of the American University of Beirut said on Thursday that he did not shut down a search for a new director of the Center for American Studies and Research to block Steven G. Salaita from being named to the position.” More via Inside Higher Ed and via Corey Robin.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that UC Berkeley will eliminate some 500 staff jobs.

According to the AP, “a Tampa, Florida, middle school teacher has been suspended after parents complained that she gave students a questionnaire on personal information including their sexual orientation, gender identity and religion.”

Transgender student suspended for using bathroom at SC high school.”

“The president of Lake Michigan College, Jennifer Spielvogel, has been suspended, and may be fired in 30 days, after the community college’s Board of Trustees said it had found evidence of unapproved spending and improper management,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Also via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Tenured Professor Says Blog Post Cost Him His Job.”

Via Education Week: “Teach For America Vows Recruitment Changes in Wake of Application Drop.”

A press release from the AFT: “Shareholder Letter Assails Pearson Business Strategy as Annual Meeting Looms.”

What Higher-Education Professionals Made in 2015–16.”

Upgrades and Downgrades

Stanford professor revolutionizes teaching, invents “active learning.” Because Stanford.

Mozilla has updated its Web Literacy Map.

“Afghan ‘Sesame Street’ Introduces Zari, a Muppet and Role Model for Girls,” The New York Times reports.

Microsoft now has a Classroom app, joining Google and Apple with releasing an LMS “lite.”

The Creative Commons’ blog points to a “New Open Education Search App by and Microsoft.”

“All of Google’s CS Education Programs and Tools in One Place,” Google blogs. The one place: its CS EDU website.

Google also blogged this week about its efforts to build “more accessible technology”

Ben Werdmüller writes about “Git for Teachers.” Mark Sample also writes about “Github Fever.”

Why do histories of competency-based education never mention the GED? (Trick question.)

Via Techcrunch: “Popular study app Quizlet creates a game for groups in the classroom, Quizlet Live.”

“Online Piracy of Academic Materials Extends to Scholarly Books,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

“Branded Learning.” Good grief. According to a Forbes story on a South African startup called, “Edtech Startup Bets Branded Learning Can Reinvigorate E-learning.” But because Forbes has a ridiculous ad-blocker policy that prevents you from visiting the site without accepting its malware-ridden ads, here’s a link to a summary story via Education Dive instead.

How Should Schools Purchase Ed-Tech?” asks Harold Levy in an op-ed in Education Week touting his new non-profit startup, the Technology for Education Consortium, which will purportedly help schools with procurement issues.

Edsurge has published a handful of stories this week about robo-essay writers, robo-essay graders, and their various marketing claims: 1. 2. 3.

Via The New York Times: “Ride-Hailing Start-Ups Compete in ‘Uber for Children’ Niche.” Meanwhile: “Shuddle, the Uber-like service for getting your kids around, is shutting down tomorrow.”

So much to love in this press release lede: “Blackboard Inc., the world’s leading education technology company, today announced a new partnership with Uber Technologies Inc. that creates a convenient travel alternative for students at hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide.”

Headlines out of Facebook’s annual developer conference included a lot of hype about chatbots. In other news, “Facebook’s using F8 proceeds to fund Dev Bootcamp scholarships for underrepresented people in tech,” reports Techcrunch. Dev Bootcamp is owned by the for-profit higher ed company Kaplan.

Funding and Acquisitions (The Business of Ed-Tech)

Lending company Affirm has raised $100 million from Founders Fund, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Spark Capital, Khosla Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, and Jefferies. (Affirm’s founder is former PayPal exec Max Levchin, and Founders Fund is run by former PayPal exec Peter Thiel. Small world, I guess.) Affirm has struck deals to offer loans to customers of the following education companies: General Assembly and Dev Bootcamp. The lending company has raised $420 million total.

“Hedge fund titans raised an ‘unprecedented’ $35 million for New York City’s largest charter school network Monday night,” Business Insider reports. (That’s Success Academy Charter Schools.)

“Looking to revolutionize business and personal education, EdCast raises $16 million,” says Techcrunch. Investors in this round include GE Asset Management, Cervin Ventures, Penta Global, SoftBank Capital, and Stanford’s StartX Fund. The company has raised “$22 million total for its ”bite-sized, user generated content."

Caredox has received $4.3 million from TEXO Ventures, Prolog Ventures, and Western Technology Investment. The student medical records management company has raised $5.29 million total.

Tutoring startup Yup has raised $4 million from Stanford’s StartX Fund and SOMA Capital. The company has raised $7.5 million total.

The Jefferson Education Accelerator at the University of Virginia has received a $1.5 million grant from the Dell Foundation.

For more details on startup funding trends, see the “Research” section below.

Data, Privacy, and Surveillance

Via The Intercept: “The CIA Is Investing in Firms That Mine Your Tweets and Instagram Photos.”

Via Reuters: “Uber Technologies Inc on Tuesday released its first ever transparency report detailing the information requested by not only U.S. law enforcement agencies, but also by regulators. The ride-sharing company said that between July and December 2015, it had provided information on more than 12 million riders and drivers to various U.S. regulators and on 469 users to state and federal law agencies.” Uber provided data to the government in almost every case in which it was requested.

“How did Facebook try to manipulate my emotions?” asks Paul-Olivier Dehaye. “I will find out.” He’s sent a letter to Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, seeking access to his data under the US/CH Safe Harbor Program.

Data and “Research”

Yes, startup funding is slowing, according to research from Mattermark. CB Insights has also released a report on Q1 2016 funding. Its single graph about ed-tech:

Also via CB Insights: “13 High-Momentum Companies To Watch At The ASU GSV Ed Tech Summit 2016.” (Not sure what counts as “momentum” here since the list includes Edmodo. Should be interesting how and if the ed-tech elite talk about this at their big ASU-GSV-VC-LOL party next week.)

“Education Industry Mergers, Acquisitions Jumped Significantly in 2015,” says Education Week’s Market Brief, reporting on analysis from the investment bank Berkery Noyes.

Research from student loan provider Navient “suggests student debt is indeed a barrier for a significant minority – college dropouts – but that it’s generally not holding back those who earned degrees.” Or so says The Wall Street Journal.

“More Than 40% of Student Borrowers Aren’t Making Payments” is The Wall Street Journal headline. (Of course, a chunk of those who aren’t have their payments deferred as they’re in grad school – probably racking up more student loan debt.)

According to the latest report from the Lumina Foundation, college attainment is up: more than 45% of Americans between age 25 and 64 had some “quality postsecondary credential” in 2014. The Lumina Foundation has set a goal that that number hit 60% by 2025.

A study commissioned by a bookstore service provider finds that students are unhappy with the prices of textbooks at their campus bookstore.

“Colleges Drowning in Student Data (and Tech Vendor Sales Calls),” says Campus Technology, reporting on a survey by Eduventures.

Via the AP: “Immigrant children living in the U.S. without legal status have been blocked from registering for school and accessing the educational services they need, according to a report on school districts in four states by Georgetown University Law Center researchers.” And The Atlantic asks, “Does ICE Pressure Schools for Student Info?”

According to research posted to the Knewton blog, users of Knewton are more likely to “spam” on free response questions than on multiple choice questions. So clearly multiple choice questions are more “engaging.” Or something.

Via Education Week: “Online Credit Recovery: Students Fare Worse Than Peers, Research Finds.”

Retweeting is bad for comprehension, according to researchers at Peking and Cornell Universities.

MOOC review site CourseTalk boasts that it’s published the “first-ever study on MOOC use and non-use in developing countries” which leads me to believe it’s never done a Google Scholar search before. But hey.

“Why Talented Black and Hispanic Students Can Go Undiscovered” by University of Michigan professor Susan Dynarski.

Via Reuters: “Formal instruction about birth control and other aspects of sexual health in the U.S. is on the decline, according to an analysis of survey data from 2006 to 2013.”

Via Education Week’s Market Brief: “Spending on Ed-Tech Hardware Hits $15B Worldwide, Report Finds.”

Also via Education Week: “The Maker Movement in K–12 Education: A Guide to Emerging Research.”

There’s no agreed-upon definition of what “personalized learning” is, but Gates Foundation-funded research from RAND has found it improves student outcomes at charter schools. Go figure.

The latest Pew Research Center report: “Libraries and Learning.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Just over half of Pennsylvania State University students who experience stalking, dating violence or sexual assault ever tell someone about the incident, according to a new survey of the university's students, and only a tiny fraction of those students report the assaults to police or campus officials.”

Via Times Higher Education: “Graduates from richer family backgrounds in Britain earn significantly more than their less wealthy counterparts even when they take similar degrees from similar universities, according to new research with major implications for U.K. higher education.” I’d add that it has implications for all sorts of higher education initiatives that purport to use graduates’ salaries to gauge the effectiveness of degree programs.

Via The Wall Street Journal: “States Where Day Care Costs More Than College.”

According to a study by Education International, the World Bank’s education policies are inconsistent. Shocking findings, I know.

People are reportedly sharing fewer personal updates on Facebook.”

“‘Hot Wheels’ Curriculum Found to Boost Science Learning for Boys and Girls,” says Education Week.

Only 1 in 5 Students Obtain All Learning Materials Legally,” reads the Campus Technology headline, drawing on a study by University of Capetown professor, Laura Czerniewicz.

“ITC’s most recent survey of trends in online education at two-year colleges shows growth last academic year sat at 4.7 percent – the lowest in about a decade.” More details via Inside Higher Ed.

Why Kids Should Use Their Fingers in Math Class” by Jo Boaler and Lang Chen.

Via The Daily Dot: “The harsh truth about speed reading.” (The harsh truth: it doesn’t work.)

“We May Know Less Than We Thought About What Helps or Hurts Students,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education. Oh well. Carry on...

Icon credits: The Noun Project

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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