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Education Politics


Maine Governor Paul LePage is an idiot. (Not really news, but in the news this week.)

“White House launches $100M competition to expand tuition-free community college,” The Washington Post reports. More via Inside Higher Ed. (Goldman-Sachs is also funding grants for free community college.)

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has vetoed a bill that would provide free community college for students in the state through a plan modeled on the Tennessee Model. More details in Inside Higher Ed.

More than half of the public libraries in Newfoundland and Labrador will close, due to budget cuts. The province is also looking to tax books. I hate to make “Newfie” jokes but seriously guys. Pull your act together.

Florida is terrible. Via The Gainesville Sun: “Bathroom ban imposed: Marion County School Board blocks transgender kids from choosing restrooms.”

Tennessee is terrible. Legislation signed by the state’s governor will allow counselors to refuse treatment of clients based on “sincerely held principles,” a move that’s seen as an “unprecedented attack on the American Counseling Association's Code of Ethics” as well as a way to deny the rights of LGBTQ Tennesseans.

Via the AP: “llinois’ college and universities received a much-needed lifeline [last] Friday when lawmakers approved a $600 million short-term funding fix for the institutions, which have been struggling without state funding during the months long budget stalemate, even laying off employees.”

“A bill designed to strengthen the privacy and security of student educational data continued down its apparently smooth path to passage Wednesday, winning unanimous Senate Education Committee approval,” Chalkbeat reports. Lest you think this is a story about federal legislation and that DC gridlock is over, to be clear, this is a measure in the state of Colorado.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The U.S. Department of Justice has found that the University of New Mexico violates federal law in how it responds to reports of sexual harassment and assault.”

Code.org has published a letter and a Change.org petition to Congress calling for $250 million in federal funding for computer science education. Corporate leaders have signed and the tech press have dutifully spread the PR, so it must be a “thing.” “Who's Going to Teach America’s Kids to Code – and How?” asks TakePart’s Liz Dwyer. Also asking important questions about equity, this CACM blog post: “Exactly Who All is CS4?”

“Can More Money Fix America’s Schools?” asks NPR.

Also via NPR: “Mexico Accused Of Torturing Suspects In Missing Students Probe.”

The Wisconsin Hope Lab’s latest policy brief calls for “Expanding the National School Lunch Program to Higher Education.”

More on Department of Education actions in the “Accreditation” section below.

Presidential Politics


Via Politico: TedCruz takes lessons on education from Milton Friedman, his faith.”

(And here I thought “Uncle Miltie” was Milton Berle.)

Nikhil Goyal interviews Jane Sanders, whose husband is running for President, on education policies.

More on Trump’s legal problems relating to Trump University in the “Courts” section below.

Education in the Courts


Via The Wall Street Journal: “Trump University Fraud Suit to Go to Trial, Judge Rules.”

Dennis Hastert, former House Speaker, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for "illegally structuring bank transactions in an effort to cover up his sexual abuse of young members of a wrestling team he coached decades ago." 15 months for being what the judge called "a serial child molester." 15 months.

Via NPR: “(The Latest) Corruption Charges In Detroit’s Struggling Schools.”

Via NJ.com: “A Pennsylvania man who allegedly schemed with former officials at Caldwell University was charged Thursday with plotting to defraud a program that funded the education of veterans who served in the armed forces following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.”

A Georgia lawmaker is suing the Department of Education, claiming that the latter’s policies surrounding sexual assault on campus “have caused colleges and universities to spend taxpayer dollars unnecessarily, because they must abide by the rules or risk losing federal funding.”

Via Reuters: “Amazon.com Inc is liable for billing parents for in-app purchases that their children made without permission, a federal judge has judge has decided, in a ruling that resolves accusations similar to ones that Apple Inc and Google Inc settled two years ago.”

Paramount and CBS are in the middle of a lawsuit against a fan-made Star Trek movie. The media giants contend that the film violates the franchise’s copyright, in part by its use of Klingon, something that’s raised the ire of language scholars who contend that languages are not copyrightable. The Hollywood Reporter has more details on the trial.

Via the Star-Telegram: “Cynthia Clark, a former senior lecturer at UT Arlington, is suing the university, saying she was fired because of her end-stage liver disease. She is seeking $10 million in damages.”

Via The New York Times: “Newtown Conspiracy Theorist Sues University That Fired Him.”

An op-ed in Politico: “End forced arbitration.” (Most recently, this has prevented students from for-profit universities from suing.)

Testing, Testing…


The latest NAEP scores have been released, always an occasion to display one’s confirmation bias about education policies. A more measured take here from The LA Times’ Joy Resmovits, who writes that “Between 2013 and 2015, on average, students dropped slightly in math and held steady in reading. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as NAEP, is a test administered by the federal government. It is considered the gold standard in measuring what students really know, because the results don’t have consequences that could encourage teachers or test takers to game the process. In math, the average score dropped from 153 to 152, out of 300 points. On the 500-point reading test, scores dropped one point to 287 – a decrease officials called statistically insignificant.”

Via Education Week: “Tennessee’s department of education has terminated its contract with Measurement Inc. after a series of technical glitches, according to The Tennesseean. In addition, the state has suspended testing for grades 3–8 after the company was unable to send the paper test to several schools.” The Washington Post and Chalkbeat have more details about Tennessee was clearly not ready for “TNReady” testing.

New Jersey is “poring over Pearson contract,” NJ Spotlight says, in order to see what damages are due to the state due to problems with PARCC testing.

About 12,000 students in Mississippi had problems with their recent online test-taking, the AP reports.

Via The New York Times: “Race and the Standardized Testing Wars.”

“Alternative Tests Aligned With Common Core Find Niche in Special Ed,” says Education Week.

In case you’re curious, here’s what the PISA test actually looks like.

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


Inside Higher Ed’s Carl Straumsheim offers some more details on the “next steps” for the Udacity/Georgia Tech MOOC masters, which hasn’t seen as high an enrollment as the hype man once predicted. Random factoid from the article: each course costs Georgia Tech $350,000 to develop – it’s not clear if that figure includes Udacity’s contributions or not.

What Sebastian Thrun Has Learned at Udacity,” by Edsurge’s Betsy Corcoran.

After a couple of weeks without a lot of MOOC-ish-ness in the news, there was a flurry of stories this week touting their revolutionary potential. The focus, in several cases, MOOCs in the developing world. Via The Wire: “Sebastian Thrun, Modi and the Forgotten Promise of MOOCs.” (Silicon Valley likes Modi, incidentally.)

More about MOOCs and online education in the “Research” section below.

Meanwhile on Campus


Yale Retains Calhoun Name,” Inside Higher Ed reports. John C. Calhoun’s name is on one of the university’s residential colleges, something that students have protested due to Calhoun’s advocacy for slave ownership.

The Southern Poverty Law Center on the school-to-prison pipeline: “Story from the field: Mississippi high school sending children to jail for ‘disorderly conduct’.”

George Mason University‘s Faculty Senate has voted to condemn the school’s decision to rename its law school in honor of Antonin Scalia. It’s just a symbolic vote. Inside Higher Ed has more details on the campus’ reaction.

Speaking of Koch Brothers’ money and influence, here’s a tidbit from their investment in Arizona higher ed: “Arizona has made some of the biggest cuts to higher education seen across the country in recent years, so a proposed $5 million grant of unknown provenance dedicated to the state’s ‘economic freedom’ centers – all of which received seed funds from the conservative Koch family – is raising eyebrows,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

More on BYU’s decision to punish a student for being the victim of rape.

Law school enrollment is down. Everyone should learn to lawyer real estate code.

“Merger of elite Paris universities gets the go-ahead,” reports University World News. The schools in question: Paris-Sorbonne and Pierre and Marie Curie University.

The UC San Francisco has received a $185 million gift from Joan and Sanford I Weill, which will create the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences.

“Demand for computer science forces Washington colleges to ramp up,” The Seattle Times reports.

There’ve been lots of memorials about Prince, but this one about a free concert he gave at Gallaudet University in 1984 is pretty wonderful.

Via The New York Times: “Girl, 16, Dies After Fight in a High School Restroom in Delaware.”

Also via The New York Times: “Wisconsin Prom Shooting Leaves Teenage Suspect Dead and Town Shaken.”

Via The Denver Post: “Douglas County schools to issue semiautomatic rifles to security staff.”

According to The LA School Report, some 16,000 LAUSD high school seniors are failing and in danger of not graduating this spring, with just six weeks to go in the semester.

The University of Iowa has changed the name of its student portal ISIS because I guess people might have been confused that it was a terrorist organization? I don’t know.

There’s a mumps outbreak at Harvard – over 40 people have been infected. Avoid Harvard: evergreen advice.

There’s a cheating scandal at the US Coast Guard Academy.

Stanford professor Larry Cuban continues his look at technology and school reform at the Summit Charter School chain.

Inside Higher Ed and The Boston Globe look at growing concerns over the University of Connecticut’s plans to sell a satellite campus to the Weiming Education Group, a Chinese education company that plans to open an “international academy” on the site.

More on campus-related drama in the “sports” and “HR” sections below.

Accreditation and Certification


Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The U.S. Department of Education is, once again, weighing in on accreditation, expanding some flexibility in the accreditation process but also warning of more scrutiny for accrediting agencies. In an 11-page ‘Dear Colleague’ letter released on Friday, the department lays out some changes in how it expects accreditors to do their jobs and how they will be considered for federal recognition, which is required for them to serve as gatekeepers for federal student aid. Colleges must be accredited by a federally recognized accreditor in order for their students to be eligible for such aid.” More via Inside Higher Ed.

“Online Badges Help Refugees Prove Their Academic Achievements,” The Chronicle of Higher Education asserts.

Via Xconomy: “$1B Lumina Foundation Backs New Education Credentials Framework.”

Go, School Sports Team!


The biggest cheating scandal in the history of university sports, and it appears as though UNC won’t really be punished at all. More via The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Meanwhile, “New UNC Allegations Focus on Women’s Basketball.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Prompted by recent laws permitting discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in places like North Carolina, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Board of Governors on Wednesday adopted new antidiscrimination policies for sites hosting major NCAA championship events, such as the men’s basketball Final Four.”

“After two decades of playing at college football’s most competitive and high-profile level, the University of Idaho will make the unprecedented move to leave the Football Bowl Subdivision and return to the Football Championship Subdivision,” reports Inside Higher Ed. Chuck Staben, the president of the university, offered his thoughts on “Why We’re Leaving the Football Arms Race.”

Marshawn Lynch is spending his retirement building a school in Haiti.”

From the HR Department


UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi on investigatory leave due to ‘serious questions’” The Sacramento Bee reports. More via The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, and Angus Johnston.

The president of Duke University, Richard Brodhead, will step down in June 2017.

“Former UC Berkeley Law School Dean Accuses University of Violating His Rights,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

A Michigan teacher says she was fired for saying the word “vagina,” according to ThinkProgress. A New Jersey teacher says he was forced to resign after showing his students a clip from John Oliver’s show Last Week Tonight, according to Esquire.

Via the AP: “Interim University of North Dakota president Ed Schafer says the school will eliminate 138 positions to help meet budget cuts ordered by the governor.” The layoffs will include cuts to 51 faculty jobs.

Via WRAL.com: “After inflation, NC teacher pay has dropped 13% in past 15 years.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “What Hourly Higher-Ed Employees Made in 2015–16.”

Licensing Laws Are Shutting Young People Out Of The Job Market,” FiveThirtyEight contends. But “Job Outlook Brightens for New College Graduates,” The Wall Street Journal promises.

Upgrades and Downgrades


IBM and the Sesame Workshop are teaming up to extract data from your toddler in the name of “research” into “personalization” of early childhood education. Artificial intelligence theorist Roger Schank, who must be super pissed off that this is being framed as “cognitive computing,” has words: “Could IBM stop lying about Watson already? I guess not.”

“Can AI fix education? We asked Bill Gates,” where “we” is the tech blog The Verge in one of several examples in this week’s news round-up of how access journalism works in (ed-)tech.

ToyTalk, maker of the Hello Barbie surveillance doll, is rebranding as PullString, according to Techcrunch. (Heh.) The company is pivoting away from surveillance toys (ostensibly) and will now make a scripting platforms for bots, hopping on to the latest Silicon Valley craze. I mean, not that surveillance still isn’t part and parcel of what Silicon Valley is promoting. But bots!

“Retention-as-a-service” company Campus Management has a chatbot that purportedly will keep students on track. See?! Bots!

Note the significant difference in language in this headline from The Verge – “Harvard’s Root robot teaches kids how to code” – and the way in which Seymour Papert would describe the Logo Turtle – that students would using programming to teach the robot.

Pearson is partnering with General Assembly “to offer online, skills-focused courses in the areas of digital marketing, web development, user experience design and data analytics.”

The MakerBot Obituary.” RIP.

Yik Yak tries to make a comeback with launch of private chat,” reports Techcrunch’s Sarah Perez. The anonymous messaging app has seen no significant growth in the past year – but it’s seen plenty of negative PR about the impact it’s had on campuses.

Mirela Roncevic offers “Some thoughts about Amazon selling ebooks to NYC schools.”

B&N Education Has Pulled the Nook Displays From its Stores,” The Digital Reader reports.

“A group of editors and academics are criticizing how the rights to Aaron Swartz’s writings are being handled, saying it violates the activist and programmer’s open-access legacy,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Wikity .031 has been released.

It’s 2016 and we’re still seeing headlines like this: “Do Smartphones Have a Place in the Classroom?

The Atlantic’s Melinda D. Anderson explains “How Internet Filtering Hurts Kids.”

Chipotle Is Giving Away Free Burritos to Teachers,” The Thrillist reports, but in my best Admiral Ackbar voice, I’ll caution, “It’s a trap.”

Funding and Acquisitions (The Business of Ed-Tech)


Via Inside Higher Ed: “Apollo Education Group shareholders will have more time to vote on a proposed change in ownership for the parent company of the University of Phoenix. The vote, which was scheduled to take place today, has been delayed until May 6 to give shareholders more time to make their decision. The proposal would sell the company to a consortium of private investors for $1.1 billion.”

Oliveboard has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from the India Educational Investment Fund, a fund established by the Dell Foundation.

(And that's it for funding news this week. Cue ominous music.)

Brazilian corporate training company Affero Labs has acquired QuickLessons.

Via Techcrunch: “Top kids app maker Toca Boca sells to Spin Master, plans to launch subscription video service and toys.”

Education Week reports that “The Walton Family Foundation has decided to pull its funding in support of charter schools in seven cities as it shifts to a new focus and investments in other communities.” The cities in question: Albany, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Newark, and Phoenix.

More on education funding in the “Research” section below.

Data, Privacy, and Surveillance


The University College London is hiring a “Professor of Future Crimes.” “The successful candidate will be passionate about the problem of future crime.” Paging Philip K. Dick.

“Privacy, accessibility and student data security: An Analysis of Clever Badges,” by ed-info-sec advocate Jessy Irwin.

Dave Carroll exploresFacebook’s Privacy Problem with Parents,” asking “Did you remember to opt your kid out of ads?”

Via The Washington Post: “Schools are helping police spy on kids’ social media activity.”

“State K–12 Cybersecurity Audit Finds Missouri District Unprepared,” says Education Week. But to be fair here: most districts are likely unprepared.

“Officials are backing away from a controversial rule allowing Minnesota’s state colleges and universities to examine the personal cellphones of their employees,” The Star Tribune reports.

“Your Friendly Slack Bot Might Be Exposing Your Company’s Conversations,” says Motherboard. Probably something to keep in mind if you want to argue that Slack is “the new LMS.” But bots!!

Data and “Research”


Data collected about student behaviour doesn’t help improve teaching or learning,” says The Conversation. Welp.

Meanwhile, the Data Quality Campaign has issued a report claiming that schools have collected plenty of data and it’s time to use it to “personalize learning.” The US News & World Report also covers the story: “New Education Law Opens Door to Education Data.”

A report from Jisc: “Learning analytics in higher education.”

Should we hit the pause button for online and blended learning?” asks The Hechinger Report’s Nichole Dobo on the heals of an NEPC report released last week that finds students in blended learning and virtual learning schools perform poorly. Julia Freeland Fisher of the Clayton Christensen Institute disagrees with the NEPC report, of course, insisting that the research that agrees with its politics and policies, is better and in fact shows that blended learning “yields promising results for students.”

Edsurge touts the results from Summit Public Schools’ “Basecamp” program.

According to a report from the Association for College and University Technology Advancement and the Association of Colleges and University Housing Officers-International, “traditional computers” are hogging campus bandwidth. Many schools are thinking of responding by throttling (rather than, say, adding bandwidth capacity).

Via Gizmodo: “Wikipedia Is Basically a Corporate Bureaucracy, According to a New Study.”

Via PLOS: “Observational Evidence of For-Profit Delivery and Inferior Nursing Home Care: When Is There Enough Evidence for Policy Change?” Lessons here, perhaps, about the for-profit “delivery” and inferior higher ed.

From Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill: “Fall 2014 IPEDS Data: New Profile of US Higher Ed Online Education” and “Fall 2014 IPEDS Data: Top 30 largest online enrollments per institution.” Look at all those for-profits.

Via Media Matters: “Here Are The Corporations And Right-Wing Funders Backing The Education Reform Movement.” (Dare we add: “a partial list” as venture capitalists are not included.)

Via Campus Technology: “Research: Facebook May Keep Students in MOOCs.”

Merck Wants Its Money Back if University Research Is Wrong,” according to the MIT Technology Review.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “German Universities Are Told to Be More Transparent About Industry Research Ties.”

The Shanker Institute’s Matthew Di Carlo writes about “Charter Schools and Longer Term Student Outcomes.”

Research from the Lumina Foundation and Cigna found that “Sending Employees Back to School Pays Off,” Edsurge reports.

The Atlantic offers a challenge to claims about “the word gap,” a belief that permeates both education talking points and a fair amount of (early) education tech.

Via CB Insights: “The Most Active VCs In Ed Tech And Their Investments In One Infographic.” The investment analysis firm has also published a story on declining investment by corporations into ed-tech, noting that they’re still involved in about one-fifth of all deals. Edsurge also provides its latest calculations on the state of ed-tech funding: $51.5 million in investor dollars for US ed-tech startups during the month of March.

“The Biggest Threat for Startups,” according to an op-ed by Jeff Selingo in Edsurge, isn’t that venture capital is drying up or that startups’ products suck or that education giants like Pearson or Blackboard do their best to squash upstarts. It’s student loan debt. Good thing there aren't startups peddling student loans. Oh. Wait.

Icon credits: The Noun Project

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Audrey Watters


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