Education Politics

The Justice Department has warned North Carolina that its new anti-trans bathroom law violates the Civil Rights Act. According to the AP, “North Carolina’s prized public universities could be the biggest losers as state leaders defend a new law limiting the rights of LGBT people. The 17-university system, which includes the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University as well several historically black colleges, risks losing more than $1.4 billion in federal funds if the Republicans who run the Legislature don’t reverse the law. The U.S. Justice Department wants an answer by the end of business on Monday.” The new head of the UNC system, “Margaret Spellings Is Caught Between Her State and the Federal Government. Now What?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Via the Huffington Post: “Education Department Secretly Reappoints Top Official Accused Of Harming Students.” The official in question is James Runcie, chief operating officer of the department’s Federal Student Aid office, whose tenure has included all sorts of debacles involving student loans.

Via The Oregonian: “Oregon lays out sweeping protections for transgender students.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The U.S. Department of Education published on Friday new documents that identify religious colleges that have sought and received exemptions from the federal gender-equity law known as Title IX.”

Via the AP: “The Michigan House approved a $500 million restructuring plan for Detroit Public Schools early Thursday, just days after disillusioned teachers staged a two-day sick-out because they feared the financially struggling district wouldn’t be able to pay them all through the summer.”

Via Reuters: “Illinois Senate votes for $454 million higher-education package.”

Meanwhile in Kansas: “Kids’ summer vacation could last until 2017,” warns an op-ed on That is, the state’s public schools might close due to the failure to equitably fund the system.

Meanwhile in Washington state: “Forget Boeing, Microsoft’s Tax Break Costs $776 Million.” Funny how certain billionaires make their money at companies that don’t pay taxes, and then use their wealth to steer the future of public education, eh?

Tennessee Campus-Carry Bill Becomes Law Without Governor’s Signature,” reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. In Georgia, however, a similar piece of legislation was vetoed.

Via the AP: “Republican Gov. Gary Herbert spent years defending Utah’s adoption of Common Core education standards but reversed course this week, calling for a repeal as he faces a tough re-election fight for his party’s nomination.”

New Jersey is rebranding its adoption of the Common Core standards.

“A bill giving Colorado one of the nation’s toughest state laws to protect the privacy of student data awaits the governor’s signature,” the AP reports. More details via Chalkbeat.

(I’m not sure under which section here that “fake university” news should really go, but since it involves a Homeland Security raid, I’ll stick it here under “Politics.”) Via The New York Times: “Students at Fake University Say They Were Collateral Damage in Sting Operation.”

The FAA has released guidelines on the educational use of drones.

Via Vox: “Malia Obama will be the 23rd presidential kid to attend Harvard.” Via The New York Times: “Malia Obama’s ‘Gap Year’ Is Part of a Growing (and Expensive) Trend.”

Education in the Courts

Via Penn Live: “Child told Paterno of sex abuse in 1976, court papers allege.” It’s worth pointing out that this is related to an insurance case, in which Penn State hopes to be reimbursed for the $60+ million it’s paid out to victims of abuse by former football coach Jerry Sandusky. In court, Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association Insurance contends that it has no responsibility to pay the university’s insurance claims.

“After winning a key copyright decision, attorneys for Georgia State University want the publishers who brought the suit to pay more than $3.3 million dollars in fees and costs,” Publishers Weekly reports.

John McAdams will sue his employer Marquette University for breach of contract, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, after the school suspended him for a controversial blog post.

Snapchat is not ed-tech (unless you add phrase it as “integrating Snapchat into the classroom,” of course) but a court case of note: a Georgia man is suing Snapchat and a teenager who struck his car while traveling over 100 mph and taking a selfie using the app.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday that the operators of agreed to settle deception charges. is an education lead-generation company based in Orlando, Fla., that claims to prescreen job applicants for employers. However, the company was instead gathering information for for-profit colleges and career training programs, according to the FTC.”

Testing, Testing…

“The Weak Predictive Power of Test Scoresby Jay P. Greene.

From Vox’s Matthew Yglesias: “The biggest mystery in American education, in one chart.” The chart in question shows changes over time on students’ scores on NAEP. Not exactly what I’d consider “the biggest mystery,” but I’m no Yglesias.

“The president of the College Board hinted Tuesday that the new SAT has enabled a broader range of students to perform well on the college-admissions exam,” reports Education Week. But he “wouldn’t provide further details.”

Via The Hechinger Report: “Public-school tests glitch across state” of Mississippi.

Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Online Testing in Georgia Disrupted by Glitches.”

North Dakota, Wyoming Move Away From Smarter Balanced Tests,” Education Week reports.

Via The New York Times: “The legal profession’s gatekeepers engaged in a fierce debate this week after an Arizona law school began accepting applicants who had taken only the more general GRE graduate admissions exam instead of the traditional Law School Admissions Test.” (The legal profession’s gatekeepers in question here are the Law School Admissions Council, the non-profit that administers the LSAT.)

Online Education (The Once and Future “MOOC”)

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Higher education groups say Education Department’s proposed rules on teacher preparation program discriminate against distance education providers.”

“Combating Zika Virus through Education: New Tuition-Free Health Studies Degree Launched” reads the press release headline announcing the University of the People’s new associates and bachelor’s degrees.

How curious. With a lull as of late in news and boasts about MOOCs’ impact in North America, we now see a bunch of stories in recent weeks about MOOCs’ potential for the developing world. Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “This Mongolian Teenager Aced a MOOC. Now He Wants to Widen Their Impact.” Via Udacity: “Harnessing Nanodegree Power To Solve World Problems!” (Nice use of punctuation!)

More data on online education in the “Research” section below.

Coding Bootcamps (The Once and Future “For-Profit Higher Ed”)

You know you’re serious about turning your student data into currency when you start talking about “outcomes.”

From General Assembly’s blog post: “Measuring What Matters: GA’s Approach to Measuring Student Outcomes.”

And from a press release: “Reactor Core, the leader in technology education, today announced the development of their Standard Student Outcome Methodology (SSOM), which allows coding bootcamps to report student outcomes in a standardized and verifiable manner.” (Despite that word “standardized,” it’s a different methodology than what its competitor General Assembly has published. But GA got a lot more press for its news. So may the best most well-connected standard win.)

Via Edsurge: “Coding Bootcamps’ Biggest Test: Finding Where Skills, Quality, Money and Jobs Intersect.” The story cites the CEO of the private loan company Skills Fund, which specializes in student loans for coding bootcamps, saying that the Department of Education’s plans to extend federal financial aid to coding bootcamps is “well-intentioned but ill-conceived.”

More about coding bootcamps, including another acquisition by a for-profit university, in “The Business of Ed-Tech” section below.

Meanwhile on Ye Olde Brick and Mortar Campus

Via “University of Akron pulls out of talks with ITT.”

Conservative writer/activist David Horowitz is back with a new campaign aimed at California universities: “Stop the Jew Hatred on Campus.” The campaign which challenges groups that are calling for a boycott of Israel is hanging posters that, according to Inside Higher Ed, “go a step farther than advocacy for one position or another. They list the names of students and faculty members who are involved in the boycott movement, and say they are supporting a ‘Hamas-inspired genocidal campaign to destroy Israel.’” (Trivia: Horowitz is the father of Ben Horowitz, founding partner of the Andreessen-Horowitz venture capital firm.)

Via “Houston School Officials Call Police After Student Tries Buying Lunch With $2 Bill.” The 13-year-old student is Black – sadly no surprise if you’re paying attention to racism and school discipline.

In other school-to-prison pipeline news: “Police Arrest Tennessee Elementary School Students Over Off-Campus Fight.” Guess the race of these children – some as young as 6 – who were pulled from their classes and taken away in handcuffs?

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “U. of Wisconsin at Madison Faculty Votes No Confidence in System’s President and Regents.”

Also via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “U. of New Hampshire Concedes It Shouldn’t Have Bought $17,000 Table.”

“About 125 accepted applicants sent deposits to Sweet Briar College by a May 1 deadline, falling short of an administration goal in the first admissions season since a scrubbed attempt last year to close the all-female liberal arts college,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Yale fights its tax bill.

“The Astonishing Incompetence of IDMLOCO, the Consultants UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi Hired to Help Scrub the Internet” by Angus Johnston. And via Chris Newfield: “The Costs of the Katehi Affair.”

Accreditation and Certification

This is an odd metaphor (see: Genesis 11:8), but I don’t write these headlines. I just report ’em. Carla Casilli writes about badges in Edsurge: “In Search of a Tower of Babel for Credentials.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “National accreditor ACICS, which faces an existential threat for being too lax with bad actors like Corinthian Colleges, tried to yank its approval of Bristol U, a deeply troubled for-profit. But a judge blocked the accreditor’s move.”

Go, School Sports Team!

Via USA Today: “Prep football player charged with felony for exposing himself in team photo.” (The case has already been dropped.)

Via The New York Times: “He Said He Was 17, but High School Basketball Player May Be Closer to 30.”

More grim news on school sports in the “Courts” section above.

From the HR Department

2U announced that its President and “Chief Impact Officer” Jim Shelton would be leaving the company. Shelton – formerly of McKinsey, then the charter school chain Edison Schools, then NewSchools Venture Fund, then the Gates Foundation, then the Department of Education – will join the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative in order to help it invest its billions in “personalized learning.” The New York Times describes the news thusly: “Zuckerberg and Chan Hire Education Leader to Run Philanthropic Effort.” Education Week says “Zuckerberg, Chan Tap James Shelton to Lead Huge Education Giving Effort.” Edsurge calls the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative a “charitable organization.” So many lovely euphemisms for a for-profit investment fund! More on 2U in “The Business of Education” section below.

Despite receiving some long-awaited funding from the state, Chicago State University has laid off more than 300 employees – roughly a third of its workforce – effective immediately.

Digital flashcard maker Quizlet was founded in 2005 and bootstrapped ’til late last year when it raised its first round of venture capital ($12 million). And now look: less than 6 months later, it has a new CEO: Matt Glotzbach, former VP of Product Management at YouTube.

Via The Salt Lake Tribune: “Terry Tempest Williams is leaving her University of Utah teaching post and walking away from the Environmental Humanities program she founded rather than agree to administrators’ demands she move her teaching from the state’s desert landscapes onto campus.”

Via ProPublica: “A doctor on the University of California’s Board of Regents has been allowed to keep his seat despite a secret investigation that concluded he violated ethics rules by trying to strike a financially beneficial deal between his eye clinics and UCLA, part of the university system the regents oversee.” The Regent in question: Dr. William De La Peña.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Last week’s one-day faculty strike at City College of San Francisco over a contract battle is ‘credit negative’ for the college because it sends a strong signal of resistance to the administration’s plan to ‘reduce costs and maintain structural balance,’ said Moody’s, the credit rating agency.”

The New York Times’ education reporter Motoko Rich is leaving the edu beat.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics released the April jobs data this morning, which The New York Times called “(mildly) disappointing,” with only 160,000 new jobs added. No clear signs in the employment data that “everyone should learn to code.”

Upgrades and Downgrades

Sallie Mae Now Offers Education Loans to Parents, Too,” says The New York Times. (And yes, Sallie Mae offers loans for coding bootcamps, or as it calls it, the “ Career Training Smart Option Student Loan.”)

“Popular K–6 Math Curriculum Deemed Unaligned to Common Core,” reports Education Week. I would have actually gone with the plural “curricula” for this headline as, according to at least, plenty of materials are unaligned.

Sci-Hub is providing science publishers with their Napster moment,” according to Techcrunch, which is pretty much a rewrite of the original story in Science. Like Napster, Sci-Hub faces some legal challenges, as “Elsevier Complaint Shuts Down Sci-Hub Domain Name,” as Torrent Freak reports.

Angela Duckworth’s new book on “grit” is out. (The New York Times review links it to John Wayne machismo. No racist or sexist legacies there!) So cue plenty of grit-related PR from the usual suspects. Andre Perry has the winning response: “Black and brown boys don't need to learn ‘grit,’ they need schools to stop being racist.”

Investors call for the “unbundling” of higher education, and cite Purdue’s Mitch Daniels in the process, so you know it’s politically regressive.

In other news about barf, via The MIT Technology Review: “The Nauseating Disappointment of Oculus Rift.” Perfect for the classroom!

Via Campus Technology: “ThingLink Debuts VR Editor for Schools.” (No mention of barfing.)

Learning Machine, which provides admissions software, has partnered with badge company Credly. “The move is designed to make competency-based learning accessible to admissions representatives,” says Campus Technology, as though there was no way until now for admissions offices to know about informal learning.

Sesame Workshop has launched Sesame Studios, a new YouTube channel that will create digital “shorts” – educational videos that are 30 seconds to five minutes. (Please do not use the word “MOOC” to describe this project.)

Ellucian has released an update to its Banner financial software and has released a platform called “Ethos.” “Using the Ellucian Ethos Data Model and Ellucian Ethos Integration to interpret data, the platform can assist institutions in decision-making and drive student success,” says Campus Technology. Personally, I would have gone with the name “Pathos.”

Speaking of pathos, you can now watch Pluralsight training videos via your Apple TV.

Peergrade lets students grade each other’s assignments,” says Techcrunch, opening with this priceless lede: “For as long as I can remember, technology has been seen as a panacea that will finally make education scalable beyond the one to few model employed in the classroom.”

“Education nonprofit New Schools is shutting down,” reports The News & Observer. “The North Carolina New Schools Project started 13 years ago with a five-year, $11 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to restructure secondary education by creating smaller high schools.”

Forbes has published its annual “30 Under 30” clickbait. (I wouldn’t click if I were you, because, ya know, malware.)

Teachers can now apply for DonorsChoose funds to pay for (a small selection of) computer science professional development opportunities.

Plenty of companies used Teacher Appreciation Week as an excuse for product releases and PR.

RIP Bookslut.

The School Library Journal reviews LittleBits’ new STEAM Student Set.

“Will Toys Ever Go Beyond Blue and Pink?” asks The Atlantic, which suggests that “The Internet” will bust gender stereotypes. Riiiight.

Contests and Awards

Congratulations to Jahana Hayes, the National Teacher of the Year.

Edsurge has the list of the companies that have won grant money from the NewSchools Ignite Challenge. The list includes Carnegie Learning, which was founded way back in 1998.

Funding and Acquisitions (The Business of Ed-Tech)

This Tech Bubble Is Bursting,” The Wall Street Journal pronounced this week. Indeed, there was a decline (again) in ed-tech funding in April. But there was a flurry of funding headlines this week, which in light of other financial signals sure seemed like a panicky attempt to convince the industry that everything’s cool.

On the heels of its acquisitions of Hackbright Academy, for-profit university Capella has bought another coding bootcamp: Dev Mountain. According to the company press release, the deal was closed at “a purchase price of up to $20 million, of which $15 million was paid in cash at closing with up to an additional $5 million to be paid over a three-year period pending the achievement of certain annual revenue and operating performance metrics.”

(Oops: I missed this news back in January – another for-profit bought another coding bootcamp. That is, Strayer Education bought the New York Code and Design Academy.)

I have no idea why this would count as “ed-tech” (unless we’re just desperate to boost the investment totals for the sector), but Edsurge reports that Odyssey has raised $25 million from Columbus Nova and Michael Lazerow. The company does aim its “social content platform” at millennials, so maybe that’s the angle. Bonus: the company has raised $33.15 million total and does not pay its writers.

Age of Learning has raised $150 million from Iconiq Capital,, the largest investment that ed-tech has seen so far this year. The company makes a very popular, but very 1990s-looking app ABCMouse. It was founded by Doug Dohring, who also founded Neopets. Age of Learning has raised about $180 million total.

GotIt! has raised $6.4 million in Series A funding from the Capricorn Investment Group, Plug and Play, and the TEEC Angel Fund. (The Edsurge headline says $9 million but that figure seems to also include seed funding that it raised in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.) GotIt! is described as an “on-demand knowledge marketplace,” but let’s be clear, it’s a tutoring startup.

Full Measure Education, a “Student Lifecycle and Retention Management” company, has raised $6 million from Safeguard Scientifics, who also funded them to the tune of $5.5 million this time last year.

SAM Labs has raised $4.5 million from Imperial Ventures for its “Internet of Things” kits for kids.

DigiExam has raised $3.5 million from investors including Bonnier AB’s Joen Bonnier and Spotify’s Gustav Söderström. Here’s Edsurge’s description of the company: “Founded in 2011 by a pair of Stockholm School of Economics students who were fed up with completing exams by hand, DigiExam offers a digital solution to help schools replace pen-and-paper tests.” DigiExam has raised $5 million total.

From the press release: “Teachable, a platform that empowers anyone to create and sell beautiful online courses, has closed $2.5 million in additional funding led by Accomplice Ventures, Naval Ravikant and Learn Capital.” The company has raised $4.5 million total.

Learn-to-code company CodeCombat has raised $2 million in seed funding from Third Kind Venture Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, and Allen & Company.

Brightwheel has raised $600,000 from Shark Tank stars Mark Cuban and Chris Sacca. (More on Cuban in the “Research” section below.) This brings to $2.8 million total raised by the “preschool management app” startup. (The episode aired this week, but it looks like the deal was filmed last year.)

ACT has acquired OpenEd, a search engine for OER. EdWeek’s Market Brief has an important update to its story that clarifies what exactly was “open” about OpenEd.

Shareholders of the Apollo Education Group have agreed to an acquisition offer by private equity firm Apollo Management Group, which had to “sweeten the deal” in order for it to go through. This means that the parent company of the University of Phoenix will go private – no longer will we see quarterly reports to know how much it’s spent on marketing, for example, as opposed to instruction. Apollo Management Group also owns Hostess and McGraw-Hill. So textbooks, for-profit higher ed, and Twinkies. Quite a portfolio.

Pearson released its quarterly financials, rebuffing the AFT’s attempt to have it review its business strategy. According to Sky News, the company is selling its language-learning software company GlobalEnglish Corp.

2U Eyes Profits on Near Horizon,” says Edsurge. The company released its quarterly financials this week, with revenue of $47.4 million (up from the same time last year) and a net loss of $3.4 million (down from the same time last year).

I missed this news back in early April, but Par Capital Management has bought a $37.3 million stake in Chegg. This week, Chegg announced it had acquired Easy Solutions, a company whose products include the citation tool EasyBib. The deal was worth approximately $42 million, according to the press release. Here’s a link to Chegg’s Q1 financials.

K–12 Inc has acquired LTS Education Systems for $20 million.

Via Fortune: “Harvard-Linked VC Fund Goes Up in Smoke and Acrimony.” One interesting detail from The New York Times’ story on XFund’s problems:

As of 2015, there were 1,224 venture funds in the United States, up from 1,009 a decade ago and nearly double from 1995, according to the National Venture Capital Association.

For more info about ed-tech funding trends, see the “Research” section below.

Data, Privacy, and Surveillance

Via Motherboard: “Another Day, Another Hack: 7 Million Accounts for Minecraft Community ‘Lifeboat’.”

Not related to education, but certainly related to a company educators are happy to hand over their students’ data. New Scientist has found that Google’s collaboration with the UK’s National Health Service gives the tech behemoth sweeping access to patient data. “The agreement gives DeepMind access to a wide range of healthcare data on the 1.6 million patients who pass through three London hospitals run by the Royal Free NHS Trust – Barnet, Chase Farm and the Royal Free – each year. This will include information about people who are HIV-positive, for instance, as well as details of drug overdoses and abortions. The agreement also includes access to patient data from the last five years.”

For more on data and privacy, see the update in the “Politics” section above about Colorado’s new law – pending the governor’s signature – protecting student data.

Data and “Research”

Via CB Insights: “Ed Tech Goes Global: India Sees Deals Explode While China Takes One-Fifth Of Funding.” The investment analysis firm says that “The US share of global deals to ed tech startups declined from over 80% in 2011 to 60% in 2015.”

My research into ed-tech funding: April 2016 data and data from 2010–2016.

Elsewhere in venture capital, here’s how a couple of prominent investors research tech trends: by looking at words in Y Combinator applications and by looking at Google Trends.

The Chronicle of Higher Education profiles venture capitalist Mark Cuban. I’m quoted. What I wish had been printed: “Listen, I don’t know jack shit about basketball. So I’d never tell someone how to run the Dallas Mavericks.”

According to a press release from The Freedonia Group: “Demand for security products and services in the education market is expected to rise 3.4 percent annually to $2.5 billion in 2020.” Do note here: “security products and services in the education market” is really code for “surveillance tools.”

An incredible visualization from The New York Times: “Money, Race and Success: How Your School District Compares.”

Student Debt Is About to Set Another Record, But the Picture Isn’t All Bad,” The Wall Street Journal reassures us.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Students who enrolled in community colleges were significantly less likely to earn bachelor’s degrees and had lower early-career earnings than peers who went directly to four-year institutions, but those who ultimately transferred to four-year colleges performed equally to those who went directly into four-year institutions, a new study has found.”

From the Shanker Institute: “New Research Brief: Teacher Segregation In Los Angeles And New York City.”

From American Libraries: “Library Systems Report 2016.”

According to a survey administered by the think tank Center on Education Policy, “Nearly half of teachers would quit now for higher-paying job.” That’s the USA Today headline, at least.

And here’s the headline on the Edsurge story on another survey, this one from the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) and Gallup: “Most Educators Believe We Overtest While Only 23% of Students Agree, Says Gallup Survey.”

America now has nearly 5 PR people for every reporter, double the rate from a decade ago.”

“Nation’s Education Reporters Confident They’re Making a Difference,” says the Education Writers Association. (Nation’s PR people absolutely fucking certain they’re making a difference.)

Get Rich and Do Good: Why Your Company Needs Effectiveness Research” is a headline from Edsurge that speaks volumes and ed-tech industry ideology.

The learn-to-code company Free Code Campasked 15,000 people who they are, and how they're learning to code.” Of those who responded, 21% were women and 24% were an “ethnic minority.”

The Gates Foundation sponsored a survey of folks working in instructional design. “67 percent are female,” Edsurge reports. It doesn’t appear as though the survey asked about race, although that didn’t stop it from using the word “diverse.”

Via Education Week: “Bullying, Crimes Down in U.S. Schools, Fed Data Finds.” But that headline is really misleading. According to Politico, “Between 2001 and 2013, the number of forcible sex crimes on college campuses more than doubled from 2,200 to 5,000.”

“59 percent of U.S. parents say their teens are addicted to mobile phones,” says Venture Beat.

Via Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill: “Fall 2014 IPEDS Data: Interactive table ranking DE programs by enrollment.”

Lessons About Online Learning” by Yoram and Edith Neumann of Touro University Worldwide.

Via The Atlantic: “Bringing Brain Science to Early Childhood.” Chances are “brain science” will change before your baby becomes a toddler, but the article includes Harvard and the word “innovation,” so you know it’s all legit.

In other “brain science” news: “Beware The Monkey Bars! Playground Concussions Are Rising,” FiveThirtyEight cautions.


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Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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