Education Politics

The Education and Justice Departments have notified every public school district in the country with a “Dear Colleague” letter that discrimination against transgender students, particularly over which bathroom they can use, violates federal civil rights law.

“High school students will be allowed to carry mace in the 2016–2017 school year after the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education agreed to remove prohibitive language and amend its policy,” the Salisbury Post reports. One board member said that pepper spray might be useful because of HB2, the North Carolina law that demands people in the state use the bathroom of the sex they were assigned at birth.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “UNC Faces Federal Lawsuit Over Controversial Bathroom Law.” And the state of North Carolina sues the feds in response: “North Carolina’s Suit to Keep Federal Funding After HB2.”

Via The Nation: “ For Students, the Fight Against ‘Bathroom Bills’ Is About Far More Than Bathrooms.”

The English government is backing away from its controversial plan to force all the country’s schools to become academies.

Via The Atlantic: “Two radically different bills aim to overhaul [Detroit’s] beleaguered school system. Will the legislation do more harm than good?”

U.S. Department of Education Launches $65 Million Grant Competition for Creating, Expanding High-Quality Public Charter Schools.”

Presidential Campaign Hellscape

Congrats Thiel Fellows!

“Tech billionaire Peter Thiel is reportedly on Trump’s finance team,” says Business Insider. See also: “The Education Libertarian,” a profile of Peter Thiel by the Cato Institute, in which he decries women getting the right to vote.

Trump’s presidential campaign co-chair describes The Donald’s higher education platform: “getting government out of student lending, requiring colleges to share in risk of loans, discouraging borrowing by liberal arts majors and moving OCR to Justice Department.”

Via The 74: “Inside Hillary Clinton’s Latest Push to Improve Early Childhood Education: Home Visits.”

The Whiteboard Advisors’ latest “Education Insider” report (PDF) is on assessment trends, higher education, and the presidential campaigns. Among the people these “insiders” see as possible Secretary of Education choices: Ted Nugent.

Testing, Testing…

Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “British Officials, Pearson Probe Effort to Leak Test Content.”

Via Chalkbeat: “They rejected multi-state Common Core exams. Now what?”

Oregon students will soon be sitting more standardized tests – wheee! – this time in science.

“How Hard Is the New SAT?” asks The Atlantic.

Via The Washington Post: “ Scores for new SAT are out. But how do they compare to the old one and the ACT?”

Smartwatch cheats force Thai students back to exam halls,” the BBC reports.

Online Education (The Once and Future “MOOC”)

From the World Bank’s ed-tech blog: “How students in Uruguayan schools are being taught English over the Internet by teachers in Argentina – and in the UK & the Philippines.”

In related MOOC news, there's more on “nanodegrees” in the “credentialing” section below.

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

Edsurge on “Why Northeastern University Got Into the Bootcamp Business.”

Edsurge on “What Happens When Universities and Bootcamps Join Forces?

(No mention in either of for-profits buying bootcamps?)

Meanwhile on Ye Olde Brick and Mortar Campus

The Washington Post’s Spotlight team of investigative journalists look at “Private schools, painful secrets” – a look at sexual assault at elite private schools.

The University of Cambridge plans to offer a $332,000 doctorate degree. ROFL.

Via NPR: “As Feds Crack Down On For-Profit College, A Founder Heads To Prison For Fraud.”

An Ayn Rand Acolyte Selling Students a Self-Made Dream.” A profile of Carl Barney, whose for-profit colleges will run you around $30,000 for an associate degree.

MIT launches $5 billion fund-raising campaign.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Black West Point Cadets Won’t Be Punished for Posing With Fists Raised.”

“The Citadel Won't Allow Student to Wear a Hijab With Her Uniform,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

How George Mason Became Koch’s Academic Darling.”

Via The Atlantic: “High Schools for Addicts.”

“D.C. Is Teaching Second-Graders How to Ride Bikes. Why Don’t All School Systems Do This?” asks Slate.

Harvard Will Bar Members of Single-Gender Clubs From Official Leadership Roles,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Via The New York Times: “Minnesota Law School, Facing Waning Interest, Cuts Admissions.”

Speaking of admissions, “U.S. Urges Colleges to Rethink Questions About Criminal Records.”

Via Politico: “Success Academy documents point to ‘possible cheating’ among challenges.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “U. of Akron’s Financial Outlook Is Downgraded to ‘Negative’ by Moody’s.” The university recently decided not to partner with the for-profit ITT, and I do wonder if that decision counted as a positive or negative in Moody’s assessment.

“A teachers union-funded report on charter schools concludes that these largely nonunion campuses are costing traditional schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District millions of dollars in tax money,” The LA Times reports. Charter organizations dispute the claim.

Also via The LA Times: “LAPD investigating apparent grade tampering at West L.A. charter school.”

“Frustrated with how colleges have handled their claims of sexual abuse, more students are turning to social media to publicize their cases,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Accreditation and Certification

The learn-to-code company Treehouse has launched “Techdegrees,” “a guided-learning experience designed to prepare students for entry-level developer jobs at companies across the country.” (Like the Udacity “nanodegree,” this is not an actual degree.)

Via Udacity: “Breaking Down How A Nanodegree Program Works.”

Go, School Sports Team!

Penn State president appalled at media frenzy over new Paterno allegations.” Fuck you, Eric Bannon, for not being appalled at what your university has done to protect Paterno.

“Voters in McKinney, Tex., have given the go-ahead to spend nearly $63 million on building a high school football stadium after months of contentious debate in the suburb north of Dallas,” The New York Times reports.

Via the Orlando Sentinel: “FSU’s Mario Pender dismissed from team after being charged with domestic battery by strangulation.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics says it may explore ways to allow players to profit off their names and likenesses, though some members argue too few athletes would benefit from such a change.” (The article features a photo of Arne Duncan – a reminder that the former Secretary of Education now works for the Knight Commission, as well as for the venture firm Emerson Collective.)

Via the AP: “A policy that would nearly triple the number of University of California student-athletes guaranteed continued financial aid in the event of a career-ending sports injury received unanimous approval Wednesday from a committee of the university’s governing board.”

Via ESPN: “Ole Miss officials have determined that a text message conversation published to Miami Dolphins rookie Laremy Tunsil’s Instagram account during the NFL draft did happen last year, sources told ESPN’s Outside the Lines, but the school is still looking into whether the messages were altered before they were published.” The Instagram photo showed Tunsil asking Ole Miss’s athletic director for help paying his rent and his mom’s utility bill. It was one of two social media messages – the other a Twitter photo of Tunsil smoking marijuana through a gas mark – that were posted during the NFL draft.

From the HR Department

“Imagine Discovering That Your Teaching Assistant Really Is a Robot,” says The Wall Street Journal in a story about “Jill Watson” (of course it’s a female name), an automated teaching assistant at Georgia Tech. It doesn’t look as though students knew they were being experimented upon, but who gives a shit about ethics. This is ed-tech.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Ray Cross, president of the University of Wisconsin System, wrote in a March email to the vice president of the system’s Board of Regents, who was chairing a task force on controversial changes to layoff policies concerning tenured faculty members, that tenure should not mean ‘a job for life,’ according to public records first obtained by the The Cap Times. ‘That is a “union” argument,’ Cross wrote to Regent John Behling, comparing faculty members to railroad brakemen whom he said were kept on the job for years after they were no longer needed.”

Via The New York Times: “CUNY Union Votes to Allow Strike if Contract Deal Is Not Reached.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Graduate Students Sue Mizzou Over Right to Form a Union.”

“A regional National Labor Relations Board judge this week dismissed a petition from full-time faculty members at Marywood University to form a union,” says Inside Higher Ed.

The for-profit higher ed chain Education Management Corporation will lay off some 200 employees.

Lots of goings-on this week in the loan industry. (See the “upgrades and downgrades” section below.) Fortune’s Dan Primack reports on the troubles at LendingClub: “LendingClub’s Ousted CEO Won’t Get Any Severance.”

Via Education Week: “Teach For America Ends Pre-Training Pilot Focused on Cultural Competency.”

A report released by the Department of Education: “The State of Racial Diversity In the Educator Workforce.” (PDF)

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Ball State U. Grants Tenure to Faculty Member Who Once Taught Intelligent Design as Science.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Nevada System Chancellor Resigns Over Email Flap.”

“Timothy Parker, Accused Of Plagiarism, Is Out As USA Today's Crossword Puzzle Editor,” FIveThirtyEight reports.

Contests and Awards

Via NPR: “Born With No Hands, This 7-Year-Old ‘Stunned’ Judges To Win Penmanship Contest.”

Upgrades and Downgrades

Edsurge explains “What Blockchain Means for Higher Education” with this absolute gem: “Blockchain is literally a chain of blocks.” I promise you, dear reader, it literally is not.

Uber-U is Already Here” – “powered by Blockchain Technology.”

Via Backchannel: “‘We Will Literally Predict Their Life Outcomes’ – Scientist Vivienne Ming says she can foretell a child’s earning potential, happiness, even longevity. But not all her claims add up.”

The story above is just one recent example of technology entrepreneurs making claims that do not “add up.” See also: Theranos. Hyperloop. uBeam.

But I’m sure this is legit. Via The Observer: “The Business of Zapping Brains With Electricity Heats Up.”

Meanwhile: “Bubble Indemnity.” “Zynga’s Headquarters Is Worth More Than The Actual Company.” Having spent $100,000 for a chrome panda for its lobby, “Dropbox cut a bunch of perks and told employees to save more as Silicon Valley startups brace for the cold.” (So be sure to hop right on that education offering Dropbox rolled out this week.)

From the press release: “AT&T Kicks Off Aspire Accelerator With 6 Leading Ed-Tech Startups.”

The TEDification of the Large Lecture” is terrible. Don’t do this.

Famed tech startup accelerator program Y Combinator is launching HARC, the Human Advancement Research Community. The mission is to copy the old Xerox PARC model and to “ensure human wisdom exceeds human power, by inventing and freely sharing ideas and technology that allow all humans to see further and understand more deeply.” Alan Kay is involved, along with Vi Hart, Dan Ingalls, John Maloney, Yoshiki Ohshima, Bret Victor, and Alex Warth.

Edsurge is launching a new publication for students called “EdSurge Independent.” It says that “After noticing a conspicuous absence of avenues for student voices in the higher education conversation, we decided to make one, run and managed by our own student editorial intern.” I noticed a conspicuous absence of any mention of pay. Students and educators alike: do not write for free, ffs. Always check to see what publications will pay you. If they truly care about your "voices," I promise, they will pay.

Student-Loan Interest Rates Will Drop Again in 2016–17,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Speaking of loans, Google will ban ads for payday loans. “This change is designed to protect our users from deceptive or harmful financial products,” the company says, “and will not affect companies offering loans such as Mortgages, Car Loans, Student Loans, Commercial loans, Revolving Lines of Credit (e.g. Credit Cards).” Hmm.

Via The Wall Street Journal: “Lenders Get Burned Betting on Ivy Leaguers.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Backer of Student Loans Pivots in Push to Reshape Higher Education.” (Seriously. Pay attention to the loan space, people.)

More on loans in the HR section above.

The New Yorker profiles Sphero’s learn-to-code toy for kids but says dumb things about Seymour Papert’s Logo so I’m not sure why I’m even linking to this.

Via Techcrunch: “Lilwil’s personalized learning engine teaches teachers how to teach.” So that’s... something.

Dropbox’s new education tier has most of its business features for a third of the price,” says The Next Web.

“Is Competency-Based Education Worth the Investment?” asks Edsurge. (Hey, we could ask Pearson how much money it made off of those taking the GED last year to find out.)

Moore’s Law Is Dead. Now What?

Ken Burns delivered this year’s Jefferson Lecture. More on his talk via Inside Higher Ed and Dan Cohen.

Blackboard Partners with Fishtree for Personalized Learning,” says Campus Technology. Now educators can personalize their courses, apparently, which is something no one has been able to do until “adaptive technology” integrated with the LMS. Or something.

Online tutoring by students raises access fears,” says the Times Higher Education. “Start-up firm Spires plans rapid expansion across UK universities, and says it could help social mobility – but others see private tutoring as harming access.”

Funding and Acquisitions (The Business of Ed-Tech)

PowerSchool has acquired TIENET for an undisclosed sum.

Brainly has raised $15 million in Series B funding from Naspers. “Social learning network” is how the company describes itself; “homework answer site” is probably a better descriptor. It’s raised $24.5 million total.

Speakaboos has raised $12.5 million to “to turn ‘screen time into reading time’,” says Edsurge. Investors in this Series B round include: Advancit Capital, Betty Cohen, Dave Pottruck, Deborah Quazzo, Gerald Hughes, Helena Wong, Kyowon Group, and Rick Segal. The startup has raised $25.2 million total.

Freshgrade, whose CEO also founded Club Penguin, has raised $11.6 million for its digital portfolio platform. Investors in this round include Accel, Axcel Partners, Emerson Collective, Reach Capital, and Relay Ventures. The company has raised $15.9 million.

Don’t let the Techcrunch headline fool you: “Nearpod raises $9.2 million to help teachers use tech for live instruction.” “Live instruction” is not teachers; it is content delivery via a mobile device. Investors in this round include Arsenal Venture Partners, Cito Ventures, co.lab, Deboah Quazzo, Emerson Collective, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Krillion Ventures, Marc Benioff, Reach Ventures, Rothenberg Ventures, StartX, and Storm Ventures.

Tabtor Math has raised $3.7 million in Series A funding from Aarin Capital Partners, John Katzman, and Syren Capital Partners. The math tutoring company has raised $4.7 million total.

“Oh, the sound of a ‘kaching,’ the jingle of funding moving into a startup,” writes Edsurge, boasting that it’s among the companies that received grant money from the government’s Small Business Initiatives Research program. The funding will go towards building its (ethically questionable) “Concierge” tool in which Edsurge acts as a middle-man helping schools identify products to buy and takes a cut of the contract action.

Data, Privacy, and Surveillance

The ALA has released library privacy guidelines for students in K–12 schools.

Via The Washington Post: “Ivy League economist ethnically profiled, interrogated for doing math on American Airlines flight.”

Researchers at Purdue’s Visual Analytics for Command, Control and Interoperability Environments, or VACCINE, a US Department of Homeland Security center based at the university – uh, nice acronym – have created a system that “could let law enforcement and public safety agencies tap into thousands of cameras in places like parking garages, college campuses, national parks, and highways.” [Insert Course Signals learning analytics joke here.]

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The faculty of the Graduate School at Rutgers University in New Brunswick took a stand against Academic Analytics on Tuesday, resolving that administrators shouldn’t use proprietary information about faculty productivity in decisions about divvying up resources among departments, or those affecting the makeup of the faculty, graduate teaching assignments, fellowships and grant writing. They also demanded to view their personal data profiles by Sept. 1.”

Via Motherboard Vice: “70,000 OkCupid Users Just Had Their Data Published.”

Also via Motherboard Vice: “Teen Dating Site Left Underage Users’ Private Messages Exposed To Anyone.”

And again, Motherboard Vice: “Nintendo‘s Charming ’Miitomo’ Could Be the Most Brilliant Data Mining App Ever.” (To which I extend congratulations. Because up ’til now, MOOCs were the most brilliant data mining app ever.)

Canvas’ Fifth Annual Open Security Audit.”

Data and “Research”

Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver on scientific research and the media:

From the School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative at MIT: “We present findings from a study that prohibited computer devices in randomly selected classrooms of an introductory economics course at the United States Military Academy. Average final exam scores among students assigned to classrooms that allowed computers were 18 percent of a standard deviation lower than exam scores of students in classrooms that prohibited computers.”

One-to-One Laptop Initiatives Boost Student Scores, Researchers Find” says Education Week.

Popularity of Ed Tech Not Necessarily Linked to Products’ Impact” reads another Education Week headline.

Via Education Week: “Charter, Alternative, Virtual Schools Account for Most Low-Grad-Rate Schools, Study Finds.”

But as Al Roper reminds us in that Last Week Tonight clip above, you can just cherry pick the science that you like best! Because ed-tech is not science. It's religion.

Speaking of which, Edsurge and Pearson have published a report on adaptive learning, with an introduction by the Clayton Christensen Institute’s Michael Horn.

Digital Promise has launched an interactive “research map” which aims to help ed-tech developers and schools find ed-tech research that supports whatever projects they want to do, I'm guessing. The map draws on only 100,000 articles from 180 journals and only dates back to 2005 because that is the grand sum of education technology research.

Via the AP: “The number of 3- and 4-year-olds in state-funded classrooms rose slightly during the 2014–15 school year to almost 1.4 million, according to a national preschool report released Thursday. The report from the National Institute for Early Education Research found a wide range in per-pupil spending and quality of programs, with New Jersey spending $12,149 for each child enrolled in pre-K compared with $2,304 in Florida and $1,981 in South Carolina.”

2016 Building a Grad Nation Report” – how the US is progressing on raising high school graduation rates.

“Dean Dad” Matt Reed on humanities enrollment at community colleges. (Spoiler alert: despite rumors of the humanities’ death, enrollment is up.)

A “market map” and “The Periodic Table of Ed Tech” by CB Insights. I really don’t understand how the investment analysis firm categorizes ed-tech. But that’s why I’m doing this VC funding research for myself.

Elsewhere: “U.S. Venture Capital Investment Dollars Down 11% Year-to-Date, Late Stage Rounds Hit Hardest Followed by Series B,” Mattermark’s Danielle Morrill reports.

A couple of looks at ed-tech funding in India, via Edukwest and the Financial Express.

Via Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill: “A Retrospective on Implementing Common Course Management Systems.”

From Project Tomorrow: “From Print to Pixel: The role of videos, games, animations and simulations within K–12 education.”

I have lots of questions about this report: “Who’s winning at social media in higher ed?” particularly since the “winners” are schools in the media over rape trials and ending tenure.

Via NYMag: “Don’t Believe the Hype About Grit, Pleads the Scientist Behind the Concept.” But do make sure there are still plenty of headlines about “grit” as you sell your new book on the topic.

The open ed landscape” by Martin Weller.

The Genetics of Staying in School” by Ed Yong.

“New research suggests whether information is presented electronically or on paper affects the way we process it,” says the Pacific Standard.

New research, as reported by the Pacific Standard, also says “Parents Can’t Tell When Their Kids Are Lying.”

Via Campus Technology: “Survey: Instructional Designers ‘Pivotal’ in Tech Adoption.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Concerns on U.S. Proposal on Human Research Subjects.”

Inside Higher Ed profiles Meta (formerly Sciencescape) about its “Predictive Analytics for Publishing” and its plans to tackle researchers’ supposed “information overload.”

This Year’s College Grads Are The Luckiest In A Decade.” That’s a link from data journalist Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site, so it has to be true. Meanwhile, Silver’s arch-nemesis, The New York Times reports that “It’s a Tough Job Market for the Young Without College Degrees.”

“Did a teen discover a lost Mayan city? Not exactly,” says The Washington Post, reminding us why viral stories about kids’ discoveries often end up hurting the kids more than helping research.

Rejoice. The Times Higher Education has released its World Reputation Rankings for 2016.

Speaking of rankings and ratings… Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Early Evidence: The College Scorecard Made a Difference, but Only for Some Groups of Students.” The money quote: “The subgroups of students expected to enter the college-search process with the most information and most cultural capital are exactly the students who responded most strongly to the Scorecard.”

Icon credits: The Noun Project

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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