Education Politics

“Members of Congress are in an unusual position as they demand an explanation for Mylan NV's 400 percent price hike for the EpiPen and focus attention squarely on its CEO: Heather Bresch,” Bloomberg reports. Bresch, whose father is a senator from West Virginia, had successfully lobbied to have Epipens, which contain life-saving anti-allergy medication, be purchased by public schools. Bresch had previously been involved in another education-related scandal when, in 2007, it was revealed she had been awarded an MBA by West Virginia University even though she’d only completed half of the required credits.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, Republican in a tight re-election battle, says quality documentaries could replace many instructors, and blames tenured professors for preserving the ‘higher education cartel.’” Ken Burns disagrees.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Top U.S. Higher-Education Official Says Innovation Will Best Serve the ‘New Normal’ Students.” (Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill has a response to Ted Mitchell’s claim that the College Scoreboard was on of the administration’s big higher ed wins: “College Scorecard: With victories like these, who needs failures?”)

“Legislation to Reclaim University Invention from the Trolls” from the EFF.

Via the press release: “The U.S. Department of Education announced today that it has reached an agreement with the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE), settling the litigation involving the Department’s claim of South Carolina’s failure to maintain state financial support for special education and related services.”

Via the press release: “The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that the Lodi Unified School District in Lodi, California, has entered into a resolution agreement to end the racially discriminatory impact of the district’s discipline policies and address concerns that it disciplines African-American students more harshly than white students.”

More press releases from the Department of Education in the for-profit higher ed section below.

Education in the Courts

Via NPR: “In a major victory for teachers unions in California, the state Supreme Court has upheld teacher tenure laws. By a 4–3 vote, a divided court decided not to hear Vergara vs. California, a case challenging state tenure laws.” More via Sherman Dorn and The LA Times.

Wells Fargo to Pay $4 Million to Settle Student-Loan Servicing Probe,” says The Wall Street Journal. Did anyone mention that this is the bank that Amazon has partnered with for its new student loan program? (Me, I guess.)

Via NPR: “Months after the Obama administration advised school districts that transgender students should be given access to bathrooms based on their gender identity, a federal judge in Texas has blocked the guidance from going into effect – for now.” More via The Atlantic.

Later in the week… Via the AP: “Texas and four other Republican-led states filed another lawsuit Tuesday seeking to roll back the Obama administration’s efforts to strengthen transgender rights, saying new federal nondiscrimination health rules could force doctors to act contrary to their medical judgment or religious beliefs.”

“A federal judge on Monday denied a request by three faculty members at the University of Texas at Austin for a preliminary injunction to keep concealed guns out of their classrooms,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Via the Columbus Dispatch: “A Franklin County judge rejected arguments from the Department of Education that the state’s largest online charter school prematurely sued the state over an ongoing attendance audit.” That state: Ohio.

For more on charters in Ohio, see Sunday night’s segment from John Oliver, detailed in the “meanwhile on campus” section below.

Via Education Week: “The founder and former CEO of an online public school that educates thousands of Pennsylvania students pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal tax fraud, acknowledging he siphoned more than $8 million from The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School through for-profit and nonprofit companies he controlled.” The CEO in question: Nicholas Trombetta.

Via the Chiago Sun Times: “A suburban father and son accused in 2014 of scamming public school districts out of millions – only to post diamonds and rubies to get out of jail – pleaded guilty Tuesday to mail fraud. Jowhar Soultanali, 61, of Morton Grove, and his son, Kabir Kassam, 37, of Wheeling, each face a maximum of 20 years in prison after admitting to U.S. District Judge James Zagel they broke the law. An attorney also entered guilty pleas for the pair’s Niles-based tutoring businesses, Brilliance Academy Inc. and Babbage Net School Inc.”

Via Ebony: “A federal judge ruled Monday that the process of electing school board members for a district that includes Ferguson, Missouri, is biased against black voters and must be revised before another election will be allowed.”

More lawsuit news in the sports section below.

Testing, Testing…

Common Core test scores released and California’s scores were up a little bit, Connecticut’s were up a little bit more, and Maryland’s were better in math. But many students still aren’t “college ready” based on their scores.

Via The Texas Tribune: “The Texas Education Agency is penalizing the New Jersey-based company that develops and administers the state’s controversial STAAR tests – to the tune of $20.7 million – over widespread logistical and technical issues reported with the spring administration, Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced Tuesday.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Average ACT scores are down this year. ACT officials attribute the drop to the increasing percentage of high school seniors who have taken the test.”

Education Week on opt-outs: “Education leaders in states where resistance to taking annual exams remains strong are bracing for penalties that the U.S. Department of Education could send down in the coming months for falling short of testing enough qualified students last school year.”

Online Education (The Once and Future “MOOC”)

“Why America’s MOOC pioneers have abandoned ship” by Jonathan Rees.

MOOCs Are Dead. Long Live Online Higher Education,” Phil Hill pronounces.

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

From the press release: “The U.S. Department of Education today took a series of actions to protect students and taxpayers by banning ITT Educational Services, Inc. (ITT) from enrolling new students using federal financial aid funds, and stepping up financial oversight of the for-profit educational provider.” More from Angus Johnston, Inside Higher Ed, and John Warner.

Via The LA Times: “Insurer pays $13.5 million to resolve federal claims over defunct Marinello beauty school.”

Meanwhile on Campus

“The University of Chicago is attacking academic freedom,” says New Republic’s Jeet Heer. The school’s dean of students, has sent a letter to the freshman class saying that,

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called “trigger warnings,” we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.

John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight took on charter schools. Predictable responses were predictable. Following the broadcast, Robert Pondiscio wrote an op-ed for US News arguing that this all reveals “How Education Reform Lost Its Mojo.”

Elsewhere in charters, via the East Bay Times: “On the first day of school, more than 500 new students swarmed into Livermore public schools, the vast majority fleeing the city’s two embattled charter schools in light of a litany of accusations ranging from fiscal mismanagement to criminal wrongdoing.” The schools in question: Livermore Valley Charter School and Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory, both run by Tri-Valley Learning Corp.

Via The Washington Post: “Parents at a high-achieving Washington charter school say their children are not being offered physical education classes despite a law that requires the city’s schools to make such classes available to all students.” The charter in question: BASIS DC.

The New York Times on recent resolutions by the NAACP and by the Movement for Black Lives: “Condemnation of Charter Schools Exposes a Rift Over Black Students.”

Via Politico: “Roughly 70,000 Louisiana school children remain out of school because of flooding, and state Superintendent John White tells Morning Education that students in three districts won’t likely be back in class until after Labor Day.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Stanford Bans Hard Liquor From Undergraduate Parties.”

Sex toys, not guns. Via The New York Times: “University of Texas Students Find the Absurd in a New Gun Law.” More on the campus carry law in the courts section above.

Via The LA Times: “Herb Alpert Foundation to donate $10.1 million to LACC – making studies for music majors tuition-free.” (Would that all big donations like this go to community colleges and not elite private schools.)

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Gunmen Attack American U. in Afghanistan, Killing at Least 12 People.”

Via Quartz: “Harvey Mudd College took on gender bias and now more than half its computer-science majors are women.”

Via The Atlantic: “Good School, Rich School; Bad School, Poor School –The inequality at the heart of America's education system.”

I can’t think of anything I loathe more about back-to-school each year than the release of the Beloit College Mindset list. Here’s the latest one for the Class of 2020.

Go, School Sports Team!

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Citing concerns about North Carolina‘s controversial ’bathroom bill,’ the University of Vermont has canceled a scheduled women’s basketball game against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”

Via The Seattle Times: “Bellevue football parents, ex-booster club file lawsuit to overturn sanctions.”

From the HR Department

“In Victory for Union Efforts, NLRB Rules Columbia U. Grad Students Are Employees,” reads The Chronicle of Higher Education headline (and then the publication spent much of the week fearmongering about the implications). Via Undercommoning: “The NLRB Columbia Decision and the Future of Academic Labor Struggles.” And the struggle will continue as Columbia will likely appeal.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday ruled that instructors of religious studies may be excluded from part-time faculty unions at two Roman Catholic institutions.” The universities: St. Xavier University and Seattle University.

“Coding Startup Treehouse Trims Staff to ‘Cross the Chasm to Profitability’,” Edsurge reports. 21% of the staff were laid off from the company, which has raised $12.35 million in funding. More from founder Ryan Carson.

Ken Starr Resigns Faculty Position at Baylor,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

“The CEO of a Pennsylvania charter school is resigning after a mailer promoting the school mentioned a 2015 drug arrest at a nearby public high school,” Education Week reports. The CEO: Loraine Petrillo. The charter: Innovative Arts Academy Charter School.

Via The New York Times: “Firing of Teacher Battling Cancer Prompts an Outcry in China.”

Upgrades and Downgrades

From the venture capital firm Charles River Ventures (with education investments including NoRedInk, the Flatiron School, and Wonder Workshop), a fellowship program to pay for startup founders’ visa:

Goldman Sachs, according to The New York Times, will now offer loans “for the little guy,” whatever the hell that means. (Other than "the little guy" getting screwed over, of course.)

It’s back-to-school product refresh time: Techcrunch on new features for Newsela. Edsurge on new features for Remind (which are ostensibly a “path to revenue”).

The Verge offers its “Back to School Guide 2016,” which includes a $235 backpack and a $42 mug if you need an example of how woefully out-of-touch tech journalists can be.

Via Techcrunch: “Amazon launches the Kindle Reading Fund to expand digital reading around the world.”

Via Fast Company: “How Became A Pop Culture Phenomenon.” Spoiler alert: by pivoting away from ed-tech.

Via Education Week: “Parent Advocacy Group Warns of Ed-Tech ‘Threats’.”

Via PC World: “Why Google plans to stop supporting your Chromebook after five years.”

Farsight Security looks at who has dot edu domains. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty common for non-US / non-universities to have them.

“Can Marketing Automation Bring College Enrollment Numbers Up?” asks Edsurge. Interesting question considering that shady marketing practices are among the reasons that for-profit schools like ITT – see the for-profit higher ed section above – are getting sued and sanctioned by the government.

Funding and Acquisitions (The Business of Ed-Tech)

“Mark Zuckerberg Sells $95 Million Worth Of Facebook Shares For Charity,” says The Huffington Post. Except it’s not a charity. It’s for the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, a for-profit investment vehicle.

Kobe Bryant. Ed-tech investor.

InCred has raised $75 million from Anshu Jain (co-chairman of the management board at Deutsche Bank), Bhupinder Singh, and Ranjan Pai. The Mumbai-based company offers loans – consumer loans, education loans, and the like.

The chillingly named Panopto has raised $42.8 million from Sterling Partners and Square 1 Bank. The video capture platform has raised $48.46 million total.

Redshelf has raised $4 million from Coniston Capital and the National Association of College Stores. The digital textbook company has raised $7 million total.

The Omidyar Network has invested $3 million in Khan Academy. (The funding is labeled as a grant.)

Khan Academy has used that funding to acquire the kids’ app maker Duck Duck Moose.

Makkajai has raised $200,000 in seed funding from Anand Chandrasekaran, Ananth Narayanan, and Mekin Maheshwari.

Kendall Hunt Publishing has acquired RCL Benziger. Terms were not disclosed.

Data, Privacy, and Surveillance

Bored with Pokemon Go? Try this exciting new app to “catch ’em all” and participate in a mainstreaming of surveillance culture: a mobile app for finding bank robbers, built by the FBI.

Via the BBC: “University hit 21 times in one year by ransomware.” The university: Bournemouth, which apparently has a cybersecurity centre.

California district embraces wearable tech in the classroom,” says Education Dive. The district: The Tustin Unified School District. The surveillance and privacy questions: brushed off.

Via The Guardian: “Facebook’s new app for teens is ‘always public and viewable by everyone’.”

Bill Fitzgerald on “Students and Social Media.”

Via The Trade: “Industry worried about confidentiality of blockchain.” I lol’d.

Data and “Research”

21 states still allow corporal punishment. “[M]ore than 109,000 students were paddled, swatted, or otherwise physically punished in U.S. classrooms in 2013–14, according to Education Week Research Center analyses of the most recent wave of federal civil rights data.” Black students are disproportionately more likely to experience physical punishment than white students.

Via NPR: “Research On Tulsa’s Head Start Program Finds Lasting Gains.”

Edutechnica has new data on LMS trends, including installations and migrations.

Via Edsurge: “Why Your Financial Advisor Doesn’t Recommend Edtech Stocks.” And yet, the money still flows to the sector…

Via ProPublica: “Median Income Is Down, But Public College Tuition Is Way Up.”

Paying Tuition With Credit Cards Is Costly,” according to a study reported by Inside Higher Ed.

Via Education Week’s Market Brief: “Public Woefully Misunderstands Education Spending, Study Finds.” Why, it’s almost like there’s a huge failure in education journalism or something…

Icon credits: The Noun Project

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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