Presidential Campaign Politics

There was a Presidential debate this week. Thankfully, it was the last one. There’s also a global wine shortage, and I’m like, no shit. We are drinking so heavily to make it through this election.

News broke over the weekend that billionaire investor Peter Thiel is making a million-plus dollar donation to the Trump campaign. Thiel spoke at the Republican Convention, but this is his first financial commitment to the campaign, one that comes on the heels of news that Trump has been accused by ten (or more?) women of groping and sexual assault.

I wrote “an explainer” of sorts on Thiel and his politics, and I listed the education companies that he’s invested in. Mostly surveillance posing as “personalization” startups. To be honest, think Thiel and his ed-tech politics have more in common with the rest of Silicon Valley than those that feign outrage at his support of Trump. Y Combinator (I list its education investments here) has refused to sever ties with Thiel. He’s a partner there. So has Facebook. He’s on the board of directors. Some organizations have cut ties with Y Combinator over this – Project Include, for starters, which works to address Silicon Valley’s lack of diversity.

“Horrified by Trump, Silicon Valley Leaders Debate Cutting Ties to Peter Thielby Sarah Jeong. The operative word is “debate.” More on how the rest of the tech sector is treating Thiel now, according to The New York Times at least. “Mark Zuckerberg breaks his silence on Peter Thiel” says CNN. The Guardian’s Julia Carrie Wong summarizes the comments: “Zuckerberg: white male Facebook board member’s Trump support provides ‘diversity’.” Also via Wong: “Peter Thiel once wrote a book calling date rape ‘belated regret’.”

Thrilling that these are the folks bankrolling ed-tech, no? Have any ed-tech companies, particularly those funded by Thiel or Zuckerberg or Y Combinator, spoken out about this?

Donald Trump is crowdsourcing suggestions for his cabinet. You can fill out a form online to offer some names. One position that isn’t up for suggestion: Secretary of Education.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A Closer Look at Income-Based Repayment, the Centerpiece of Donald Trump’s Unexpected Higher-Ed Speech.”

Via the USA Today: “Kids pick Clinton over Trump in nationwide mock election.”

More on the fallout from the Trump campaign at Liberty University in the “meanwhile on campus” section below.

Education Politics

In non-Presidential election news that also reflects pretty poorly on Silicon Valley: “Billionaire tech investors back ballot initiative to purge homeless people from San Francisco.” The investors in question: Michael Moritz from Sequoia Capital and SV Angel’s Ron Conway. You can always find out which education companies these folks have funded through my research at

Via the AP: “Most US Syrian arrivals are kids, now enrolling in school.”

From the organization’s press release: the NAACP “ratified a resolution Saturday adopted by delegates at its 2016 107th National Convention calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion and for the strengthening of oversight in governance and practice.” Education reformers lost their minds, shed many white tears. “Charter backers can stop the NAACP moratorium – by meeting these four demands” by Adrienne Dixson and Andre Perry.

From the Shanker Institute’s Matthew Di Carlo: “A Few Reactions To The Final Teacher Preparation Accountability Regulations.”

Via The New York Times: “‘Brexit’ May Hurt Britain Where It Thrives: Science and Research.”

British Columbia’s education minister has fired the Vancouver school board.

Via The Washington Post: “ These states are spending less on education now than before the Great Recession.” tl;dr: all states except Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Alaska, Connecticut, Vermont, Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota.

The Los Angeles Board of Education decided to reject the renewal of five charter schools’ charters at its meeting this week. More via The LA Times.

Via The New York Times: “The New Jersey State Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a bill requiring the state’s student loan agency to forgive the debts of borrowers who die or become permanently disabled.”

“U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance on Supporting Early Learning through the Every Student Succeeds Act,” per the press release.

Education in the Courts

The defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone for its 2014 story “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA” has begun. Nicole Eramo, a former dean of students, is suing the magazine for $7.9 million. More via NPR.

Via Reuters: “An Illinois judge recommended the denial of an injunction to bar transgender high school students from using the restrooms and locker rooms of their choice, saying the Constitution does not protect students against having to share those areas with transgender classmates.”

Via the AP: “Several families filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday against the state of Michigan and the Flint school district, saying more needs to be done to help students whose academic performance and behavior have worsened because of the city’s lead-tainted water.”

A blind mother of three has filed a lawsuit claiming that the Atlanta Public Schools has failed to make reasonable accommodations, refusing to provide bus service for the children.

More on lawsuits in the for-profit higher ed section and the sports section below.

Testing, Testing…

Via Education Week: “The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a major designer of common-core tests for states, is looking for a new fiscal agent after the University of California, Los Angeles, said it will no longer do that work.”

Via The Atlantic: “How the LSAT Destroys Socioeconomic Diversity.”

Via NPR: “Educators Went To Jail For Cheating. What Happened To The Students?”

The Atlantic profiles Robert Rorison, who has been proctoring the SAT for 53 years.

“A Defense of the Multiple-Choice Examby Barbara Katz Rothman in The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Its value may be limited, but there is no better way to test whether students have read the material.” Talking to them, I guess, is not an option.

Online Education (The Once and Future “MOOC”)

Via Fortune (Reuters, really): “Why This Education Publisher Is Betting on Online Degrees.” The publisher in question: Pearson. In other Pearson news, via The Digital Reader: “ Pearson Shares Slump Following Poor Earnings Report.”

Edinburgh University and Ural Federal University have joined edX.

Via Class Central: “XuetangX: A Look at China’s First and Biggest MOOC Platform.”

Via Education Dive: “Virtual charters threaten finances in Pennsylvania public schools.”

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

Via Inc: “The Strange and Sudden Disappearance of a Coding Bootcamp Founder.” The bootcamp: Devschool. The founder has disappeared with some $100,000 in tuition, students say.

This is an old article on Medium but it’s worth reposting in light of this story: “The Dirty Little Secrets About The Worst Coding Bootcamps Out There. 9 out of 10 programs are outright scams.”

Devschool did have four stars on Course Report, a Yelp-like review site for coding bootcamps. (Keep that in mind when you see Course Report’s data touted, cheerleading the coding bootcamp trend.)

Thinkful (a company backed by Peter Thiel) is reaching out to Devschool students with this offer: “Send us your bill and we’ll apply half of it to our bootcamp.”

You can now read all the applications of the coding bootcamps and “alternative education companies” that are part of the US Department of Education’s EQUIP experiment, and as such eligible for federal financial aid.

Via The New York Times: “A Whistle Was Blown on ITT; 17 Years Later, It Collapsed.”

Via the San Antonio Express News: “Career Point College closing doors in San Antonio over federal violation.”

Via Politico: “The massive and financially troubled Education Management Corporation confirmed to POLITICO Wednesday that it is laying off 130 more Art Institutes employees. This is just the latest round of cuts at the cash-strapped for-profit college chain, which has been the target of multiple attorneys general investigations.”

Via The Wall Street Journal: “For-profit education company Apollo Education Group Inc. swung to a quarterly profit even as revenue continued its yearslong decline driven by lower enrollment.”

Via Education Dive: “For-profit colleges big spenders in federal lobbying.”

Via The Miami Herald: “Ernesto Perez, the owner of the now-shuttered Dade Medical College, has been slapped with new criminal charges – this time for improperly closing the for-profit school one year ago.”

Inside Higher Ed reports that a federal appeals court will allow a lawsuit to move forward against Heritage College.

Meanwhile on Campus

Liberty University has blocked a column from appearing in its student newspaper that was critical of Donald Trump. Inside Higher Ed has the story – and the censored article.

Via the Ledger-Enquirer: “A 13-year-old student who said he was ‘thrown to the floor’ multiple times by a teacher at Edgewood Student Services Center on Sept. 12 is expected to have his leg amputated today as a result of the alleged incident, according to his attorney.”

Nike co-founder Phil Knight will give $500 million to the University of Oregon for something not related to sports.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “To Improve Student Success, a University Confronts the Email Deluge.” The university in question: Michigan State University. Thankfully, Slack is not suggested here as an alternative.

Via Reuters: “How a Chinese company bought access to admissions officers at top U.S. colleges.” The company in question: Dipont Education Management Group. The colleges include Vanderbilt, Wellesley, and UVA.

Via NPR: “Students Clash With Police In South Africa Protests.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “After months of controversy surrounding Baylor University's handling of sexual-violence cases, the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights said on Wednesday that it had opened a Title IX investigation there.”

“Another campus sacrifices the queen: IPFW to cut programs, majors, departments” by Bryan Alexander. That’s Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne for those unfamiliar with the acronym. And the “queen sacrifices,” for those who don’t know that terminology, is what Alexander calls it when a college sacrifices its most powerful resource – its faculty – in order to stem financial problems. Alexander also looks at the fallout of the queen sacrifice Chicago State University made last year.

This is an interesting look at the screen-heavy architecture in “classrooms of the future,” featuring UVA professor Siva Vaidhyanathan’s classroom.

This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Trump Said He Would ‘End’ Political Correctness on Campuses. Could a President Do That?”

Remember, the answer to these headlines is always “No.”

Accreditation and Certification

“Forget Accreditation. Bring On the College Audit,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education. Bonus points for the image of the Ernst & Young auditor behind this idea, posing with Ben & Jerry of ice cream fame.

The Competency-Based Education Network has released a draft of quality standards for competency-based education.

Go, School Sports Team!

Via Inside Higher Ed: “New report finds big-time college football players at wealthiest programs graduate at rates lower than their nonathlete male peers. For black players, the gap is even bigger.”

“Sports and Laying Siege to Racism in Seattleby The Nation’s Dave Zirin.

Via Colorlines: “Texas HS Football Team Faces Season Cancellation for Kneeling Protests.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The University of Louisville committed four major National Collegiate Athletic Association violations when a former men's basketball assistant paid an escort service to provide strip shows and sex for recruits and other players, the NCAA stated in a notice of allegations sent to the university Thursday.”

Via the AP: “Penn State ex-coach who blew the whistle on Jerry Sandusky is suing the school for defamation.”

From the HR Department

Delicious headline from Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy: “Harvard Dining Hall Strike Enters Its Third Week, With Meat In The Banana Pudding.”

The faculty at the state of Pennsylvania’s 14 public colleges and universities went on strike this week. The strike has been settled.

The Chicago Sun Times’ Lauren Fitzpatrick on the contract negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and the city: “Chicago could become first city to bargain cap on charter schools.”

In other Chicago news: “UNO teachers, charter network avert strike.”

Professors at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design have voted to unionize, as have the adjuncts at Saint Xavier University.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “U. of Wisconsin Spent $24 Million on Faculty Retention After Perceived Threats to Tenure.”

Via Fusion: “These teachers say they were fired for teaching about social justice.”

Upgrades and Downgrades

AltSchool (a company in Peter Thiel’s portfolio) issued a press release about its business model – a learning management system branded as Emilio Reggio, OMG. #nope. The Hechinger Report, Edsurge, Fast Company, and Wired were dutiful stenographers.

Via New York Magazine: “Laurene Powell Jobs’s $100 Million Mission to Disrupt American High School.”

Via Edutechnica: “5 Reasons Why Consolidation of the LMS Market Isn’t Necessarily a Bad Thing.”

Online lending company SoFi (one of the companies in Peter Thiel’s portfolio) runs invitation-only cocktail parties, according to this NYT profile on the company. Student loans and singles parties. Excellent work, education technology industry.

Via Campus Technology: “Online Learning Consortium, Tyton Partners Launch Courseware in Context.”

Via Edsurge: “Educators, Tech Industry Leaders Collaborate to Develop K–12 Computer Science Framework.” The collaborators in question: “The project is led by a committee that includes, Cyber Innovation Center, National Math and Science Initiative, Association for Computing Machinery and Computer Science Teachers Association. The work is also supported by companies including Apple, Google and Expedia, as well as education organizations including the CollegeBoard, Teach For America and STEMx.”

University of Michigan Turns Courses Into Games,” says Edsurge. Through an LMS. Sounds super fun.

Via Techcrunch: “Amazon ramps up AWS Educate with free e-learning and job ads.” You can earn a micro-credential. Whee.

Google has released an update to its Course Builder software.

PBS debuts its own tablet for kids, the Playtime Pad,” Techcrunch reports.

“Universities have turned over hundreds of patents to patent trolls,” says Yarden Katz.

Funding and Acquisitions (The Business of Ed-Tech)

Edlio, which makes an education-focused CMS, has raised $40 million from L Squared Capital Partners.

Spark Schools has raised $9 million from the Omidyar Network. The company runs “blended learning” schools in South Africa. The Omidyar Network is also invested in another for-profit company running schools across Africa: Bridge International Academies.

Student loan provider Indian School Finance Company has raised $6 million from Gray Matters Capital.

Securly has raised $4 million in funding from Owl Ventures. The startup, which helps schools monitor their networks, has raised $7 million total.

VR chemistry set-maker MEL Science has raised $2.5 million from Sistema Venture Capital.

SoloLearn has raised $1.2 million from Learn Capital. The learn-to-code startup has raised $1.3 million total.

CourseStorm has raised $760,000 from Maine Venture Fund for its online course registration software.

Via Edsurge: “PowerSchool Buys Chalkable, Tops $200 Million in Acquisition Spending.” This is definitely my favorite sentence from the article: “[CEO, Hardeep] Gulati gushed about another Chalkable asset, Learning Earnings, that allows teachers to offer rewards (such as hall passes and lunch) to incentivize positive student behavior.” I love how getting to eat lunch or go pee is seen as a reward. Nice work, ed-tech. You’re definitely not making school even more awful.

Imagine Learning has acquired Think Through Learning.

Jouve has acquired Six Red Marbles.

Data, Privacy, and Surveillance

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The Next Great Hope for Measuring Learning.”

The Daily Dot reportsCIA-backed surveillance software was marketed to public schools,” which you knew already if you read last week’s Hack Education Weekly News.

From the NASBE: “School Surveillance: The Consequences for Equity and Privacy.”

Via ProPublica: “Google Has Quietly Dropped Ban on Personally Identifiable Web Tracking.” Google says this is merely an update to the TOS and privacy policy.

The EFF points out “Loopholes and Flaws in the Student Privacy Pledge.” The Future of Privacy Forum responds: “Student Privacy Pledge Loopholes? Nope. We Did Our Homework.” Did you know that the Future of Privacy Forum is financially backed by AT&T, Comcast, Facebook, and Google? Did you know that its run by Jules Polonetsky, who used to run DoubleClick, Google’s ad service? (I did. I did my homework.)

Shocking, I know, but Campus Technology reports that “Yik Yak Users Not So Anonymous After All.”

Via The Houston Chronicle: “Katy ISD warns staff, students after data breach.”

Facebook’s Child Workforce” – Cathy “Mathbabe” O’Neil on Facebook’s personalized learning software.

Data and “Research”

Via NPR: “American Academy Of Pediatrics Lifts ’No Screens Under 2’ Rule.” That’s the story that’s getting the headlines, it seems. Not this one by the same organization: “Researchers Caution About Potential Harms of Parents’ Online Posts about Children.”

Anne Trubek writes in the JSTOR Daily about “Student Writing in the Digital Age,” drawing on a study by Andrea and Karen Lunsford. Among the findings: “Students in first-year composition classes are, on average, writing longer essays (from an average of 162 words in 1917, to 422 words in 1986, to 1,038 words in 2006), using more complex rhetorical techniques, and making no more errors than those committed by freshman in 1917.”

Via The New York Times: “How Much Graduates Earn Drives More College Rankings.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Competency-based education programs may be inexpensive to run, but they can also take longer than expected to turn a profit, according to a study released on Tuesday and supported by the Lumina Foundation.” (More in The Chronicle about the Lumina Foundation and the Gates Foundation’s policy focuses. The former says it plans to invest in credential reform, including CBE.) Inside Higher Ed also wrote about the Lumina-funded report.

Via Education Dive: “Is CBE the future of higher education? Study says too early to tell.” (If the headline had just been the question, I could have listed this under the Betteridge subheader above.)

Education Week has released a new report on “personalized learning.” A few of the articles: “‘Red Flags’ to Look for When Evaluating Personalized Learning Products.” “Personalized Learning: What Does the Research Say?” “Checking Up on Personalized Learning Pioneers.” Rousseau could not be reached for comment.

From the Florida Virtual Campus, the “2016 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey.”

Via McGraw Hill Education: “Digital Study Trends: Student Habits.” You have to hand over some personal information to access the results of the survey, which certainly echoes a trend in how digital companies treat students’ data.

Via NPR: “The High School Graduation Rate Reaches A Record High – Again.”

Parents Bullish on Ed Tech, Skeptical About Its Implementation, Survey Says,” says Education Week, writing up a survey taken by the Gates Foundation funded Learning Assembly.

Via Edsurge: “Trouble With the Curve: Estimating the Size and Growth Rates of K–12 Markets.”

Via Pacific Standard: “Suspending Students Is Costing America Tens of Billions of Dollars.”

Via Edsurge: “The Top Skills Employers Need in 2016, According to LinkedIn.”

The shocking information in this story about LinkedIn’s diversity report isn’t that the company has made minimal gains in hiring women and people of color. It’s that Pat Wadors, LinkedIn’s senior VP of global talent uses the word “mulatto” to describe someone in her family.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “A new study released by the Brookings Institution finds disparities in student debt levels for black and white borrowers grow after graduation, a trend partly attributable to higher enrollment rates for black students in graduate programs, especially at for-profit institutions. That jump in enrollment is linked to higher federal borrowing rates introduced in 2006 and the weak job market – especially for black college grads – after the 2008 recession.”

Via Edsurge: “Average Student Loan Debt Surpasses $30K.” (Let’s talk a bit why median works better than mean for reporting on student loans.)

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “One-Third of Low-Income Student Borrowers Who Rehabbed Loans Could Default Again.”

83% of colleges pay to promote posts or to advertise on Facebook, according to a study by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Via Education Week: “Career-Readiness Will Require Training, and Re-Training, Beyond High School, Study Finds.”

Google has released two research reports on computer science education: “Diversity Gaps in Computer Science: Exploring the Underrepresentation of Girls, Blacks and Hispanics” and “Trends in the State of Computer Science in U.S. K–12 Schools.” Among the findings: Black and Hispanic students are 1.5 and 1.7 times more likely to be very interested in learning about computer science than their white peers. But they have less access to computer science in school.

According to the press release, the venture capital firm Learn Capital and VIPKID, one of its portfolio companies, are spending $10 million to launch “the world’s first research institute focusing on children's English online education.” I guess universities aren’t churning out “the right kind of research” for investors, or something.

“Best Practices for Conducting Risky Research and Protecting Yourself from Online Harassmentby Alice Marwick, Lindsay Blackwell, and Katherine Lo. I’m sad this has to exist, but I am also happy it does.


William Bowen, long-time president of Princeton and popularizer of the concept of Baumol’s cost disease (along with William Baumol, of course) has died. The New York Times obituary.

RIP Venida Browder, mother of Kalief, her teenage son who was kept mostly in solitary confinement on Riker’s Island for three years for a crime – stealing a backpack – he said he did not commit and was never convicted of committing. Kalief killed himself last year.

Icon credits: The Noun Project

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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