(National) Education Politics

From the Department of Education press release: “Secretary DeVos Releases Statement on President Trump’s Decision to Withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord.” For a Secretary of Education to speak on this is odd, at best. For Banana Republicans, perhaps less so. More on DeVos and climate change via The Washington Post.

“Some Hires by Betsy DeVos Are a Stark Departure From Her Reputation,” says The New York Times. Key word: “some.”

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is launching DeVos Watch, an initiative to hold the Department of Education “accountable.”

Via Chalkbeat: “For Betsy DeVos and her former advocacy group, the future of education means ‘personalization,’ including virtual schools.” Her “former advocacy group” – although considering she spoke there last week, I’m not sure how “former” it really is – is the American Federation for Children.

The Atlantic writes about the absence of Betsy DeVos at this year’s Education Writers Association conference.

Via The Washington Post: “Eighth-graders from N.J. refuse to be photographed with Ryan.” That’s Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, not one of the more beloved American Ryans: Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Gosling, Ryan Seacrest.

“U.S. Department of Education Launches New IDEA Website,” the Department of Education’s press release pronounces. The website went offline shortly after DeVos’ confirmation, causing many to panic since she seems to have little interest in her confirmation hearings in promoting educational equity and little knowledge about special education and federal law.

More on federal financial aid in the business of student loans section below.

(State and Local) Education Politics

Via The Washington Post: “With state budget in crisis, many Oklahoma schools hold classes four days a week.”

Via ProPublica: “Voucher Program Helps Well-Off Vermonters Pay for Prep School at Public Expense.”

New Mexico’s Public Colleges Breathe Easier, as Governor Signs Budget Bill,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Immigration and Education

Via Politico: “Trump administration asks Supreme Court to reinstate travel ban.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The U.S. Department of State has received emergency approval from the Office of Management and Budget to collect additional information regarding certain visa applicants’ travel and employment histories, familial connections, and social media usage in accordance with a notice it posted in the Federal Register May 4. The approval from OMB is for six months rather than the usual three years.”

Education in the Courts

“A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled in favor of a transgender student’s challenge to a Wisconsin school district’s policy limiting his restroom usage – a big win for those seeking to advance transgender rights in the courts,” Buzzfeed reports.

Via the WFF: “Supreme Court Victory for the Right to Tinker in Printer Cartridge Case.” The case involved Lexmark, a major supplier to schools, which had tried to keep customers from refilling their printer cartridges.

Via Edsurge: “BrightBytes Tried to Buy Hapara. Then a Better Offer – and a Legal Complaint – Emerged.” No disclosure in the article that Edsurge shares investors with both these companies.

More on Trump’s legal efforts to reinstate his “Muslim ban” in the immigration section above.

Testing, Testing…

“At last weekend’s annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) in Boston, Cornell University psychologist Robert Sternberg sounded an alarm about the influence of standardized tests on American society,” says Scientific American, publishing a Q&A with Sternberg about his concerns.

“Free College”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced Tuesday a new tuition-free college program for low-income students in Boston. Boston Bridge would be available for 2017 high school graduates who live in the city.”

The Business of Student Loans

From the Department of Education’s press release: “The U.S. Department of Education today announced the IRS Data Retrieval Tool is now available for borrowers applying for an income-driven repayment plan. New encryption protections have been added to the Data Retrieval Tool to further protect taxpayer information. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool will return Oct. 1, 2017, on the online 2018–19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.”

Via Edsurge: “A Basic Glossary to Income Share Agreements, a New Approach to Student Finance.” The op-ed is penned by someone from Vemo Education, who sells this “solution” to students. No disclosure, no surprise, that Edsurge shares investors with this company.

The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

For-profit tactics might be coming to public universities, and no one is talking about it,” says Salon, which is funny because I’ve been tracking on the “new” for-profit higher ed for years now, and my friend Tressie McMillan Cottom literally wrote the book on this. But hey.

Bethune-Cookman Had a Reason to Invite Betsy DeVos to Give That Calamitous Commencement Speech,” The Intercept’s Zaid Jilani reports, suggesting that the HBCU wants to stay in the administration’s good graces because of its affiliation with for-profit law schools that are on probation.

Via The Washington Post: “A coding school where college grads train and work without spending a dime.” No dime spent perhaps, but Revature takes a percentage of graduates’ pay.

The coding bootcamp Andela is expanding into Uganda, Techcrunch reports.

Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

Here’s a link to all the stories in Slate’s series on online credit recovery programs.

“After the Hype, Do MOOC Ventures Like edX Still Matter?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education, with a question that’s probably better suited for the Betteridge’s Law of Headlines section below.

Via The Next Web: “Facebook is letting Groups create online learning courses – what could possibly go wrong?”

Meanwhile on Campus…

Hillary Clinton gave the commencement speech at her alma mater, Wellesley, and everyone’s got a goddamn opinion on this, don’t they.

“A Princeton professor who recently criticized Trump in a commencement speech cancels planned public speaking events, saying she’s received death threats for her comments,” Inside Higher Ed reports. Funny how all those “free speech advocates” who wring their hands and claim that liberal students on college campuses are a danger to the First Amendment have little to say in support of Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. Why, it’s almost like “free speech” isn’t what many of these folks are interested in at all.

Via Buzzfeed: “Puerto Rico’s Universities Are Facing An Unprecedented Crisis.”

UC reverses policy, won’t pick up tab for regents’ parties,” The San Francisco Chronicle reports. However will they cope.

Via The Seattle Times: “Evergreen State College closes after caller claims to be armed, en route to campus.”

“When UConn broke up with Adobe: A parable of artists and copyright” by Tom Scheinfeldt.

Via the BBC: “Edinburgh University blames a system error for ‘failed degree’ emails.”

Politico profiles charter school chain founder Eva Moskowitz.

Accreditation and Certification

Inside Higher Ed writes about accreditation and the “Fine Print and Tough Questions for the Purdue-Kaplan Deal.”

From the HR Department

Carmen Twillie Ambar has been named the new president of Oberlin College.

Via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Troubled cops land jobs in Georgia schools.”

Southern New Hampshire University “lays off dozens of remote, part-time staffers (with plans to hire full-timers) as part of a reorganization process ahead of projected enrollment growth for its competency-based division,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Adjuncts at Northwestern University have voted to unionize.

The Business of Job Training

Via Techcrunch: “Walmart is bringing VR instruction to all of its U.S. training centers.”

Contests and Awards

NPR on the Scripps National Spelling Bee: “For First Time In 4 Years, Solo Speller Claims National Bee Crown.” Congratulations, Ananya Vinay.

(Related, via WaPo: “The National Spelling Bee’s new normal: $200-an-hour teen spelling coaches.”)

This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

Via eSchoolNews: “Is VR education an answer to the U.S. inmate problem?” (This reminds me of this wretched “thought experiment” posted in 2015: “How Soylent and Oculus Could Fix The Prison System.” The answer in this case is not simply “no” à la Betteridge. It’s “no” and “fuck no” and “fuck you.”)

(Reminder: according to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”)

Upgrades and Downgrades

Via CNBC: “This start-up is offering $8,000 blood transfusions from teens to people who want to fight aging.” The startup is called Ambrosia, and it sounds a lot like a Peter Thiel fantasy.

Via The New York Times: “The Rise and Fall of Yik Yak, the Anonymous Messaging App.”

“As Computer Coding Classes Swell, So Does Cheating,” according to The New York Times.

“The Turing Tumble lets you and your kids build real mechanical computers,” says Techcrunch.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Months after deleting controversial lists of “predatory” journals and publishers, the librarian behind them still faces anonymous harassment online.” The librarian in question is Jeffrey Beall. (Incidentally, I saw lots of harassment online this week from these predatory journal folks, but as Bill Fitzgerald notes, Twitter still does little to address abuse on its platform.)

Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

Via Venture Beat: “The AI Buddy Project is building an assistant to support kids of military families.”

Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

Yuanfandao has raised $120 million from Warburg Pincus and Tencent. The tutoring company has raised $244.2 million total.

Epic! has raised $8 million in Series C funding from Reach Capital, Innovation Endeavors, Menlo Ventures, Rakuten Ventures, Social Starts, Translink Capital, and WI Harper Group. The e-book subscription service has raised $21.45 million total. (There’s actually a disclosure on Edsurge’s reporting of the investment that it shares an investor with Epic!)

Yogome has raised $6.6 million in Series A funding from Seaya Ventures, Endeavor Catalyst, and VARIV Capital. The educational game maker has raised $9.63 million total.

KidPass has raised $5.1 million in Series A funding from Javelin Venture Partners, Bionic Fund, Cocoon Ignite Ventures, CoVenture, FJ Labs, TIA Ventures, and Y Combinator. The subscription services for kids’ activities has raised $6.3 million total.

Genext Students has raised $580,000 in Series A funding from undisclosed investors. The tutoring company has raised $780,000 total.

Civitas Learning has received an undisclosed amount of investment from the Lumina Foundation and Valhalla Charitable Foundation. The predictive analytics company has previously raised $63.95 million.

Viridis Learning has raised an undisclosed amount of money from Salesforce Ventures. The job placement company has previously disclosed investments totalling $3.2 million.

Pinboard acquires Delicious. Do read the announcement.

Not really ed-tech, but keep an eye on how Silicon Valley wraps itself in the language of “democracy” while taking steps to undermine its very systems. Via Techcrunch: “Reid Hoffman, Bill Gates, Sam Altman invest $30 million in”

I’ve updated my calculations on the amount of venture capital funding in the ed-tech industry for the month of May. (Note: I published this before the news about the $120 million invested in Yuanfandao, and I haven’t had a chance to update that report yet.)

Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

Via the AP: “The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has released a study showing more than a dozen school districts can monitor how students use borrowed laptops and other electronic devices.”

Mashable reports completely uncritically on “How a university campus is using facial recognition to keep its dorms safe.” The university in question: Beijing Normal University.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities is encouraging its 237 member institutions to equip its campus police departments with body-worn cameras – or at least test the technology.”

Data and “Research”

Venture capitalist Mary Meeker released her “Internet Trends” report, giving tech publications an opportunity to decide if they’ll embed all the slides on one post or force folks to click through multiple pages – yay! pageviews! advertising! – to see what she has to say. As Inc notes, the report has ballooned to 355 slides, up from 66 in 2011. “Software is eating the world” or “venture capitalists have no fucking clue” – you decide.

“From digital commons to the data-fied urge: Theorising evolving trends in the intersections of digital culture and open educationby Giota Alevizou.

Via The New York Times: “Free Play or Flashcards? New Study Nods to More Rigorous Preschools.”

Via Education Week: “Federal Data Give the Clearest Look Yet at America’s Homeless Students.”

The New York Times (op-ed page) on the “2017 College Access Index.”

Via Chalkbeat: “Lots of people are excited about career and technical education. But new international research points to a potential downside.”

Via The Bookseller: “Children’s love of reading at all-time high, research shows.” The research comes from the National Literacy Trust’s (NLT) Young Readers Programme, which found that 77.6% of primary school students it surveyed say they enjoy reading.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Most former college students say they would change either their major, college attended or credential pursued if they could do it all over again, survey finds.” The survey comes from Gallup and Strada Education Network (formerly USA Funds).

Via Edsurge: “Where Do US Teacher Salaries Really Go the Furthest?”

UVA’s Daniel Willingham responds to recent claims that valedictorians aren’t “disruptors.” on a study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting: “As rates of suicidal youth increase, doctors look at influence of school, internet.”

Via The Hechinger Report: “Government data single out schools where low-income students fare worst.”

The Wall Street Journal offers analysis of the socioeconomic well-being of Americans in rural areas, and it’s not a rosy picture: “Rural America Is the New ‘Inner City’.”

Edsurge describes “How Edtech Companies Blur the Lines Between Commercial and Research Data.” Me, I’m really looking forward to Edsurge’s new "research project testing the idea of an online diagnostic tool"!

If you thought “digital natives” was one of the worst phrases ever to strike ed-tech, I give you the word “phigital.”


Sister Joel Read, the former president of Alverno College, passed away at the age of 91. “While president, she pioneered a program in which the curriculum was organized around abilities students needed for various degrees, and assessment programs were created for those abilities and the broader impact of the Alverno education,” Inside Higher Ed notes. “The assessment efforts at Alverno were adopted many years before such practices became common – and influenced many other colleges.”

Icon credits: The Noun Project

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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