(National) Education Politics

Via Chalkbeat: “DeVos calls America still ‘a nation at risk,’ cheers GOP tax plan.”

As I type this up, the Senate has not yet voted, but it does appear to have enough votes to pass the measure.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “How the Tax Bills Would Hit Higher Ed.”

Via The Washington Post: “Taxing college endowments will hurt red-state kids more than coastal elites.”

Via NPR: “Graduate Students Across The Country Protest GOP Tax Plan.”

Via The Washington Post: “Universities are also to blame for the GOP’s ‘grad student tax’.” That is, writes Yale University’s Sarah Arveson, "Charging us tuition, only to waive it, helps to define us as students instead of the essential workers we are.

Republicans in Congress are also working on a re-authorization of the Higher Education Act. From The Wall Street Journal, “Five Things on the House’s Higher Education Bill.” It’s good news for for-profits, says the WSJ and also moves towards “simplifying FAFSA.”

From the Department of Education press release: “Secretary DeVos Praises Senate Action on FAFSA Simplification.”

Also from the Department of Education’s press office: “U.S. Department of Education Announces Vision to Transform Federal Student Aid, Improve Customer Service.” Apparently the FAFSA will soon be available on mobile devices.

Via The Wall Street Journal: “Trump Administration Looks Beyond Traditional Servicers for Student-Lending Help.” A. Wayne Johnson, the head of the department’s financial aid division and a former executive at a student loan company, says that those “non-traditional” servicers could include companies like Visa, Amazon, or Goldman Sachs.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Education Department Signals Possible Changes to Gainful-Employment Rule.”

Via US News & World Report: “DeVos Racks Up More Than a Dozen Visits to Florida Schools.” Remember: Jeb loves Betsy.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Education secretary calls for more emphasis on work-force training. Many experts – including those focused on careers – say general education matters more than she suggests.”

Via The Washington Post: “Elitists, crybabies and junky degrees – A Trump supporter explains rising conservative anger at American universities.”

Via Politico: “ Victorious Trump moves to reshape consumer bureau.” That’s the CFPB, whose new leader is also addressed in this story from NPR: “What The Upheaval At A Federal Consumer Watchdog Could Mean For Students.”

Via Education Week: “U.S. House Hearing on Algorithms & Big Data: 5 Takeaways for Schools.”

More on the FCC’s plans to end “net neutrality.” Via Wired: “Ajit Pai’s Shell Game.” From Education Dive: “ How repealing net neutrality will disrupt higher education.” Via Education Week: “FCC Plans to Weaken ‘Net Neutrality’ Provisions, Raising Questions for K–12.”

Via USA Today: “Lunchroom bosses across the nation are getting a bit more flexibility in what they serve under a new federal rule unveiled Wednesday amid criticism that easing restrictions means less healthy young Americans.”

(State and Local) Education Politics

Via Education Week: “K–12 Spending in Most States Still Far Below Pre-Recession Levels, Report Says.”

Via Chalkbeat’s Colorado outlet: “Fate of Douglas County’s high-profile voucher program to be weighed at special meeting.”

Man, the offers that cities have made to lure Amazon HQ2 to their municipalities. So much for democracy, I guess.

More on California’s lawsuit against Bridgepoint Education in the for-profit higher ed section below.

Education in the Courts

Via Boing Boing: “Epic Games is suing a 14 year old for making a cheat tutorial and his brilliant mother is PISSED.”

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

The Business of Student Loans (and Financial Aid)

There’s been quite a bit of news this about potential changes to FAFSA and financial aid. That’s all in the national politics section above.

Via The Washington Post: “Colleges puzzled by surge in FAFSA verification requests.”

The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

Via Buzzfeed: “California Is Suing A Giant For-Profit College For Allegedly Misleading Students.” That’s Bridgepoint Education, which runs Ashford University.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “3 Startling Claims From California’s Lawsuit Against a For-Profit College.”

The Wall Street Journal profiles InfiniLaw, a company that runs for-profit law schools. According to the article, it’s looking to sell off its two remaining schools, Arizona Summit Law School and Florida Law School. Its third school, Charlotte School of Law shut down this summer.

Commentary via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Selling Swampland: For-Profit Colleges in the Age of Trump.”

“Why Betsy DeVos Just Might Be A Cosmetology School’s Savior” – Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy profiles Pro Way Hair School in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

More on the politics of higher education in the national politics section above.

Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

These headlines just kill me. Via The 74: “How an Online Personalized Preschool Experiment Could Change the Way Rural America Does Early Education.”

More MOOC data in the “research” section below. And an update from Udacity in “the business of job training” section.

Meanwhile on Campus…

Via NPR: “What Really Happened At The School Where Every Graduate Got Into College.” The school in question: Ballou High School in DC.

An investigation by WAMU and NPR has found that Ballou High School’s administration graduated dozens of students despite high rates of unexcused absences. We reviewed hundreds of pages of Ballou’s attendance records, class rosters and emails after a district employee shared the private documents. Half of the graduates missed more than three months of school last year, unexcused. One in five students was absent more than present – missing more than 90 days of school.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Anthony Scaramucci resigned Tuesday from his position on an advisory board at a Tufts University graduate school.” Disclosure: the Mooch now follows me on Twitter.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Fresh Off Failed ‘Washington Post’ Sting, James O’Keefe Will Speak at SMU.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “A controversial speech at the University of Connecticut Tuesday night ended up in chaos, with students in the audience shouting at the speaker and the speaker arrested over an altercation with an audience member who appeared to take his notes.” The speaker was Lucian Wintrich, whose presentation was titled “It’s Okay to Be White.”

Via The Houston Chronicle: “Male studentsuncomfortable’ on Texas campuses, education official says.” Really.

Via NPR: “Parents Allege Sexual Abuse At Chinese Kindergarten.” The kindergarten is run by a private school chain, RYB Kindergarten, which incidentally was one of the handful of education IPOs this year.

Via Buzzfeed: “Cornell University Is Investigating This Controversial Research About Eating Behaviors.” That’s Brian Wansink, about whom Retraction Watch has counted eight corrections to published work so far this year.

Testing, Testing…

From the OECD: “PISA 2015 Results.”

Via The Hechinger Report: “U.S. ranks No. 13 in new collaborative problem-solving test.”

Go, School Sports Team!

The University of Tennessee dropped its plans to hire Greg Schiano as its new football coach following outcry about Schiano’s role in covering up – or at least turning a blind eye to – the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse while Schiano was at Penn State.

Via USA Today: “College football coaches owed more than $70 million in buyouts after run of firings.”

“Lawsuits could lead to changes in the NCAA’s concussion rules and threaten some athletic conferences, while broader questions about college football’s viability begin to emerge,” says Inside Higher Ed.

From the HR Department

Via Education Week’s Market Brief: “Scholastic Education Revamps Its Executive Leadership Team.”

The Business of Job Training

Udacity’s, A Freelancing Platform for Nanodegree Alumni, Shuts Down,” Class Central reports.

In their ongoing quest to convince people that VR is really going to be a thing, we get stories like this: “College teachers-in-training prep with virtual students.”

This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

“Can Fan Fiction Bridge the Gaps in Sex Education for Marginalized Communities?” asks Pacific Standard.

(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

Although much of the focus of ed-tech involves what happens at school, it’s important to remember that the corporate and consumer markets for “learning technologies” are much larger. This sort of thing, from Buzzfeed – “Here’s What Baby Food Of The Future Looks Like” – or this from from Techcrunch – “12 of the best baby tech gifts for the little ones in your life” – is pretty pervasive and should help remind us of how ed-tech (and tech more generally) serves to exacerbate inequality.

Speaking of ed-tech exacerbating inequality, Edsurge looks at PowerMyLearning’s plans to give parents homework – “family playlists” – to do alongside their children. (No disclosure that Edsurge shares funding – from the Gates Foundation – with this organization.)

Seems like most people spent the last couple of weeks talking about this op-ed. Articles about laptop bansfor or against – are not quite the worst. (The worst is definitely the Beloit Mindset List.) But stop anyway. Stop.

Grovo has apparently secured the trademark for “microlearning.”

Mozilla is ending its Web literacy work.

Via Vice: “YouTube kills ads on 50,000 channels as advertisers flee over disturbing child content.”

Via Techcrunch: “Jellies is a kid-friendly, parent-approved alternative to YouTube Kids.”

According to Edsurge, Knewton is now a courseware company and not a “robot tutor in the sky.” Knewton has raised some $157 million in venture capital. (No disclosure that Edsurge shares investors – GSV Capital – with Knewton.)

Via Think Progress: “Textbook co-authored by Roy Moore in 2011 says women shouldn’t run for office.” Moore is Alabama’s Republican Senate candidate.

Via Edsurge: “New Company Says by Using Its Service, Students Can Test Classroom Tech Before Arriving on Campus.” The company is called, and it scans your computer to make sure it meets all the requirements for an LMS and so on. No discussion of privacy or security, which would sure be nice.

Via Bloomberg: “Uber Investor Shervin Pishevar Accused of Sexual Misconduct by Multiple Women.” It’s just the latest in a long line of venture capitalists who’ve been accused of harassment this year.

Via The New York Times: “Andy Rubin, Android Creator, Steps Away From Firm Amid Misconduct Report.” The Information reported that Rubin was “involved in an inappropriate relationship with a female subordinate while he was at Google.”

Bitcoin Hype is Ushering in Demand for Cryptocurrency Education,” says MIT Technology Review. Let’s hope this education includes some of the underlying conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism that fuels the “anti-banking” rhetoric among cryptocurrency supporters.

Speaking of terrible ideas, “It Takes a Village: Parenting on the Blockchain,” says The Coin Telegraph.

Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

“How AI and Eye Tracking Could Soon Help Schools Screen for Dyslexia,” according to Edsurge, profiling one company, Lexplore.

Via Getting Smart: “Ask About AI: The** Future of Learning and Work**.”

Maha Bali writing for Prof Hacker: “Against the 3A’s of EdTech: AI, Analytics, and Adaptive Technologies in Education.”

Via the CBC: “Virtual infant BabyX prompts question: how do we feel about AI that looks so much like us?”

There’s some robot news in the privacy section below. I’m putting it there because it’s not “LOL, robots” it’s more “holy shit, Facebook why are you so consistently terrible.”

(Venture) Philanthropy, “Dark Money,” and the Business of Ed Reform

It’s not “venture philanthropy,” so I’ve added “dark money” to the header this week. But it is worth following Robert Mercer’s investments, as several involve education (funding Milo to wreak havoc on college campuses, for example) or technology (backing Cambridge Analytica). This week, on the heels of a failed attempt by James O’Keefe’s media company to conduct a “sting” on The Washington Post, we learn from Buzzfeed that “Conservative Megadonor Robert Mercer Funded Project Veritas.”

Via International Business Times: “Who Funds Conservative Campus Group Turning Point USA? Donors Revealed.” Funders include the Ed Uihlein Foundation, the family foundation of Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, the family foundation of healthcare products company CEO Vince Foglia, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus’ foundation, and the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation. Gee, that last name seems familiar.

Via Foreign Policy: “This Beijing-Linked Billionaire Is Funding Policy Research at Washington’s Most Influential Institutions.” Think tanks. The Chinese Communist Party. Etc.

Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

Pearson is selling its language learning company Wall Street English to Baring Private Equity Asia and CITIC Capital for $300 million (although Pearson will get about $100 million of that as the rest goes to debt relief).

Noodle Partners has raised $14 million from Owl Ventures. The company, founded by former Princeton Review and 2U exec John Katzman, has raised $18 million. Noodle Partners helps universities set up online degree programs. (Sorta like what 2U does, I guess.)

BetterLesson has raised $10 million from Owl Ventures, The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, New Markets Venture Partners, and Reach Capital. The professional development company has raised $21.3 million total.

Tutoring company Upswing has raised $1.5 million from Lumina Impact Ventures, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Rethink Education, and Village Capital. It’s raised $2.97 million total.

Private school chain Fusion Education Group has raised an undisclosed amount of money from Leeds Equity Partners.

Tech Edventures has raised an unknown amount of money from unknown investors. The after-school coding program has previously raised $775,000.

WeWork, which recently acquired the coding bootcamp Flatiron School and has plans to launch a private K–12 school to teach kids how to be entrepreneurs, is buying the meet-up company Meetup.

European private equity firm IK Investment Partners has acquired acquire the tutoring company Studienkreis GmbH.

Via The Scholarly Kitchen: “PLOS Reports $1.7M Loss In 2016.”

Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

“Once you have a student’s name, birthday and SSN, the US Department of Education will give you EVERYTHING else,” says Boing Boing. “Name+DOB+SSN=FAFSA Data Gold Mine,” says Krebs on Security.

Oxford and Cambridge are said to be illegally spying on students for money,” says Quartz.

Via Education Week: “Schools Struggle to Keep Pace With Hackings, Other Cyber Threats.”

Via THE Journal: “Report: Ed Tech Startups Stink at Student Data Privacy.” The report comes from Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College.

“When Is The U.S. Going To Ban The Internet Of Things For Children?” asks Fast Company. Maybe when trade publications like Fast Company stop promoting these products as revolutionary? I don’t know.

Via The Hechinger Report: “Fitbit for education: Turning school into a data-tracking game.” That’s horrific.

Via Techcrunch: “Facebook rolls out AI to detect suicidal posts before they’re reported.” There’s no way to opt out apparently. This from a company that was found earlier this year to be enabling advertisers to target teens who felt “worthless.”

Research, “Research,” and Reports

Via CNBC: “This start-up raised millions to sell ‘brain hacking’ pills, but its own study found coffee works better.” The company isn question is called HVMN (formerly Nootrobox). Its backers include Marc Andreessen.

How to Get Your Mind to Read” – an op-ed by UVA’s Daniel Willingham. (Spoiler alert: it does not involve taking venture capital-backed “brain hacking” pills.)

I’ve calculated the numbers for “the business of education technology” – investments, acquisitions, mergers, IPOs, and so on – for the month of November.

Via Campus Technology: “Study Uncovers How Ed Tech Decision-Making Works.” The study was conducted by the EdTech Efficacy Research Academic Symposium, which is housed at the University of Virginia.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The work of research institutions led to the formation of 1,024 start-up companies in 2016 as invention disclosures and patent applications also rose, according to an annual survey from the Association of University Technology Managers.” Well good thing the GOP tax plan will kill that off.

Via The Washington Post: “Private school enrollment contributes to school segregation, study finds.”

Class Central surveyed its users: “MOOC Users Highly Educated, Have Experienced Career Benefits.”

Predictions! This one via The 74: “By 2022, America Will Need 1 Million More College Grads With STEM Training Than We Are on Track to Produce.”

The Hechinger Report and Columbia Journalism School’s Teacher Project have a new research project out on “The Terrible Twos.”

I love it when people list “collaboration” as a top ed-tech trend – as though until this very moment in the history of technology, humans have been utterly unable to work together.

Icon credits: The Noun Project

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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