27:366(Y2) - Out for a Stroll

Federal and State Politics

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s latest plans to reinvent public education with the aid of the business community will accelerate this fall with the launch of a novel program that lets high school students take classes from the private sector on the public dime,” writes Politico’s Stephanie Simon. What could possibly go wrong.

California SB 520 is dead… for now. The bill “would have required the state’s 145 public colleges and universities to grant credit for low-cost online courses offered by outside groups, including for-profits companies,” writes Ry Rivard, but it faced overwhelming opposition from faculty who argued that the state was planning to “outsource student learning to for-profit companies that have not proven their courses can pass muster.”

According to Politico’s new Morning EducationNorth Carolina has pulled out of inBloom. This just leaves New York, two districts in Illinois, and one in Colorado that are working with the $100 million Gates Foundation-funded data project. 

The US House of Representatives has approved the student loan legislation that was passed by the Senate last week. Student loan interest rates are now tied to financial markets. Oh yay.

The Department of Education has named the members of a panel that will rewrite its “gainful employment” rule, which was thrown out by a federal judge last summer but was initially meant to curb federal aid to colleges and universities with graduates with high debt-to-income ratios and low loan repayment rates. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, for-profits are “feeling outnumbered” in the composition of the panel.

Florida State Representative Mitch Workman (R-Melbourne) claims that an AP History textbook, published by Pearson, has a “pro-Islam bias,” as it dedicates “36 pages to Islam and only several paragraphs to Christianity.” For its part, Pearson says that the 10th grade textbook covers the origins of Islam because Florida World History standards require it to do so and says that its 6th grade World History textbook, which covers early civilizations through the fall of Rome, discusses the origins of Christianity and Judaism.

The Law

MIT and JSTOR both released reports this week detailing their roles in the case of Internet activist Aaron Swartz. MIT said that it did not urge federal officials to prosecute Swartz for downloading documents and that it “remained neutral.” But it’s pretty clear to me at least that being “neutral,” particularly when accompanied by being silent, was being wrong.

3 Penn State officials – former president Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz, and athletic director Tim Curley – will have to stand trial on charges they were part of the cover-up of the child sexual abuses by former football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Xconomy reports that the textbook publishing startup Boundless is close to reaching a settlement with publishers. Pearson Education, Cengage Learning, and Macmillan Higher Education sued the startup last year, claiming that Boundless’s free textbooks infringed on their copyrights. Boundless has always denied this, but has also changed its offerings since the lawsuit and the content in question no longer exists as a product.

The Arkansas Attorney General issued a legal opinion this week, barring the state’s school districts from employing teachers and staff as armed voluntary security guards.

Do students have to be Mirandized before they’re questioned? Kentucky's Attorney General is asking the US Supreme Court to weigh in.

The Arizona Charter Schools Association (ACSA) has filed a lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Education, seeking an injunction to prevent the department from recovering more than $5 million that it says it overpaid the schools.

Your College Dollars at Work

The University of Oregon has opened its new $68 million “Football Performance Center.” WTF, Ducks.

The Center for Investigative Reporting has discovered that UCLA paid millions of dollars on luxurious travel and entertainment for administrators between 2008 and 2012. “Over the past several years, six of 17 academic deans at the Westwood campus routinely have submitted doctors’ notes stating they have a medical need to fly in a class other than economy, costing the university $234,000 more than it would have for coach-class flights, expense records show.” And that’s just the beginning…


A group of 12 scholar-hackers gathered at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University for “One Week One Tool,” a week-long project to build a digital tool. The results: Serendip-o-matic, a “serendipity engine” that takes any text (an article, a song, a syllabus), extracts key terms, then offers similar results from a variety of online collections including the DPLA, Europeana, and Flickr Commons. “It’s not search, it’s serendipity.”

Cognitive Kids has released the latest app in its “Ansel and Clair” series: Little Green Island, an educational game about pollution and the environment. (iTunes link, $3.99)


The Old Reader, one of the many alternatives that people had turned to after Google shuttered its RSS reader, announced this week that it would be closing its doors to the public. Maybe.


The personal data of some 72,000 University of Delaware staff – including names and Social Security numbers – were taken in a recent security breach.

According to a report by the security firm Halock Security Labs, one quarter of colleges and universities transmit unencrypted student data. The big culprit: sending information via email.


Coursera announced that it’s struck partnership deals with the University of New South Wales, University of Western Australia, and the University of Alberta. The latter will offer DINO 101, “the first Canadian MOOC to be offered with a transfer credit option. University of Alberta students can receive UAlberta credit either through the online course version (PALEO 200) or the in-class experience version (PALEO 201).”

(Holy crap. Only one MOOC news item this week?!)

Credits (Or Not)

Billing itself as the residential, anti-MOOC, 2U announced this week that Southern Methodist University, Baylor University, and Temple University would be offering credits to their undergraduates who take Semester Online courses. The 3 universities will be “affiliate partners” in Semester Online, so they won’t be offering courses, just granting elective credits for courses offered by other universities in the consortium. More details via The Chronicle’s Steve Kolowich.

Tiffin University has been ordered by its accreditor to halt enrollments in the online degree program Ivy Bridge that it offers with Altius Education. More via Inside Higher Ed. The program was a grant recipient of the Gates Foundation-funded Next Generation Learning Challenges. Altius Education has raised over $26 million in venture capital.

Funding, Partnerships, and Acquisitions

The test-prep giant Kaplan has acquired the test-prep portion of Grockit’s business. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. The startup, which has raised almost $45 million in funding, will now rebrand itself as Learnist, its Pinterest-like site. “Selling Grockit gives us considerable runway without any dilution of shares,” founder Farb Nivi told AllThingsD.

The Digital Public Library of America has received a $447,000 grant from an anonymous donor.

The Walton Family Foundation has given $20 million to help Teach for America expand in LA.

Pearson announced that it has made a $8.5M strategic investment in the English language learning platform, Voxy. The investment, which is part of Voxy’s Series B, brings the startup’s total investment to $16.5 million.

And Pearson continues to wrap its tentacles around the education startup community, this week partnering with the DC-based incubator program, 1776.

Copley Retention Systems has raised a Series A round of funding, led by Mark Cuban. No details about the amount in the press release, but hey, Cuban’s the Dallas Mavericks owner and appears on the TV show “Shark Tank,” so I’m sure this is all great for the future of teaching and learning.

Student response system Socrative has raised $750,000 in a seed round of investment, says Edsurge. Investors include True Ventures and NewSchools Venture Fund.

The copyright management company SIPX has raised $4.0 million in Series B financing.

From the HR Department

Caine Monroy will be entering junior high this fall, and so he’s retiring from his cardboard arcade. But fear not, Caine’s Arcade won’t close.

Investigative reporting killed the ed-reform star: Following reports by the AP that he’d ordered an accountability grade to be changed for one of his major donors while he was the head of the Indiana schools, Florida Superintendent Tony Bennett has resigned. A round-up of the news and responses via the EWA’s Emily Richmond.

Mark Milliron is leaving his job as the Western Governors University-Texas chancellor to work full-time at his startup Civitas Learning. More via The Chronicle.

Libby Doggett will fill the job of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning, reports HuffPo’s Joy Resmovits, who notes that the position’s been open for more than 6 months since President Obama said that expanding early childhood education would be a big priority.

“After twelve productive years, the University of Strathclyde’s relationship with Cetis has now ‘reached its conclusion,’” writes Lorna Campbell. “The Cetis Memorandum of Understanding has been terminated and all Cetis staff at the university have been made redundant.” That affects Campbell, Sheila McNeill, and Martin Hawksey – three of the very brightest folks in ed-tech.

Academic Research

The University of California Academic Senate passed an open access policy last week, “ensuring that future research articles authored by faculty at all 10 campuses of UC will be made available to the public at no charge.”

According to a major “crack baby” study, poverty is worse for kids than moms who did crack cocaine while pregnant.

Georgetown University released a report this week: “Separate and Unequal: How Higher Education Reinforces the Intergenerational Reproduction of White Racial Privilege.” More details on the report and its findings via Inside Higher Ed.

Image credits: Nomadic Lass, The Noun Project

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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