Education Law and Politics

LAUSD’s new superintendent Ramon Cortines says that construction bonds shouldn’t pay for iPads and Pearson curriculum. Currently, construction bonds are paying for the district’s iPads and Pearson curriculum. So the LAUSD iPad saga continues…

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the head of Chicago Public Schools, says she wants to delay the use of PARCC Common Core tests in her district. The state of Illinois plans to do so, so I’m not sure how all of this will play out as the state has already decreed that the city cannot opt out of the PARCC assessments.

NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña “swapped 15 of 42 city school superintendents, or nearly 36%, in her biggest personnel shakeup since taking office,” says the NY Daily News. “Swapped” is an interesting verb. “Must reapply for their jobs” is a better description.

Common Pleas Court Judge Nina Wright Padilla issued a preliminary injunction, stopping the Philadelphia school district from changing its teacher contract so that teachers would have to pay their own health care costs.

The US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has overturned a lower court’s ruling in Cambridge v Patton, an important copyright/fair use case involving Georgia State University and university e-reserves. More on the case, and why we shouldn’t panic too much about the decision, via Techdirt.

“State officials announced Friday that the Social Security numbers, names and birthdates of 210 students were left on at least two laptops sold at auction Oct. 11. Those laptops were surplus equipment from the Future Is Now charter group sold after the organization ended its program at John McDonogh High in New Orleans.” Ed-tech privacy and security disasters – really guys, this not just an inBloom problem.

The Obama Administration announced it was loosening the credit requirements for federal PLUS loans.

Cafeteria workers at Howard Elementary School in Los Angeles say they’ve been instructed to speak only English while at work. Most of the staff who work in the cafeteria are native Spanish speakers, and 86% of the students at the school identify as Hispanic. The school says that the workers have misconstrued the rule; it’s only English-only while “performing job duties.” Oh.

The Wall Street Journal on the school-to-prison pipeline: “A generation ago, schoolchildren caught fighting in the corridors, sassing a teacher or skipping class might have ended up in detention. Today, there’s a good chance they will end up in police custody.”

Via Politico: “Lobbying reports for the third quarter of 2014 are in. Big education spenders from July through September were: Navient and Sallie Mae ($834,000), the National Education Association ($594,394), Apollo Education Group ($500,000), the NCAA ($410,000) and the American Federation of Teachers ($337,382).”

The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools has okayed the University of Michigan’s plans for a competency-based master’s degree in health professions education.

Alex Usher examines the campaign promise of Michelle Bachelet, recently re-elected as President of Chile to make higher education in the country completely free.

An open letter and petition calling for justice in the investigation of the disappearance of 43 college students in Mexico.


Paul-Olivier Dehaye, the instructor who was removed from his #massiveteachingMOOC earlier this year, has started to explain his side of what went massively wrong with the course.

Davidson College has received a $2 million grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to extend its work on Advanced Placement MOOCs.

This is pretty much the worst piece of writing about education technology I’ve ever seen published in a major publication. Didn’t stop Edsurge from covering it and strangely attributing it to the WSJ and not Forbes. But hey.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The University of Arkansas System in March approved the creation of a fully online institution that would spring from the system’s pool of talent and resources. Seven months later, some of the other institutions in the system are balking at the idea of footing the bill for what may become a direct competitor.”

Meanwhile on Campus

Police in Marysville, Washington say that two students are dead and four are wounded following a school shooting today. (The shooter is one of the deceased.)

Police in riot gear had to use tear gas to break up the “melee” of hundreds of students at Keene State College in New Hampshire. The students were rioting over the… pumpkin festival.

“The Boston Public Schools is considering the development of a policy to add another layer of security to help protect students and staff. This would involve training School Police Officers in the use of OC spray, also known as pepper spray, and equipping officers with this tool.” So you should probably show up at the public forum to discuss this, Boston edu people.

The same year as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement and some 34 years since it started supporting the program, the University of Berkeley is withdrawing its funding for the Emma Goldman Papers Project, an archive of the anarchist’s work.

The University of Guelph has filed a trademark for “OpenEd.” What assholes. Also, the IP system is broken. But mostly, what assholes.

Charles Munger – a.k.a. Warren Buffett’s business partner – has made a $65 million donation to the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

It’s now officially okay for members of the University of Oklahoma Marching Band to criticize the marching band.

Via Tressie McMillan Cottom: the top degree-granting institutions for African Americans. Take a guess at what they are. Then read Tressie’s article and analysis.


The University of South Florida has canceled a visit by 14 African journalists because of fears of Ebola. Just two were from West African countries affected by the disease.

A teacher from Maine was placed on a 21-day paid leave of absence because she went to Dallas – a move that does make you want to look more closely at the science curriculum there in Strong, Maine.

Two children who’d spent time in eastern Africa – thousands of miles away from the Ebola outbreak – are being kept home from school in Maple Shade, New Jersey, because Strong, Maine and the University of South Florida do not hold a monopoly on dumb.

Go, School Sports Team!

Holy crap, Tar Heels. I mean, yeah, I think many of us recognize that lots of shady things happen to maintain student athletes’ eligibility. But this week, a 1367-page report was released detaining 18 years worth of academic fraud, supported by professors, coaches, and administrators at the University of North Carolina. “The report estimates that more than 3,100 students received ”irregular instruction“ in the department’s ”paper classes,“ which did not meet and required only a single paper for credit. Student athletes were disproportionately represented in the classes, accounting for 47.6 percent of enrollments, while making up just 4 percent of the undergraduate student body.” More here and here and here in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

A new lawsuit was filed this week, charging NCAA and Division 1 schools of violating the wage-and-hour provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. More via USA Today.

“The University of Texas could spend nearly $6 million a year to comply with a string of recent legal rulings requiring colleges to be more generous to their scholarship athletes.” (That’s about $10,000 per player.)

“Nearly a quarter of respondents to a new survey of NCAA colleges said their institutions do not have a formal process for educating athletes about the danger of head injuries,” reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. The NCAA does require colleges have a “concussion management plan,” but there’s no penalty if you don’t. So ya know, whatever.

The coaches at Sayreville High School in New Jersey have been suspended, following sexual assault charges filed against several of the school’s football players last week.

The rest of the football season has been cancelled at Central Bucks High School West in Philadelphia “after concluding rookie players had been subjected to ‘humiliating and inappropriate’ initiation rites.”

From the HR Department

The University of Warwick’s Thomas Docherty has been cleared of any wrongdoing after being suspended from 9 months for “giving off negative vibes.”

A Tennessee school district has fired one of its IT staff after he used a school 3D printer “to create an inoperable part of a paintball gun.”

Some folks are up-in-arms because of the cover story in the November 3 issue of Time Magazine on teacher tenure. The cover itself is not quite as provocative as the 2008 one with Michelle Rhee holding the broom ready to sweep the classrooms of DC “clean,” but this one features the phrase “rotten apples” with a gavel preparing to smash a perfectly nice looking piece of fruit. AFT’s Randi Weingarten is demanding the magazine apologize to teachers, and there’s been lots of discussion on Twitter today about the article. Time is probably relieved there’s a controversy so that people actually read the damn magazine.

Upgrades and Downgrades

Twitter is screwing up how the timeline works, hoping for better “engagement.”

“The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has partnered with startup incubator and investment fund 1776 to provide mentors and engagement opportunities for entrepreneurs involved in the K–12 space,” reports Edsurge. 1776 has also partnered with The Chronicle of Higher Education, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Pearson.

It’s great to see coverage of video games made by teenage girls, don’t get me wrong. But in the midst of #gamergate, with all the hatred that’s being unleashed on women in the industry, it’s probably not the best timing for Mic’s story about two teens and their video game Tampon Run. As always: never read the comments.

Earlier this month, I tweeted a question, asking what the education equivalent is of the “Paypal Mafia.” InTheCapital just ran a story, with supporting anecdotes provided by Blackboard execs, claiming it’s Blackboard. I don’t buy it. But nice story idea.

Photomath uses the smartphone camera to solve math problems. Or to try to do so. So cue the headlines on how this will “revolutionized math education forever!” Avoid those stories. Read Dan Meyer’s or Rhett Allain’s takes instead.

Textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is launching an “ed-tech incubator” so it can “work on adopting a startup mentality internally.”

1800 words in Inside Higher Ed on the use of single quotations versus double quotations in student work.

Via Gizmodo: “A ‘Smartwatch’ For Kindergarteners Is the Only Smartwatch You Need

It’s probably wrong to laugh at cybercrime news, but “Hackers Are Exploiting Microsoft PowerPoint to Hijack Computers.” I LOL’d.

How to Stop Apple From Snooping on Your OS X Yosemite Searches

Via the School Library Journal: “Adobe’s Lax Security Raises Concerns About Student Privacy.”

Adobe supports #Gamergate. Awesome priorities, Adobe.

Working Examples, an online community for sharing practices in education and technology, will be closing its doors at the end of the year.

Funding and Acquisitions

On the heels of its investment in Udacity, publisher Bertelsmann has acquired online education company Relias Learning for an undisclosed figure.

KnowRe has raised $6.8 million in Series A funding from Softbank Ventures Korea, with KTB Network, Partners Investment, and SparkLabs Global Ventures. The “adaptive learning” startup has raised $8.6 million total.

51Talk has raised $55 million from Sequoia Capital, Shunwei Capital, and DCM. This brings to $65.1 million raised by the Chinese online English-language-learning school.

Notebowl has raised $600,000 in seed funding. Says Edsurge: “NoteBowl offers a social learning platform for college students, including private groups, messages, agendas and Hangouts on Air, which allows users to broadcast lectures, integrated with a Q&A feature, automatically saved to YouTube.” Sounds unique.

The for-profit college operator Education Management Corp has delisted itself from NASDAQ. “Last week, EDMC reported a $644 million loss in fiscal year 2014, its third consecutive annual loss, as enrollment declined 7.3 percent.” But don’t worry, education startups, I’m sure your IPO will be waaaaay different.


The Pew Research Center released its latest report on online harassment. 65% of those between 18–29 say they’ve reported some form of online harassment, with women in that age bracket experiencing severe harassment at a far higher level. 26% of those women say they’ve been stalked online.

New research from Germany finds greater cognitive skills are associated with more spiteful behavior in children.” I look forward to “spite” replacing “grit” as the new education buzzword.

Researchers from the Stanford Center on Longevity and the Berlin Max Planck Institute for Human Development issued a statement this week about the promises made by “brain training” companies: “To date, there is little evidence that playing brain games improves underlying broad cognitive abilities, or that it enables one to better navigate a complex realm of everyday life.” (Hello ed-tech: please keep this in mind the next time you see someone drop the phrase “brain based” into their blog posts or webinars.) Meanwhile, “Research shows Portal 2 is better for you than ‘Brain training’ software.”

The Impact of Open Textbooks on Secondary Science Learning Outcomes.” From the abstract: “Although the effect size of the gains were relatively small, and not consistent across all textbooks, the finding that open textbooks can be as effective or even slightly more effective than their traditional counterparts has important considerations in terms of school district policy in a climate of finite educational funding.”

Research funded by the Gates Foundation finds positive things about small schools, an initiative supported by the Gates Foundation. Here’s more on the story from a news organization funded by the Gates Foundation.

Just 10% of art school undergraduates end up as working artists. This and other reasons to avoid art school can be found here.

“Forty-five percent of school districts indicated they do not have the capacity to deploy a 1:1 initiative.” This and other stats from COSN’s Annual E-rate and Infrastructure Survey.

“A decade ago, the U.S. Navy replaced instructor-led teaching with computer-based learning in entry-level training courses, in part to reduce costs, but the result has been less-well-trained sailors and an estimated $16 million in excess maintenance costs, say Robert M. McNab and Diana I. Angelis of the Defense Resources Management Institute.” Disruptive.

Help wanted at the Open Syllabus Project: “You will help us put 2 million scraped syllabi online, do natural language processing to extract citations from each syllabus, and build visualizations to do citation analysis. We want to see what people are actually teaching for each subject, and how this changes over time, and make this type of analysis widely available to researchers.”

It’s a small sample size, but research by Michelle Lem at the University of Guelph found that homeless youth put their pets’ needs over their own.

Via Education Week: “A new study in the American Sociological Review finds that middle and high school students from wealthier backgrounds are more likely than students in poverty to ‘selectively use stimulants only during the academic year,’ and they are most likely to do so in states with the most stringent academic accountability.”

This week in education-related charts and maps: “The Graduate Schools With the Richest Alums.” “The most expensive college dorms in every state.”

Image credits: Jesse

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

Back to Archives