Education Law and Politics

The US House of Representatives (barely) passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill this week. While education spending will remain mostly flat, there are a number of cuts to education programs, including $303 million to the Pell Grant program. (However, Pell Grants will now be available to those incarcerated in juvenile detention centers.)

The Obama Administration announced $1 billion in “public-private spending” for early childhood education, in an attempt to boost the number of children with access to high quality preschool. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held a Twitter chat with singer Shakira to mark the occasion.

New York State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr is stepping down from that job to join the US Department of Education.

The FCC approved an overhaul to the E-rate program (which subsidizes high-speed Internet for public schools and libraries). This includes a $1.5 billion boost in funding to the program.

LAUSD is lawyering up in response to the federal grand jury investigation into the procurement process for all those iPads. Meanwhile, the district might not be ready for assessments due to a “lag” in distributing new devices. And the district says it needs $11 million more to fix its broken student information system.

“Education companies that sell more than $150,000 in goods or services to a school district will be required to negotiate the profit on any contracts using federal funds, under new rules that become effective Dec. 26,” reports Education Week.

Via ProPublica: “When Charter Schools Are Nonprofit in Name Only

The Texas Education Agency will close 14 charter school operators for failing to meet academic and financial performance standards.

The Wake County (North Carolina) school district could ban selfiesthat’s the headline. The proposed policy would require teacher permission before students take photos at school.

The New York Times reports that, “10 advocacy groups have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the Topps Company, the maker of Ring Pops, accusing the company of violating a federal children’s privacy protection law.”

Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy on “Why The Government Supports Everest University’s Controversial Sale.”


MIT announced this week that it was removing the online courses of Walter Lewin, an emeritus professor of physics, after discovering that he had engaged in the online sexual harassment of a female student. Lewin has been an incredibly popular professor, and the YouTube videos of demonstrations from his physics courses at MIT have had millions of views. Prior to the rise of Salman Khan and Khan Academy, Lewin was the YouTube education star. All those videos are now gone as MIT has tried to scrub Lewin’s presence from the Web. According to the university, “MIT’s action comes in response to a complaint it received in October from a woman, who is an online MITx learner, claiming online sexual harassment by Lewin. She provided information about Lewin’s interactions with her, which began when she was a learner in one of his MITx courses, as well as information about interactions between Lewin and other women online learners.” More via Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

I’d definitely read the fine print on this one if I were you: Coursera has revamped its Specialization on entrepreneurship, with a chance for students to pitch their final project to investors.

Coursera has two new partners: ESSEC Business School and Sciences Po. (I’m curious about the language here. Is “partnered” different than “joined”?)

Rethinking Low Completion Rates in MOOCs

Ethics and transparency in the Coursera Learner Outcomes Survey

Meanwhile on Campus

Student protests over police violence continue – in Brooklyn, in Denver, at several medical schools, at the University of Iowa, at UC Berkeley. A UC Berkeley lecturer tweeted she would give her students extra time on their final assignments due to injuries received at the hands of police. She’s received threats and has closed her Twitter account. Protestors chased investor Peter Thiel off the stage at a Berkeley event on Wednesday.

Military-Style Technology Finds Way Into School District Safety Measures.”

France plans elite top–10 mega-university,” reports the BBC. (Nice photo to illustrate the story, BBC.)

The fallout from the Rolling Stone’s story on an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia frat party continues. From Hanna Rosin in Slate, “The Washington Post Inches Closer to Calling the UVA Gang Rape Story a Fabrication.” The university defends its decision to suspend fraternity events until the new year.

The Justice Department released statistics this week on rape and sexual assault on campus. Among the findings, “women ages 18 to 24 who are in college or trade school are less likely to report such incidents than those who aren’t in school.”

Bob Jones University Blamed Victims of Sexual Assaults, Not Abusers, Report Says.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Clemson University chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon has suspended all fraternity activity and several of its officers have resigned following a ”Cripmas“ party where students dressed up as gang members.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Harvard Business School

Some school districts are switching to antibiotic-free chicken.

Go, School Sports Team!

NBA stars have been sporting “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts to show their solidarity with anti-police violence protestors and their sympathy in the death of Eric Garner. Members of the Georgetown basketball team became the first college athletes to also wear the shirts.

Video games as college sports.

Football playoff teams announced: Oregon, Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State.

From the HR Department

The University of Oregon has reached a deal with its striking graduate students. (The union won its demands for a hardship fund to pay for paid family and medical leave.) Other news, from prior to the settlement of the strike: An open letter from a UO professor to his students. Removal of instructors of record who supported the strike. Threats of deportation of international grad students who supported the strike. And of course, fears about UO’s eligibility in the coming football playoffs.)

“The Graduate Workers of Columbia on Friday told Columbia University that a majority of teaching assistants and research assistants have signed cards asking that the United Auto Workers local be recognized as a union,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

36 Presidents of Private Colleges Earned More Than $1-Million in 2012.”

The University of Illinois Urbana Champaign continues to deal with the fallout from its firing of Professor Steven Salaita. Corey Robin has updates on the case.

UIUC has rehired adjunct instructor James Kilgore, whose “teaching was blocked after word spread about his past (including jail time) for his role in the radical ’70s group the Symbionese Liberation Army.”

Yuko Tanaka has become the first female president of Japan’s Hosei University.

The University of Missouri-St. Louis has announced a hiring freeze due to an unexpected drop in enrollment, that “campus officials are linking to the fatal police shooting in nearby Ferguson.”

Georgia Teacher Fired for Protesting Michael Brown Decision.”

Upgrades and Downgrades

It’s Computer Science Education Week. More districts are making the move to teach computer science. Politico’s Stephanie Simon examines the PR blitz and political connections behind the Hour of Code initiative. Gary Stager also responds to the Hour of Code. And Vogue Magazine weighs in too.

Pearson announced that it’s won the bid to develop the 2018 PISA test. (It has the contract for the 2015 test.) Pearson says that, among other things it plans to “redefine reading literacy.”

Google News is closing in Spain, in response to a new Spanish law that would require news aggregators pay a fee for using snippets that link back to news articles.

News Corp’s education wing Amplify will now sell “personalized professional development” to school districts.

From Techcrunch: “The anonymous posting app After School has once again been removed from the App Store. The app was pulled sometime late yesterday as threats of school violence continue to pop up even after the creators took steps to better filter the content.”

In related “anonymous posting apps marketed to schools” news: a security vulnerability in Yik Yak.

The speed-reading app Spritz damages reading comprehension. That hasn’t stopped it from teaming up with study guide Spark Notes, which doesn’t really care much about reading comprehension either if you stop and think about it. Perfect.

An LMS built on top of Office 365.

D2L has updated its Brightspace learning management platform with improved support for end users and game-based learning,” says Campus Technology.

Edsurge profiles GlassLabs, “a nonprofit located on the Electronic Arts campus in Redwood City, Calif., … building games that serve as formative assessments for critical thinking skills.”

Congratulations Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel for having your research papers accepted into two scientific journals.

Funding and Acquisitions

Everspring has raised $10 million in funding lead by Carrick Capital Partners and Accretive. The company, which helps colleges manage online courses, has raised a total of $26 million in investment.

From the press release: “The Advisory Board Company (”the Advisory Board“) (ABCO), a global, insight-driven technology, research, and services provider, today announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Royall & Company (”Royall“), the higher education industry leader in strategic, data-driven student engagement and enrollment management solutions.” The business of buzzwords is good.


“Data from the Office for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education show that from 2011 to 2012, black girls in public elementary and secondary schools nationwide were suspended at a rate of 12 percent, compared with a rate of just 2 percent for white girls, and more than girls of any other race or ethnicity.” More in The New York Times.

The Cost of Juvenile Incarceration” – New York State spends $352,663 a year per offender. By comparison, the state spends $19,552 a year per student.

According to a survey by the Software & Information Industry Association, the ed-tech market grew by 5% in 2012–2013, with some $8.4 billion in digital stuff sold.

Investment research firm CB Insights offers its “2014 Ed Tech Review – The Largest Financings and Most Active VCs in Ed Tech.”

“In fall 2014, overall postsecondary enrollments decreased 1.3 percent from the previous fall.” More from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center here.

HarvardX researcher Justin Reich helps unpack the results of a study on the effectiveness of the Teach to One math program.

A study by Lillian MacNell, a PhD student in sociology at North Carolina State University suggests that “college students in online courses give better evaluations to instructors they think are men – even when the instructor is actually a woman.”

According to a new study out by the Pew Research Center, “the vast majority of Americans believe their use of the web helps them learn new things, stay better informed on topics that matter to them, and increases their capacity to share ideas and creations with others.”

Via Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog: “Should States Spend Billions To Reduce Class Sizes?”

“When the Media Get Science Research Wrong, University PR May Be the Culprit.” Or at least that’s what the media told me about a study on science and journalism.

“A new study in the journal Health Affairs finds that nearly half of all children in the U.S. have experienced one such social or family-related trauma.” More via The Atlantic.

Toys are more gendered now than they were 50 years ago.”


Chicago poet, activist, and educator Mike Hawkins – better known as Brother Mike – has died. Brother Mike was one of the mentors at YouMedia, which has created learning spaces within the city’s libraries. From the MacArthur Foundation’s Connie Yowell, “Revolution: Thank you, Brother Mike.”

Ralph Baer, inventor of the first home video game system, passed away at age 92.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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