Education Politics

The US House of Representatives was supposed to vote last week on ESEA reauthorization, but the vote collapsed because of conservative opposition to the proposed bill. (“How a Conservative Blogger Helped Derail the House NCLB Rewrite.”)

The Department of Education severed ties with five companies it had contracted to collect student loans after finding they made “materially inaccurate representation” to borrowers. Meanwhile an employee of the department has committed identity theft using students’ loan applications.

A bill in New Hampshire will require students to learn cursive and their multiplication tables. It’s part of the pushback against the Common Core, which omits learning cursive as part of the curriculum.

Legislators in Arizona have decided to completely eliminate state support for its three largest community college districts, including Maricopa and Pima. More details via Inside Higher Ed.

Wyoming governor Matt Mead has signed a bill that will allow the topic of climate change to be taught in the state.

Last month, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker insisted that it was a “drafting error” when his proposal to axe higher education funding also rewrote the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement. This time, it’s Tennessee’s turn to plead “typo,” saying it didn’t mean to use the phrase “de-tenure” to describe its new cost-saving plans.

Kansas Senate Bill 56 would allow teachers who distribute “harmful material” to students be criminally prosecuted.

Some 9000 students from NYC’s charter school chain Success Academies were bussed to Albany to participate in a pro-charter school rally.

A new US government initiative, Let Girls Learn, will work with the Peace Corps to support girls’ education globally.

CUNY adjunct professor (and former CIA director) David Petraeus reached a plea deal for leaking classified information to his mistress/biographer. Unlike other leaders, he won’t serve jail time. He’ll pay a $40,000 file and get 2 years of probation.

Former Atlanta public schools superintendent Beverly Hall passed away this week. Hall was awaiting trial for her role in the district’s cheating scandal.


Stan Lee is teaching a MOOC via edX. “When you complete a verified certificate in this course it will feature original artwork with both Stan Lee's and Michael Uslan's signature.” – so that’ll help the edX bottom line, amirite. I mean, they got my $50.

Alibaba and Peking University are launching a MOOC platform.

Udemy boasts that its top 10 instructors have earned more than $17 million on the “MOOC” platform.

Coursera has apologized for a tweet (later deleted) arguing that its crowdsourced translation efforts were superior to professional translators. Paul-Olivier Dehaye storified some of the exchange.

Meanwhile on Campus

Sweet Briar College announced this week that it plans to close its doors at the end of the academic year. The all-women’s private liberal arts college in Virginia has a sizable endowment (~$80 million), but its board voted to close nonetheless, citing declining interest in the school. “Shock” seemed to be the common response to the news – other than “Sweet Briar College? Never heard of it” of course. That hasn’t stopped the “what other colleges can learn”-type stories.

Officials at the University of Oregon “accessed the rape survivor's therapy records from its counseling center and handed them over to its general counsel’s office to help them defend against her lawsuit.” The university claimed FERPA gave them the right to do so.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors has voted to close research centers: “a poverty center at the Chapel Hill campus, a biodiversity center at East Carolina University and a civic engagement and social change center at North Carolina Central University.” Notice a theme? The board’s chair insists the decision isn’t political. Mmmhmmm.

Some Owners of Private Colleges Turn a Tidy Profit by Going Nonprofit.”

Lynn University gives free iPads to its students. “Now,” reports The Chronicle of Higher Education, “If those students cut class, their iPads might tattle on them.” An app called Class120 keeps an eye on students’ locations, using GPS.

Students at University of California Santa Cruz blocked campus entrances this week, protesting UC tuition hikes.

Body Cameras on School Police Spark Student Privacy Concerns.”

#BeSomebody Speaker Draws Controversy at Austin High School.”

You remember that story about the photos of the school lunches from around the world? Corporate photo shoot, not actual school lunches.

University of Wisconsin Madison is under investigation for possible Title IX violations, stemming from a sexual assault on campus in May 2014.

Via The Hechinger Report: “How an oversupply of PhDs could threaten American science.”

NYC Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced that the district’s schools would close for two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr.

Standardized Testing

It’s the start of standardized testing season across the US, and there were a number of problems and breakdowns and delays with online assessments this week across counties in Florida. Meanwhile, some students in New Mexico walked out in protest of the new Common Core exams.

Go, School Sports Team!

“A Former College Lineman Now on the Streets, Looking for Answers, and Help” – this New York Times profile of UNC’s Ryan Hoffman raises so many questions about football, head inquiries, mental health, precarity, and why we love athletes so much until we don’t.

“Medical professionals in many big-time college football programs are using deliberately vague language about head injuries or avoiding mention of concussions on injury reports as public scrutiny of the problem has increased,” reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Cheerleaders from Albany State and Tuskegee Universities were sent home after they got into a fight at a basketball tournament.” Viral video from HBCU Sports.

From the HR Department

The Department of Education has hired Southern New Hampshire University president Paul LeBlanc for a short-term appointment where he will focus on competency-based education and “developing new accreditation pathways for innovative programs in higher education.”

Also joining the Department of Education: Katrina Stevens.

Edukwest reports that Silicon Valley private school AltSchool – founded by Xoogler Max Ventilla – has hired more Silicon Valley tech types: “Joining the AltSchool team are Bharat Mediratta from Google, who has been appointed CTO. Uber’s former head of global security Michael Ginty has been appointed to head of safety at AltSchool. Former Rocket Fuel VP Sue Yoon and former Zynga Director of Product Rajiv Bhatia are also joining.” Because education is an engineering problem, clearly.

Betteridge’s Law of Headlines headline of the week: “If B.A.'s Can't Lead Graduates to Jobs, Can Badges Do the Trick?

Median Salaries of Senior College Administrators, 2014–15.”

Upgrades and Downgrades

Why Pearson Wants to Sell PowerSchool.

Oh look. Another new college-based social network: Friendsy. It’s like Tinder plus Facebook, or something.

Once boasting that its main future was that it safely allowed one-way communication from teachers to students, Remind will soon allow two-way conversations via its app.

A new Consumer Reports-like site,, had its official launch this week. The site reviews textbooks and educational materials to see how well they’re aligned to the Common Core. (Spoiler alert: they’re not.)

Clever has revised its privacy policy, a move that gets “kudos” from Funnymonkey’s Bill Fitzgerald. Indeed, the idea of putting the policy on GitHub so that you can easily track changes is a great one.

NYT’s Natasha Singer reports that “Digital Learning Companies Falling Short of Student Privacy Pledge.”

A Smartwatch App That Lets Your Boss Track You Constantly” – predictions on this coming to a school near you?

The Wired headline reads “An Online Game That'll Help Pay Off Your Student Debt.” Actually you get $.50 if you win a round on the app’s trivia game. $.30 of that goes to pay a service fee. So at that rate, I’d need to play about 100,000 rounds before I had my debt paid off. That does nothing to address larger structural questions about student loan debt, but hey, this is clearly technosolutionism at its best/worst.

Versal, a startup that allows anyone to make online lessons, has left beta and partnered with Wolfram Research. (Wolfram gadgets will be available to Versal users.)

Wikispaces, now owned by TES Global, is getting into the “teachers selling lesson plans” business.

Wired covers a Kickstarter campaign, raising funds so that kids in Rio de Janeiro’s City of God neighborhood can control one of NASA’s Mars Mission.

The conservative ed-reform publication Education Next is celebrating (yes, celebrating) the 50 year anniversary of the Moynihan Report, which helped pathologize Black women as “welfare queens” and Black men as “deadbeat dads.” Michael Petrelli gleefully trolled Black Twitter with the cover of its latest magazine.

Now Petrelli says he’s sorry for sending the tweets. (No apology for the cover itself.) Here’s a sample story from the issue: “Racial Controversies Are As Misleading Today As They Were When The Moynihan Report Was Written.”

Funding and Acquisitions

Tutoring marketplace Studypool has raised $1.2 million from Lerer Hippeau Ventures, 500 Startups, Fabrice Grinda, and Great Oaks Venture Capital. The startup has raised $1.3 million total.

Happly has raised $1.45 million from unnamed investors, reports GeekWire. The startup offers a “family friendly media and technology” platform.

Harris School Solutions has acquired ClassMate for an undisclosed sum.

“Research” and Data

A new report from the OECD looks at the global gender gap in education. Using PISA data, the report finds differences between girls and boys in reading and math and performance as well as in their sense of whether it’s something they’re good at.

According to market research firm Futuresource Consulting, schools will be buying more interactive flat panel displays in the coming years. Because interactive whiteboards weren’t enough of a waste of money…

“Computational Competence Doesn’t Guarantee Conceptual Understanding in Math,” says Daniel Willingham.

Instructors with Asian-sounding surnames receive lower ratings on

“Nationally, 37,327 students took the AP CS A exam in 2014,” reports Mark Guzdial. “This was a big increase (26.29%) from the 29,555 students who took it in 2013.” More details based on the research of Barbara Ericson on Guzdial’s blog.

“A damning report on how the University of Minnesota (UM) protects volunteers in its clinical trials concludes that researchers inadequately reviewed research studies across the university and need more training to better protect the most vulnerable subjects,” reports Science.

From Politico: “A new study from Mathematica Policy Research covering the first two years of implementation finds that corps members hired to teach elementary school were just as effective at boosting student achievement in high-poverty schools as more experienced teachers who didn’t participate in the program. While TFA members teaching pre-K through second grade were more effective at raising student achievement in reading, the study didn’t find any statistical difference between corps members and their peers in upper grades in either math or reading.”

The week in charts and maps: “Where international students come from, in 1 map” via Vox. “Common Core vs Obamacare vs Justin Bieber” via Edsurge.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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