Education Politics

Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting land. (It’s also the tenth anniversary of a very personal loss for me, and for this and a million other reasons I find the reflections on the tragedy emotionally exhausting.)

Parents and activists in Chicago are on a hunger strike to protest the closure of Walter H. Dyett High School, a public school in their South Side neighborhood.

The New York City Department of Education is delaying the e-book deal it had struck with Amazon – the company was poised to manage a book marketplace for students – following letters from the National Federation of the Blind noted that the move would exclude the visually impaired.

Via the LA School Report: “LA Unified said today its inspector general is ‘looking into’ the possibility that nearly 100 district employees used district email addresses to contact, a website that promotes extra-marital affairs, calling itself ‘the most famous name in infidelity and married dating.’” (Meanwhile, as Gizmodo’s Annalee Newitz writes, “Almost None of the Women in the Ashley Madison Database Ever Used the Site.”)

The Department of Education plans to evaluate ed-tech’s effectiveness. (Here’s Edsurge’s coverage.) Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill calls it “almost a good idea,” then writes a follow-up post: “Ed Tech Evaluation Plan: More problems than I initially thought.”

How the Department of Education turned into a massive bank.

England’s free schools received 60% more funding per pupil than local authority primaries and secondaries in the latest financial year, new analysis by Education Guardian shows.”

The FTC will investigate for-profit education provider Career Ed.

Education in the Courts

Via Inside Higher Ed: “A bankruptcy judge on Wednesday approved Corinthian’s plan to liquidate its assets, earmarking about $4.3 million for a special fund for former students.” That money will go towards loan forgiveness – but not to students directly.

“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is considering taking legal action against Navient Corp., the country’s largest student loan servicer and a former division of Sallie Mae, after an investigation into the company’s disclosures and late fees,” Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy reports.

The New York Times has coverage of the testimony in a rape trial involving a student from an exclusive New England boarding school.

Testing, Testing…

Mother Jones Kristina Rizga has a long-read on opting out.

Via The Sacramento Bee: “ Jerry Brown grants exit exam reprieve to California high school seniors.”

“Common Core Glitch Might Mean Future Lawsuit,” a Montana ABC/FOX affiliate reports.

“ACT scores in 2015 were flat,” writes Inside Higher Ed, “with a continuation of recent patterns of significant gaps in the average scores by race and ethnicity.” ACT’s business, however, is booming.

The state of California has deleted 15 years of test scores from its website before making available the results of this year’s tests (aligned to the Common Core).

“The New York City charter school that made the largest gains on state English tests also made an unprecedented decision to grade its own students’ exams,” Chalkbeat reports.

Via The Washington Post: “U.S. Education Department bars states from offering alternative tests to most students with disabilities.”


MOOC startups are still raising venture capital like it’s 2012! (Details in the “funding” section below.)

Well, #notallMOOCs: “Amplify’s MOOC Is Sold, and Renamed as ‘Edhesive’.”

MIT and Harvard have published research on how people cheat in MOOCs: they create multiple accounts. Inconceivable!

According to the headline in The New York Times, “How High Schoolers Spent Their Summer: Online, Taking More Courses.” Many of those interviewed in the story, which suggests that MOOCs are showing up on college applications, work at Ivies, so I’m not really sure how much we can extrapolate from their stories. It does remind me of what Justin Reich found in his research on those in HarvardX courses: that those signing up for MOOCs were more affluent than average and more likely to come from families with high levels of parental educational attainment. But do carry on, NYT, with your MOOC hype.

Elsewhere in MOOC hype: “MOOCs show promise in complementing UC-San Diego’s campus offerings.”

“Oakland Community College may halt most online classes,” The Detroit News reports. “The possibility of mass course cancellations arose after the state's largest community college was denied accreditation for online programs that would let students earn degrees while taking most or all of their courses outside traditional classrooms.”

Meanwhile on Campus

A story about Duke freshman balking at reading Fun Home went viral this week, no doubt because the story conforms to many larger narratives about morality, outrage, trigger warnings, and protest. Aaron Bady has the best analysis of the incident.

The University of Maryland University College says it will be textbook-free by the fall of 2016.

The Hechinger Report on UC Merced: “A new university whose debut probably could not have come at a worse time.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education looks at outsourcing.

Via Boing Boing: “Cute Wonder Woman lunchbox banned from school for being too violent.”

Via NPR: “Simmons College announced it will close the campus master’s degree program in business, the only one of its kind in the nation exclusively for women.”

“Buzzwords May Be Stifling Teaching Innovation at Colleges,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Jeffrey Young.

Deliberately not on campus: “Student opts to live on train rather than pay rent.”

Go, School Sports Team!

Via the AP: “Legal showdown looms over the NCAA’s ban on paying athletes.”

A book review of Billion-Dollar Ball: A Journey Through the Big-Money Culture of College Football: “College football isn’t about college, and it’s barely about football. It’s about money.”

Via The Verge: “The next 35 years of college football, predicted.”

Via The New York Times: “College Conferences Try to Block Athletes Who Have Violent Pasts.”

“In 2013, Auburn University’s curriculum review committee took up the case of a small, unpopular undergraduate major called public administration. After concluding that the major added very little to the school’s academic mission, the committee voted to eliminate it.” That’s the lede of The Wall Street Journal article that chronicles how Auburn’s athletics department insisted that the major, popular among football players, be retained.

From the HR Department

One in four D.C. public schools has a new principal this year,” The Washington Post observes.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Facing a planned graduate student worker walkout over its decision to drop health insurance subsidies for teaching and research assistants, the University of Missouri at Columbia on Friday announced it will reinstate the subsidies indefinitely.”

Will robots replace teachers?

Upgrades and Downgrades

And in other robots-replacing-teachers news: “This Robot Tutor Will Make Personalizing Education Easy,” says Wired, hyping news that Knewton will now let anyone upload content to its platform (which means moar data for its data-hungry algorithms). “Teachers need more time and better outcomes and they need a magic pill that’s going to make that happen,” Knewton’s CEO tells Wired. A magic pill. Srsly. Education Week frames the story as about OER, highlighting how misused the word “open” is in ed-tech. The headline changed on Buzzfeed’s coverage, but you can still see it in the URL slug. (Related: by Mindwires Consulting’s Michael Feldstein: “The Fraught Interaction Design of Personalized Learning Products.”)

Via Phil Hill: “Inside View Of Blackboard’s Moodle Strategy In Latin America.” Meanwhile via The Washington Post: “Blackboard loses high-profile clients as its rivals school it in innovation.”

Adobe launches an LMS, for all your posting-of-PDFs-in-a-silo needs.


Khan Academy + Pixar Animation Studios = Pixar in a Box, “a free online curriculum that shows how Pixar artists use the concepts we all study in school to create their amazing movies.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “How an App Helps Low-Income Students by Turning College Life Into a Game.”

Solar Classrooms in a Box, to be delivered to Kenya.

Via The Pacific Standard: “Meet One of the Women Who Created a Black Lives Matter Textbook for Middle Schoolers.”

Box for Education.

Google Classroom has some new features, including the ability to reuse assignments.

Education Week’s Benjamin Herold describes the “Big Hype, Hard Fall for News Corp.’s $1 Billion Ed-Tech Venture.” Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy frames it this way: “How Rupert Murdoch Suffered A Rare Defeat In American Classrooms.”

Dale Russakoff’s book The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools is set to be released soon, and excerpts and reviews have been published in The New York Times and Business Insider.

The Digital Reader reports that OLPC’s Australian partner One Education has made the XO Infinity Modular Laptop available for pre-order.

Via Re/Code: “Pursuing the Ed-Tech Unicorn.” (For what it’s worth, CB Insights does list one ed-tech company, 17zuoye, on its list of potential unicorns.) For those not up on the VC lingo, a unicorn is a startup that’s valued at $1 billion.

Funding and Acquisitions

Coursera has raised $49.5 million in funding from New Enterprise Associates, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, International Finance Corporation, GSV Asset Management, Learn Capital. and Times Internet (which operates the Times of India). The MOOC startup expects to add another $11 million to this round which will bring the total raised to $145 million. More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

SmackHigh has raised $1.65 million in seed funding from Flybridge Capital Partners, Boston Seed Capital, and Wayne Chang for a social media platform. The startup “claims it can reduce bullying by creating an online community for high school students in which submissions are monitored and posted by SmackHigh representatives.”

Cybrary, which describes itself as “the world’s only no-cost cybersecurity massive open online course provider,” has raised $400,000 in seed funding from Inner Loop Capital.

Bearface Instructional Technologies has been acquired by data analytics company Perceivant. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Middlebury College is selling its stake in an online language learning company it founded with K12, the terribad for-profit online education provider.

Edsurge reports that one of its investors, Owl Ventures, has launched a $100 million investment fund.

Data, Privacy, and Surveillance

‘De-Identifying’ Student Data Is Key for Protecting Privacy,” say Education Week’s Benjamin Herold and Michelle Davis.

Meet the Modern School Bus,” writes Education Dive. (It’s pretty much a roving surveillance system, so that’s fun.)

Data and “Research”

The Reproducibility Project, as the name suggests, tries to reproduce social science research. It released some findings this week, and as The New York Times notes, “a painstaking yearslong effort to reproduce 100 studies published in three leading psychology journals has found that more than half of the findings did not hold up when retested.” But don’t worry guys, I’m sure all the studies about “grit” and “growth mindset” are totally legit.

Questionable research from Purdue has been trotted out again, here via Education Dive: “Analytics programs show ‘remarkable’ results – and it’s only the beginning.” Michael Feldstein responds: “I don’t know of any other way to put this. Purdue University is harming higher education by knowingly peddling questionable research for the purpose of institutional self-aggrandizement. Purdue leadership should issue a retraction and an apology.”

Roland Fryer, Steven Levitt and John List have studied what happens when low income parents are paid for helping their children with homework. Bloomberg has a write-up.

The latest PDK/Gallup poll is out (PDF), and many observers noted that the results were different than Education Next’s recently released survey results. Here’s Education Week’s coverage. Here’s how the NEA spins it: “Poll: Americans Want Less Standardized Testing and More School Funding.”USC’s Morgan Polikoff writes “On Common Core, can two polls this different both be right?”

The Paper and Packaging Board surveyed teachers and I’m shocked – shocked! – to see they found that “80% of teachers say kids learn better with paper assignments.”

New research from Rey Junco: “Predicting course outcomes with digital textbook analytics.”

Psychometrician Gene V. Glass: on “’Why I am no longer comfortable’ in the field of educational measurement.”

The latest Pew Research Center study: “Americans’ Views on Mobile Etiquette.”

Map: How student poverty has increased since the Great Recession.”

The University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education released a study on suspension and expulsion rates for black students, focusing on states with high rates of disciplining students. Among the findings: “While black students represented just under a quarter of public school students in these states, they made up nearly half of all suspensions and expulsions. In some districts, the gaps were even more striking: in 132 Southern school districts, for example, black students were suspended at rates five times their representation in the student population, or higher.”

The Fordham Institute’s Michael Petrilli has released his annual list of the “Top K–12 Education Policy People on Social Media 2015” (as well as the “Top K–12 Education Policy Organizations and Media Outlets on Social Media 2015”), ranked by Klout. (Remember Klout? LOL.) I’m not sure what “top” really means here, other than they’re “top” based his judgement of “who counts” organized in turn by some proprietary algorithm. Oh, education reformers and your penchant for silly metrics.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

Back to Archives