Education Politics

“In Swan Song, Arne Duncan Extols School Progress Under His Tenure,” says The New York Times. Part of that song: the Department of Education boasted what Race to the Top has done for schools in a new 76-page report. Via Education Week: “What the Ed. Dept.’s New Race to the Top Report Reveals, and What It Avoids.”

On the heels of the Department of Education’s announcement that it’s going to experiment with letting students get financial aid for taking courses at MOOCs and bootcamps (here’s a “primer” on the policy by Edsurge), consulting firm Entangled Solutions says that it’s going to apply to become a “quality-assurance entity.” Inside Higher Ed has the details, but misses this key one: Entangled Solutions is run by Paul Freedman, whose company Altius Education had its “experiment” at Bridge College at Tiffin University shut down by an accreditor over concerns about outsourcing and quality control. God, this bootcamp thing is going to be a fucking disaster. Well done, Department of Ed. Well done.

Meanwhile, “The Department of Education Demands Greater Accountability From College Accreditors.” /headdesk

Hillary Clinton said something critical about charter schools while on the campaign trail, and considering the blowback, it’s a nice reminder of why most of the Democrats just keep their mouths shut on education policy.

Of course, the Republican candidates might do well to keep their mouths shut too. This gem from Ben Carson: “We know that the very best education is homeschool. The next is private school. The next is charter schools. And the last is public schools.” Homeschooled neurosurgeons FTW.

Via the LA School Report: “A year later, secrecy surrounds FBI probe of LAUSD's iPad program.”

“Newark was V1 of our education work,’’ Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Bloomberg. ”And so now we’re onto V2." Move fast and break things…

Education in the Courts

The University of Illinois has paid $875,000 to settle Steven Salaita’s lawsuit, resulting from the school’s decision to fire Salaita based on comments he made on Twitter about Palestine.

“The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity chapter at the University of Virginia filed a $25 million lawsuit Monday against Rolling Stone magazine, which published an article in 2014 that alleged a freshman was gang raped at the house during a party,” The Washington Post reports.

Via Motherboard: “Court Docs Show a University Helped FBI Bust Silk Road 2, Child Porn Suspects.” That university: Carnegie Mellon. To help the FBI, researchers there attacked the Tor network, a system that helps anonymize Internet traffic. How did CMU IRB approve this, eh?

Via The New York Times: “A former Wesleyan University student pleaded guilty on Thursday to a federal drug dealing charge, admitting that he had distributed a party drug that left nearly a dozen students hospitalized, two in critical condition, after they overdosed on the drug last winter.”

Testing, Testing…

Via Education Week: “PARCC Restructures, Allows States to Customize Test.” (States can now buy parts of the PARCC system and choose different vendors.)

Also via Education Week: “Paperless Testing: Most Grade 3–8 Students To Be Assessed Online in 2016.”

Barbara Ericson's 2015 AP CS demographics analysis: Still No African-Americans Taking the AP CS Exam in 9 States.”


Udacity has raised $105 million. It’s now valued at $1 billion, which means the tech sector congratulates it as a “unicorn.” Investing in this round: Bertelsmann, Baillie Gifford, Emerson Collective, Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Charles River Ventures, and Drive Capital. The startup has raised $160 million total. More via Inside Higher Ed.

When Fortune writes “Why Ed Tech Is Currently ‘The Wild Wild West’” the answer it offers is not “because it’s dominated by imperialism and white male supremacy.” Why, it's almost like these people don't read my work at all. Anyway, I guess there was a Fortune-run panel at a Fortune-run conference where Daphne Koller weighed in on MOOCs, and other panelists made predictions about the coming demise of universities.

Open University is investing £13 million more in FutureLearn. Via David Kernohan: “A brief note on FutureLearn finance.”

“Better Residential Learning Is The True Innovation of MOOCs,” IHE blogger Joshua Kim contends.

“Both Sides Of The Education Debate Are United In Scorn For Online Charter Schools,” says Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy (although I’m never sure what “both sides” really means as I find myself at odds with “both.”)

Also by Molly Hensley-Clancy: “Black Colleges Are Going Online, Following Their Students And The Money.”

It’s a pretty familiar promise in for-profit education: “Bloc’s Guarantee: Get a Job as a Programmer or Your Money Back.” (Bloc charges $24,000 for a 48-week online “coding bootcamp.”)

“The Starbucks Corporation this week announced that it will offer a tuition-free education to a spouse or child of its employees who are veterans or active-duty members of the U.S. military,” Inside Higher Ed reports. (That is, tuition-free education at ASU Online as part of Starbucks’ existing deal with the school.)

Meanwhile on Campus

From Mizzou: “What’s Happening at the University of Missouri?The football team protests and threatens a boycott, and, shocker, the school starts to listen. Via Vox: “How football and a hunger strike forced the University of Missouri president to resign.” Via NPR: “Demonstrators Clash With Journalists At The University Of Missouri.” More via Vox: Student protestors at the University of Missouri want a "no media safe space". (Bravo, journalists who tried to make this story about you and not about Black students. Bravo.) The university president resigns. From The Nation’s Dave Zirin: “3 Lessons from the University of Missouri President Tom Wolfe’s Resignation.” The chancellor of the Columbia campus R. Bowen Luftin resigned. The University of Missouri has selected Michael Middleton as its interim president. Two suspects who made threats to Black students via Yik Yak were apprehended. Via the St. Louis Post Dispatch: "Northwest Missouri State freshman posted social media threat to shoot black people, police say." Via Inside Higher Ed: "Missouri Police Apprehend Suspect in Yik Yak Threats." Via The LA Times: "Man arrested in University of Missouri threats had ‘deep interest’ in Oregon mass shooting." Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: "U. of Missouri Professor Offers to Resign After Declining to Cancel Class." (Resignation not accepted.) Via Boing Boing: "Mizzou student files complaint against teacher who asked for ‘muscle’ to block reporters." Via The New York Times: "University of Missouri Professor Who Confronted Photographer Quits Journalism Post." The NYT on the campus climate. "A Real Missouri ‘Concerned Student 1950’ Speaks, at Age 89" is an actual NYT headline. ("Real"?!)

From Yale: “Large Rally at Yale Follows Week of Racial Tensions” via Inside Higher Ed. “22 thoughts on the protests at Yale” by Dara Lind. “Yale’s big fight over sensitivity and free speech, explained,” Vox explains.

Elsewhere: a hunger strike at Claremont McKenna College. And then, “Dean at Claremont McKenna College Resigns Amid Protests.”

Elsewhere: “Black students take over VCU’s president’s office to demand changes.”

And The New York Times is on it: “Racial Discrimination Protests Ignite at Colleges Across the U.S.” Conor Friedersdorf wrote a couple of things in The Atlantic, but ugh. Do not link.

“The chancellor of the Georgia higher education system announced Friday afternoon that he plans to seek the merger of Albany State University, a historically black institution, with Darton State College, whose enrollment is about half white,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Oxford Students Want Statue of Cecil Rhodes Removed.”

“Kids In Texas Are More Likely To Get Tasered At School Than In Jail,” The Huffington Post reports.

Via ProPublica: “How 5 Florida Schools Ended Integration and Became Among Worst in State.”

“David Geffen, the entertainment industry executive, is giving $100 million to the University of California at Los Angeles for the institution to create a school for grades 6–12,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Go, School Sports Team!

The latest by Taylor Branch on the NCAA: “Toward Basic Rights for College Athletes.”

Via The News & Observer: “UNC dismisses two more employees in academic-athletic scandal.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “U. of Illinois Fires Athletic Director After Full Report of Former Coach’s Misconduct.”

From the HR Department

Via WaPo: “Donald E. Graham, the longtime Washington publisher who engineered the sale of The Washington Post and formed a holding company to run a diverse collection of businesses, is stepping down as chief executive.” (That includes the for-profit Kaplan.)

“Blackboard lays off more employees,” The Washington Business Journal reports.

“Portland Community College fires teacher for quiz on shootings, pimps, prostitutes,” The Oregonian reports.

“Reprimand Upheld for Professor Who Wouldn't Assign $180 Text,” says Inside Higher Ed.

Upgrades and Downgrades

Lots of Yik Yak in the news this week, a startup that has raised over $73 million in venture capital, particularly if it handed over user data following threats made on the platform. Via Vox’s Libby Nelson: “Colleges’ Yik Yak problem, explained.” Way to support a horrific environment, investors.

Elsewhere in tech investing: “Nearly every week, all around the world, wealthy people, self-made business owners and senior executives in a range of industries gather at private clubs, cultural centers or five-star hotels for free, invitation-only angel investing ‘boot camps’ intended to help them size up fledgling business ideas and the people behind them. The events are organized by Angel Labs, a global angel investor academy based in San Francisco whose mission is to widen the influence of angel investing, a field in which the relatively affluent put money into start-ups, usually in the tech industry.” More via The New York Times.

“How to Get Your Name into the Minds and Hearts of Teachers,” writes EdCamp director Hadley Ferguson in Edsurge, in an article I guess is directed at ed-tech companies. The answer: product placement and sponsorships to EdCamps. Because grassroots, baby.

Math tutoring service in the form of a phone sex hotline.” Stay classy, ed-tech.

“Schools Can’t Stop Kids From Sexting. More Technology Can,” Jonathan Zimmerman argues in a NYT op-ed. Moar technology!

Google says its “Expeditions Pioneer Program” is coming to 15 new cities.

Star Wars Characters Will Now Teach Your Kids To Code.”

Ed-tech is not all awful. See, for example, Jim Groom on “Reclaiming Community at BYU with Known.” Or Clint Lalonde on “An open edtech playground infrastructure (or the magic of Grant Potter).” But let’s be honest. Most of ed-tech is pretty damn awful.

Funding and Acquisitions and Quarterly Reports

In addition to Udacity’s $100+ million funding round…

The tutoring company Varsity Tutors has raised $50 million from Technology Crossover Ventures, Adam Levine, and Stuart Udell. The startup has raised $57 million total.

Knewton has filed to raised $47.25 million according to the SEC, Edsurge reports. I bet investors truly love the “mind-reading robot tutors” story.

“The Silicon School Fund debuted a $40 million fund to be invested in 40 new schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, benefiting 20,000 students, over the next five years,” Edsurge reports.

LMS startup Schoology has raised $32 million from JMI Equity, FirstMark Capital, Intel Capital, and Great Road Holdings. This brings to $57.1 million the total raised by the company.

Macat has raised $30 million from unnamed sources. The company offers “a library of commissioned multimedia analyses of seminal texts in the humanities and social sciences that aim to improve the user’s critical thinking,” says Edsurge.

Hullabalu has raised $2.5 million in seed funding from Technicolor Ventures, Vayner RSE, SparkLabs Global, Rothenberg Ventures, 645 Ventures, Great Oaks VC, SV Angel, Scout Ventures, Liberty City, Nasir Jones, Carmelo Anthony, and Joanne Wilson. I mean if Carmelo Anthony is in on it, you know this “interactive story platform” has got to be… bwa ha ha, sorry Knicks fans. Anyway, Hullabalu has raised $6.45 million total.

Shirsa Labs has raised $250,000 in angel funding from ah! Ventures for its “50 week virtual after school program.”

Edsurge says that Touchpress is seeking a buyer for its educational iPad apps.

Via Politico: “SEC filings due for the third quarter of 2015 show that many for-profit college operators are again seeing lower revenue and fewer students than at this time last year, as regulations, lawsuits and closures continue to plague the industry. ITT Educational Services, which filed its third quarter results on Friday, reported a 16 percent revenue decrease and similar drop in enrollment for the three months ended Sept. 30, compared to the same period in 2014. DeVry disclosed a total revenue decrease of 4.5 percent, or about $441 million, for the same period . Strayer’s revenues fell 2 percent to about $99 million. And as we reported last month, Apollo made about $600 million in the quarter ending Aug. 31, compared to $696 million in the fourth quarter 2014. But Capella reported a third-quarter revenue of nearly $104 million, up from about $103 million in the same three months last year. And its enrollment increased over 4 percent.” But I'm sure bootcamps are gonna be terrific.

Data, Privacy, and Surveillance

“At least 100 students at a high school in Cañon City traded naked pictures of themselves, the authorities said Friday, part of a large sexting ring.” More via The New York Times.

More universities adding drone programs.”

Via The Intercept: “Not So Securus: Massive Hack of 70 Million Prisoner Phone Calls Indicates Violations of Attorney-Client Privilege.”

Data and “Research”

Via The Washington Post: “Education researchers caution against using students’ test scores to evaluate teachers.” That is AERA vs VAM, for those who prefer news items reduced to acronyms.

Via Pacific Standard: “Unconscious Teacher Bias Harms Black College Students.”

I forget: is rule-breaking for innovators good or bad? Anyhoo, Michael Horn, formerly of the Clayton Christensen Institute, writes in Edsurge about “How Amplify Broke All the Rules for Innovators.”

Of those elites at the World Innovation Summit of Education in Doha, Qatar, a survey “found just 39% of global education leaders believe their institutions adequately address the skills gap, and in the U.S., where more educators think so, few employers agree.”

A survey by CompTIA found that “96 percent of people between the ages of 13 and 24 either like or love technology, only 19 percent of those 18 to 24 and 13 percent of those 13 to 17 said they were interested in IT careers.”

Research from the RAND Corporation and the Gates Foundation says there’s been “continuing progress” on personalized learning.

“The National Science Foundation (NSF) will give North Carolina State University a nearly $800,000 grant to study how digital learning programs can best benefit students,” says Campus Technology.

The costs of textbook – data, blogged. “Bad Data Can Lead To Bad Policy: College students don't spend $1,200+ on textbooks,” says Phil Hill. “Asking What Students Spend on Textbooks Is the Wrong Question” Mike Caulfield responds. “Asking What Students Spend On Textbooks Is Very Important, But Insufficient” Phil Hill agrees. David Wiley weighs in with “The Practical Cost of Textbooks.” Phil Hillthen offers “Data To Back Up Concerns Of Textbook Expenditures By First-Generation Students.”

Via The New York Times: “Breakthrough Prize Looks to Stars to Shine on Science.” Or there’s this headline from Entrepreneur magazine: “ Why Mark Zuckerberg Just Gave This High School Student $400,000.”

What Google’s New Open-Source Software Means for Artificial-Intelligence Research.”

The latest from the Pew Research Center: “Google Play Store Apps Permissions.”

Via Singularity University’s Singularity Hub: “Online Education in 2025: Here’s What to Expect.”

From Renaissance Learning, maker of Accelerated Reader, the latest “What Kids Are Reading” report.

A Roundup of All Those College Rankings.”

The Benefits of the Ukulele on Kids’ Attitudes.” (But the research involves Canadian children, so please let’s not extrapolate to the US. Please.)


RIP Jay Cross.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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