Education Politics

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has released his higher education plan. Among its features: “Bush’s plan would eliminate the federal student loan program in its current form in favor of a new financing structure that is tied to students’ income. Under the plan, the federal government would provide each high school graduate with access to a $50,000 line of credit to pay for college or career training.”

Meanwhile, “The Obama Administration Proposes $2 Billion More In College Aid,” NPR reports. It’s asking, among other things, for the year-round Pell Grant to be re-instated.

Also in financial aid news: “The federal government has in recent months made several changes to the application process for federal financial aid, in an effort to make it easier and more straightforward. But one change – switching from a four-digit PIN for online access to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to a more standard and secure log-in identification and password – may be having the opposite effect,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail: “Ben Carson’s education platform shows his lack of policy knowledge,” according to The Hechinger Report.

Via Politico: “Even as the contaminated water crisis still rages in Flint, Michigan, Superintendent Bilal Tawwab says district officials are already preparing for an influx of young children entering school in the coming years with developmental, behavioral and cognitive challenges related to high levels of lead in the city's water supply.”

Via The New York Times: “The Department of Education said on Wednesday that it would create a searchable database that reveals the names of colleges and universities that have received exemptions on religious grounds from federal civil rights protections.”

According to, “The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are investigating Julio Pino, a Kent State associate history professor, for alleged involvement with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.”

Via WBEZ: “Backed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, top Illinois Republicans called Wednesday for a state takeover of the financially troubled Chicago Public Schools, which faces a nearly $1 billion budget deficit that could lead to thousands of teacher layoffs and a possible strike in a matter of months.”

Education in the Courts

A group of parents has filed a complaint with the Department of Education, claiming that the New York City charter school chain Success Academy has violated the civil rights of students with disabilities. (Meanwhile, WNYC reports that the SUNY Charter Institute will investigate the chain’s discipline practices.)

Via Inside Higher Ed: “A student who in 2014 sued Miami University in Ohio over inaccessible educational materials last week reached a settlement with the institution, according to court documents.”

“A state appeals court will rule on the high-profile Vergara lawsuit against the state and the California Teachers Association this spring,” EdSource reports. (The case involves several laws in California dealing with teacher tenure that, according to the plaintiffs in the case, harm students’ rights to an equal opportunity for an education.)

“Accreditors Seek to Challenge Consumer Bureau’s Power,” says Inside Higher Ed. Five national accrediting agencies and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation want to file a “friend of the court” brief, arguing that the CFPB does not have the authority to compel records from the accrediting agency that oversaw Corinthian Colleges as part of its inquiry into how the accreditation process works (or doesn’t work as the case may be).

Testing, Testing…

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that “GED changing pass score to better measure student performance.” I’m sure it’s to “better measures student performance” and not to respond to the abysmal results since the recent revamping of the test.

Via Education Week: “Score-report delays, technical glitches, and changes to the ACT, the SAT, and the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test are adding angst to an already stressful college-search process for some high school students around the country this school year.”

MOOCs and UnMOOCs (a.k.a. Online Education)

Via the Coursera blog: “Starting today, when you enroll in certain courses, you’ll be asked to pay a fee (or apply for Coursera’s financial aid program) if you’d like to submit required graded assignments and earn a Course Certificate. You can also choose to explore the course for free, in which case you’ll have full access to videos, discussions, and practice assignments, and view-only access to graded assignments.”

Meanwhile on Campus

Taliban attackers opened fire in classrooms and dorms at the Bachan Khan University in Pakistan, killing at least 20.

The University of Cincinnati has reached a $5.3 million settlement with the family of Samuel DuBose, who was fatally shot last year by a campus police officer.

“Are At-Risk Students Bunnies to Be Drowned?” asks the Inside Higher Ed, referring to language used by the president of Mount St. Mary’s University, who reportedly said to faculty “This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies… put a Glock to their heads.” More via The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The US Defense Department is lifting its suspension on the University of Phoenix from the federal Tuition Assistance Program, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. That program provides aid to active-duty military.

Via Buzzfeed: “How Ivy League Admissions Are Stacked Against Poor Kids.”

“Might some colleges manage themselves into extinction?” asks The Hechinger Report.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Roxbury Community College has called off plans to privatize its information technology services department after Massachusetts auditors criticized the college for awarding a $3.4 million contract to do so without seeking bids.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The president of Oberlin College has rejected a group of black students’ demands aimed at dealing with racism on the Ohio campus, calling some of the demands ‘deeply troubling.’”

“Florida’s governor has called public university presidents to a meeting to ask why they can’t be sure graduates in their most popular majors will all be employed. His prime target is psychology,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

The Berklee College of Music and the Boston Conservatory will merge, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Go, School Sports Team!

Via Vice: “Dan Majerle and Grand Canyon University Try to Join a College Hoops Club That Doesn’t Want Them.” (And via Tressie McMillan Cottom: “Sportsball and For-Profit Legitimacy.”)

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “They seemed like sensible changes: giving big-time college athletes, many of whom spend more than 40 hours a week on their sports, a true day off per week – certain hours when coaches couldn't make them practice – and more downtime after the season. But the ideas, part of a package of new rules proposed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, did not come up for a vote at the association's annual convention here on Friday. Instead, leaders of the five most powerful conferences resolved to vote on the measures next year, with the possibility of introducing a more comprehensive set of changes.” More via Inside Higher Ed.

From the HR Department

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Despite applying standards widely regarded as more union-friendly than those used by the board before, a regional NLRB official ruled on Tuesday that tenured and tenure-track faculty members at Carroll College, a Roman Catholic institution in Montana, are too involved in that institution’s management to be allowed to organize as employees.”

“Sara Goldrick-Rab is UW’s best-known tweeter,” says the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

According to the BBC, “Publisher Penguin Random House says job applicants will no longer be required to have a university degree.”

Upgrades and Downgrades

Scholastic announced it would withdraw the book A Birthday Cake for George Washington following complaints about its depiction of slavery.

Via Mindshift: “What ClassDojo Monsters Can Teach Kids About Growth Mindset.” According to that blog and others that repeated the company’s PR, the answer is apparently not “see how easily ‘growth mindset’ can be co-opted by a really insidious VC-funded version of behaviorism?”

Via Wired: “Apple and Microsoft May Use Cobalt Dug by Kids, Report Says.” Funny how this connection between children and computers never really gets discussed by ed-tech evangelists, eh?

“Turnitin, seeking to expand beyond plagiarism detection, launches a tool to help students improve their writing as they write,” Inside Higher Ed reports. Seize all the student IP, Turnitin.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Yahoo has released the “largest cache of Internet data” to university researchers.

The New York Times looks at how new lending companies utilize data science to determine consumers’ loan eligibility, something that raises questions about fairness and transparency (and something that ed-tech also needs to consider as/if it adopts algorithmic decision-making).

“EducationSuperHighway Debuts Tool to Compare Drastically Different District Broadband Rates,” Edsurge reports.

JSTOR’s e-book program is growing, Inside Higher Ed reports.

“Florida Virtual Schools and Knewton to Collaborate Using Analytics,” Education Week reports.

“Google Announces Virtual Reality App and Updates to ‘Expeditions Program,’” according to Edsurge.

The Moodle Users Association (MUA), “a crowd-funding group for additional Moodle core development,” says it’s open for members to join, reports Phil Hill, who adds that 42 have signed up “mostly as individuals.”

Via Doug Belshaw: “What a post-Persona landscape means for Open Badges.”

“Civitas Learning Moves to End Scheduling Nightmares,” says Edsurge. Learning analytics nightmares will continue.

“Benchprep Partners with ACT to Launch Personalized Online Test Prep Platform,” says Edsurge. “Personalized” review for a standardized test. LOL. Why, it's almost as though words have no meaning in ed-tech.

Funding and Acquisitions and Stock-Trading

Pearson released its “regular January trading update,” revealing its 2015 results and 2016 outlook. Last year, the education behemoth had an operating profit of approximately £720 million, but predicts that will be significantly lower this year. The company will lay off some 4000 employees, according to the BBC.

Microsoft has acquired MinecraftEdu – or rather TeacherGaming, the maker of a Minecraft version aimed at classroom usage. Microsoft will now launch an education version of Minecraft. More via Edsurge.

Flex Class has raised $2.5 million for a “sponsored MOOC platform.” Investors’ names were not disclosed.

Data, Privacy, and Surveillance

Via The Guardian: “In the library in the gym, Big Brother is coming to universities.”

And to make that crystal clear, here’s a press release rewrite via Campus Technology: “Toshiba Intros Surveillance Education Program.”

Data and “Research”

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that “A survey of students on nine campuses has found that 21 percent of female undergraduates reported having been sexually assaulted since starting college.”

“Students Show Mixed Feelings Toward Advising Technology,” Edsurge says, based on research from the Columbia University Teachers College.

Inside Higher Ed has released the results of its 2016 survey of Chief Academic Officers.

Via Education Dive: “A new study from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) and the American Institutes for Research (AIR), published in the Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, claims that observing teachers in the classroom for the purpose of evaluation can ‘fail to meaningfully assess teacher performance.’”

“Nearly half of young people fear jobs will be automated in 10 years,” according to The Guardian.

The NYT’s Natasha Singer takes a closer look at ed-tech funding, noting that “Despite the volume of novel products aimed at schools, the biggest investments are largely going to start-ups focused on higher education or job-related skills – businesses that feed a market of colleges, companies and consumers willing to spend to promote career advancement.”

Knewton researchers claim Knewton works. News at 11.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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