Hack Education Weekly News
24 March 2017 | 6:01 pm

Education Politics

“Former Lobbyist With For-Profit Colleges Quits Education Department,” ProPublica reports. That’s Taylor Hansen who was a lobbyist for Career Education Colleges and Universities. He’s the son of Bill Hansen, the son of USA Funds, another student loan guarantee agency, Inside Higher Ed notes.

Via The New York Times: “Betsy DeVos’s Hiring of For-Profit College Official Raises Impartiality Issues.” That’s Robert Eitel, a lawyer for Bridgepoint Education, a for-profit that recently settled with the federal government over charges of deceptive student lending.

Via The Atlantic: “Trump Reverses Obama-Era Protections on Student Debt.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Two debt collectors said in separate statements this week that they will not assess collection fees on defaulted student loan borrowers who quickly enter repayment, despite new guidance from the Department of Education.” That’s the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation and TG.

Via PR Watch: “Betsy DeVos Ethics Report Reveals Ties to Student Debt Collection Firm.” That’s Performant Financial Co for those keeping track of who’s charging fees on student loan repayments.

Via Wired: “The Senate Prepares to Send Internet Privacy Down a Black Hole.”

Via The New York Times: “School Choice Fight in Iowa May Preview the One Facing Trump.”

Via The Atlantic: “How Betsy DeVos Could End the School-Integration Comeback.”

Representative Glenn Grothman (R-WI) claimed during a hearing before the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development that Pell Grants discourage marriage. He also suggested low-income students spend their financial aid on “goodies and electronics.” Vote these assholes out.

Via Edsurge: “How Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s iZone Went from ‘Cool’ to Cold.”

“A Public University Mends Fences With Its State” – that’s UW Madison mending fences with the state of Wisconsin. Mended fences according to The Chronicle of Higher Education at least.

“How Budget Battles Are Stacked Against Higher Education,” according to The Pacific Standard.

Via WBEZ News: “Chicago After-School Programs Face Axe Under Trump’s Budget.”

The state of New Jersey is poised to pass a bill that would cap public university speaker fees at $10,000. “The Snooki bill” is a response to $32,000 that the Jersey Shore star received from Rutgers in 2011.

Via The Sacramento Bee: “Lawmaker wants tuition-free college in California by taxing millionaires.”

Via The Washington Post: “ Is your school worth one star or five? D.C. officials approve new rating system.”

More on how the IER, the Department of Education’s research arm, fails to protect student data in the infosec section below.

Racism, Immigration, and Education

Via The USA Today: “Kids on winning robotics team told, ‘Go back to Mexico’.” The kids were from Pleasant Run Elementary School in Indianapolis.

Via The New York Times: “Amid ‘Trump Effect’ Fear, 40% of Colleges See Dip in Foreign Applicants.”

Education in the Courts

Via NPR: “The Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of A Special Education Student,” ruling 8–0 in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. “Supreme Court sets higher bar for education of students with disabilities,” says The Washington Post. More via The New York Times.

Via The Atlantic: “An Israeli American Teen Has Been Arrested in the JCC Bomb Threats Case.”

Via Chalkbeat: “After explosive allegations of anti-union intimidation, KIPP files a federal lawsuit against the UFT.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Princeton University filed a lawsuit against the Education Department on Friday in an effort to stop the release of hundreds of pages of documents that would reveal some of the university’s private admissions procedures.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education on the opening day of the trial of Graham Spanier, the former Penn State president for his role in ignoring the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal. And The Chronicle of Higher Education on the trial’s closing arguments.

“Free College”

Free college didn’t die with the Clinton campaign. It’s just getting started,” says The Hechinger Report’s Jon Marcus.

More on legislation relating to free college in the politics section above.

The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

Via Politico: “The cost to taxpayers of the implosion of ITT Tech last fall has so far exceeded $141 million, according to court documents filed last week by attorneys representing the Education Department in the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings of the now-defunct for-profit college giant.”

“How to Con Black Law Students: A Case Study” – Elie Mystal in The New York Times on a partnership between the HBCU Bethune-Cookman and the for-profit Arizona Summit Law School. Tressie McMillan Cottom weighs in.

Predator Colleges May Thrive Again,” says The New York Times Editorial Board.

More on for-profit lobbyists who’ve been hired by the Department of Education in the education politics section above.

Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

Coursera Removes Biometric Identity Verification Using Keystroke Matching,” Class Central reports.

An update on Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng’s employment status in the HR section below.

Meanwhile on Campus…

Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy reports on Camelot Education – “Inside all of Camelot’s publicly funded schools, security, order, and behavior modification take precedence over academics.”

Also via Buzzfeed, which does some of the best education reporting around right now: “A Former Student Says UC Berkeley’s Star Philosophy Professor Groped Her And Watched Porn At Work.” The accused: John R. Searle.

“Who Gets a Bathroom Pass? The History of School Bathroomsby Jennifer Borgioli Binis.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “U of Maryland University College pursues a strategy of spinning off units into stand-alone companies, seeking financial gain for itself and affordable tuition rates for its students.”

Via The Washington Post: “The heartbreaking reason some schools never seem to grant snow days.”

Via The Guardian: “Boston public schools map switch aims to amend 500 years of distortion.” Bye, Mercator.

Via Google’s blog: “Howard University opens a new campus at the Googleplex.” It’s a three-month summer program with classes taught by Google engineers and Howard faculty.

Via The Washington Post: “Rick Perry challenges election of Texas A&M’s first gay student body president, says it was ‘stolen’ in ‘name of diversity’.” Because clearly all is well with the US nuclear arsenal and there’s nothing else the Secretary of Energy should be fussing about.

Trump Will Deliver Keynote Address at Liberty U. Commencement,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Via The New York Times: “CUNY to Revamp Remedial Programs, Hoping to Lift Graduation Rates.”

Bryan Alexander looks at the shift of Aquinas College and its shift away from offering liberal arts undergraduate degrees and back towards being a “normal school.”

“Universities are changing their business model,” Microsoft’s Ray Fleming claims. Something about unbundling.

Via The New York Times: “How the Depressed Find Solace on Yik Yak, Believe It or Not.”

Another (typical) NYT story: “Where Halls of Ivy Meet Silicon Dreams, a New City Rises.” NYU. Cornell. Columbia.

And The NYT strikes again: “How Colleges Can Admit Better Students,” writes Devin Pope. Me, I’d rather see colleges better support the students they already have.

Accreditation and Certification

“Despite the buzz, competency-based education remains a challenging market for software vendors,” says Inside Higher Ed.

MissionU Says It Can Replace Traditional College With a One-Year Program,” Edsurge’s Jeffrey Young writes. The founder, of course, has a degree from an Ivy League school. MissionU seems like a pretty raw deal with its plan to take a cut of participants’ income. An even rawer deal: not having a (prestigious) higher ed degree when you’re not affluent, white, male. Paging Tressie McMillan Cottom.

In other news of white men with degrees arguing that folks don’t really need degrees: “Independent study, a replacement for college” by Larry Sanger. Sanger, the co-founder of Wikipedia, has a PhD incidentally.

That these sorts of stories still make headlines should prompt us to think about why and to whom credentialing matters. Via Buzzfeed: “This Biotech CEO Doesn’t Have A PhD, But He Did Leave School Under A Cloud.” That’s Gabriel Otte, ceo of Freenome, which is backed by the dukes of due diligent, Andreessen Horowitz.

Go, School Sports Team!

More on the trial of former Penn State president Graham Spanier in the courts section above.

From the HR Department

Via the MIT Technology Review: “Andrew Ng Is Leaving Baidu in Search of a Big New AI Mission.” Ng is, of course, the co-founder of the MOOC startup Coursera.

Sara Schapiro, co-founder of Digital Promise, is the new education VP at PBS.

HR news as “fake news.” Via NJ.com: “Superintendent: I’m a consultant for fed govt. Feds: We’ve never heard of this guy.” This story is something.


Via The New York Times: “Mary Maples Dunn, Advocate of Women's Colleges, Dies at 85.”

Via Chalkbeat: “William Sanders, pioneer of controversial value-added model for judging teachers, dies.”

Contests and Awards

Maggie MacDonnell is the winner of the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize.

More on racism at a robotics competition in the immigration section above.

This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

“Could blockchain tech make the registrar’s office obsolete?” asks Education Dive.

“ Can Silicon Valley’s autocrats save democracy?” asks the Idaho Press.

“Will Dropping the LSAT Requirement Create More Miserable Lawyers?” asks The New York Times.

(Reminder: according to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”)

Upgrades and Downgrades

Via The Verge: “Google built a new app so your kids can have a Google account, too.” This app is gross on so many levels – surveillance, privacy, data collection, behavior modification.

Google.org pledges $50 million over the next two years to support “organizations that use technology and innovation to help more children get a better education.” Edsurge covers one of them, Learning Equality, which makes educational videos and textbooks available offline.

Via Techcrunch: “The 52 startups that launched at Y Combinator W17 Demo Day 1.” And via Techcrunch: “All 51 startups that debuted at Y Combinator W17 Demo Day 2.” Honestly, I can’t even bear to look.

“Julia, A Muppet With Autism, Joins The Cast Of ‘Sesame Street’,” NPR reports. More on Julia from disability rights journalist David Perry.

More on UC Berkeley and publicly accessible video content. Via Phil Hill on the e-Literate blog: “Clarifications On UC Berkeley’s Accessibility Decision To Restrict Video Access.” A follow-up to the blockchain startup LBRY’s claims last week that it had rescued the videos from Mike Caulfield. “What is LBRY and what does it mean for education?” asks Bryan Alexander. Well, they’re the kind of folks who would retweet a story from William Kristol’s Weekly Standard, one that calls the ADA and Berkeley’s decision part of the “grievance industrial complex.” So they can fuck right off, IMHO.

Via the MIT Technology Review: “Controlling VR with Your Mind.”

VR makes a big classroom impact,” Education Dive claims.

More on how VR makes women puke in the research section below.

“A Continuum on Personalized Learning: First Draft” by Stanford professor Larry Cuban.

Via Nature: “Gates Foundation announces open-access publishing venture.”

TechDirt on ResearchGate: “Bill Gates And Other Major Investors Put $52.6 Million Into Site Sharing Unauthorized Copies Of Academic Papers.”

One of the resources I use to pull together this list of education stories has been RealClear Education. But I have to note that since the election (perhaps since editor Andrew Rotherham left for The 74) is has taken a hard, hard turn to the conspiracy-theory right. One headline it curated this week: “Colleges May Break IRS Rules With Trump-Hating” from The Washington Times (a conservative paper owned by “the Moonies”). Another headline, this one from the LA Daily News: “The Hate Group That Incited Middlebury College Melee.” That “hate group”? The Southern Poverty Law Center. (FWIW, if you’re looking for a good source of curated headlines, particularly about digital access and digital security, I recommend Doug Levin’s “A Thinking Person’s Guide to EdTech News.”)

Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

“By 2030 students will be learning from robots,” the World Economic Forum claims. Hopefully it’s not the robots that power Google’s search algorithm. (See the upgrades/downgrades section above.)

“Living with an AI: A Glimpse Into The Future” by The Scholarly Kitchen’s David Smith.

More on AI expert Andrew Ng in the HR section above.

Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

MakeBlock has raised $30 million in Series B funding from Evolution Media Capital and Shenzhen Capital Group. The robotics company has raised $36.03 million total.

WayUp has raised $18.5 million in Series B funding from Trinity Ventures, Axel Springer, BoxGroup, CAA Ventures, Female Founders Fund, General Catalyst, Index Ventures, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, OurCrowd-GCai, and SV Angel. The startup, which offers a job placement marketplace for college students has raised $27.47 million total.

Pear Deck has raised $4 million from Growth Street Partners, Hyde Park Venture Partners, and Village Capital. The presentation software startup has raised $5.15 million total.

Tutoring company Nactus has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Sandeep Aggarwal, Gautam Chhaochharia, and R Balachandar.

Education Brands has acquired Ravenna Solutions.

Testing companies Taskstream and Tk20 are merging.

Rethink Education and Southern New Hampshire University have launched a $15 million seed fund to invest in ed-tech startups. Here’s the SNHU press release.

Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

Via Krebs on Security: “Student Aid Tool Held Key for Tax Fraudsters.” This is an update on the FAFSA / IRS tool.

Via the Go to Hellman blog: “Reader Privacy for Research Journals is Getting Worse.”

Via The Register Guard: “Virus possibly exposes Lane Community College data.” Specifically, data from its health clinic.

Via The Hechinger Report: “Schools collect reams of data, inspiring a move to make sense of it all.” (Or! Or! You could not collect it if you don’t need it.)

Via Education Week: “With Hacking in Headlines, K–12 Cybersecurity Ed. Gets More Attention.”

Internet of Things could have eventual data-collection impact on K–12,” says Education Dive.

Via the AP: “Google Maps already tracks you; now other people can, too.”

Via Education Week: “The U.S. Department of Education’s office of inspector general has released an audit sharply critiquing the Institute of Education Sciences’ security screenings for federal education contractors.”

Data and “Research”

Placement rates, other data colleges provide consumers are often alternative facts,” says The Hechinger Report.

“Do After-School Programs Positively Impact Children?” asks The Atlantic. “Proponents of President Trump’s budget say no. Their evidence may be faulty.”

Via NPR: “Kids Who Suffer Hunger In First Years Lag Behind Their Peers In School.”

Via Quartz: “Stanford researchers show we’re sending many children to school way too early.” Or! Or! We could make kindergarten kindergarten again.

The Atlantic writes about a Century Foundation report on private school vouchers and segregation.

The Atlantic also covers research linking food quality and student achievement.

Via New World Notes: “Confirming danah boyd’s Early Concerns, Studies Suggest Women Much More Likely to Get Motion Sickness from Using VR.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Report on Role of College Search-and-Review Sites.”

Via the Foundation Center: “Visualizing Funding for Libraries,” a database of library funding.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Internet speeds at colleges have nearly tripled since 2012 as IT departments have fought to keep up with students bringing new internet-connected devices to campus, streaming music and video, and gaming online, a new study found.”

Via The Dallas Morning News: “15 percent of female undergraduates at UT have been raped, survey says.”

Via NPR: “The Earth Is Flat? Check Wikipedia.” Shaq. Dude. Check Wikipedia.

Also via NPR: “You Probably Believe Some Learning Myths: Take Our Quiz To Find Out.”

Icon credits: The Noun Project

Hack Education Weekly News
17 March 2017 | 6:01 pm

The Trump Budget

This “skinny budget” is ridiculously cruel. More guns. Less butter. While it’s unlikely to be accepted by Congress, it does show Trump’s priorities.

Secretary of Education Betsy "DeVos says Trump education budget ‘places power in the hands of parents and families’," Michigan Live reports. DeVos’s statement from the Department of Education Press Office.

According to the White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney, “Proposed cuts to Meals on Wheels are compassionate to taxpayers.”

What’s in the budget, other than this sort of “compassion”?

$9.2 billion cut from the Department of Education’s budget. (That’s 13.5%.)

$1.4 billion to expand vouchers.

Cuts to work study. Via Inside Higher Ed: “Many experts on the program agree it needs changing with a greater emphasis on low-income students. But few agree that the large cut being sought by the Trump administration will help.”

Cuts to the Pell Grant program. Via Inside Higher Ed: “By taking about a third of the program’s multi-billion-dollar surplus and cutting other college access programs, [advocates for low-income students] assert, the new administration would jeopardize Pell’s long-term sustainability and harm the prospects of low-income students.”

Cuts to after-school programs. Via The Washington Post: “Trump budget casualty: After-school programs for 1.6 million kids. Most are poor.” Mulvaney said Thursday that “services intended to help feed hungry students in order to improve their academic performance deserve to be cut because proof of that progress has not materialized.”

Cuts to the NIH and research at the Energy Department. Via Inside Higher Ed: “Trump Seeks Deep Cuts in Education and Science.”

The elimination of funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which finances programs run by AmeriCorps. The elimination of funding for 18 other independent agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

“The Real Cost of Abolishing the National Endowment for the Artsby The Atlantic’s Sophie Gilbert. (Spoiler alert: rural and underserved communities are the most affected.)

The Chronicle of Higher Education on “What Trump’s Budget Outline Would Mean for Higher Ed.”

EdWeek’s Market Brief on “Implications for K–12 Companies in Trump’s Big Proposed Cuts to Ed. Spending.”

Education Week’s Sarah Sparks on the future for education research in light of these proposed budget cuts.

Elsewhere in Education Politics

“A Fumble on a Key Fafsa Tool, and a Failure to Communicate” by Susan Dynarski.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Student aid advocates and financial aid administrators say shutdown of IRS data retrieval tool has consequences beyond the FAFSA process.”

“Online Tool to Apply for College Aid Was Taken Down Due to ‘Criminal Activity’,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Top leaders of the congressional education committees from both parties wrote to Betsy DeVos, the U.S. secretary of education, Thursday to get answers on the ‘cause and scope’ of this month’s shutdown of a financial aid data tool by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which cited the vulnerability of student data to identity thieves.”

Via Politico: “The nation’s governors say they’re ‘concerned’ the Trump administration’s new guide for crafting state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act doesn’t prioritize outreach to a variety of groups and individuals, like civil rights advocates, parents and state lawmakers.”

More on the politics of accreditation in the accreditation section below.

Via Business Insider: “There’s a huge catch if the federal government forgives your student debt.” The amount of debt that’s canceled is taxable. Saved you a click.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “An Uncertain Future for Higher Education’s Federal ‘Cop on the Beat’.” That’s the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which I wouldn’t describe that way, but hey.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Trump administration on Thursday withdrew 2015 guidance issued by the Obama administration that barred student loan guarantee agencies from charging collection fees to defaulted borrowers who start repaying their loans quickly.” (Surely this has nothing to do with DeVos' stake in debt collection companies.)

Via The Wall Street Journal: “Trump Officials Are Learning How Hard It Is to Sell $1 Billion of Their Assets.” This includes, of course, billionaire Betsy DeVos.

Via The LA School Report: “Report card time for schools: California Dashboard goes live today, but some find it impossible to navigate.”

“California Youth in Detention and Foster Care Deserve Internet Access,” writes the EFF in support of A.B. 811, a California bill that would establish the right to computer technology.

Via The Atlantic: “California’s Plan to Eliminate Student Debt.”

“What Can Florida Teach Us About School Choice?” asks The Pacific Standard.

Via Politico: “Education Department beachhead hire Kevin Eck has drawn the wrath of ‘Star Wars’ star Mark Hamill, legendary for his role as Luke Skywalker. As CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski noted on Twitter Tuesday, Eck, who is now a special assistant to Secretary DeVos, tweeted last November that Hamill should ‘stick to playing Han Solo’s short little b—-’ after Hamill tweeted criticism of the Trump administration.”

Immigration and Education

“A federal judge on Wednesday rejected the White House’s second effort to impose a travel ban that colleges have said would damage their appeal to international students and scholars but that President Trump has defended as necessary to protect the nation from terrorism,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Via Reuters: “Apple, Google, Facebook skip legal challenge to new travel ban.”

Via The Nation: “ICE Relents and Releases DREAMer Daniela Vargas.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Where Will the Government Look for Thousands of New Border Agents? On College Campuses.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Four in 10 colleges are seeing drops in applications from international students amid pervasive concerns that the political climate might keep them away.”

Education in the Courts

Via Education International: “In an attempt to silence Kenyan teacher union leader Wilson Sossion, Bridge International Academies have threatened him with legal action for exposing its activities undermining the attainment of inclusive and equitable quality education for all.” Last year, the Ugandan government decreed that company’s schools be shut down because they failed to meet education and sanitation requirements; Kenyan courts have also ordered the schools to close. (Investors in this education startup include the Gates Foundation, Learn Capital, and the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative.)

Via CNN: “Mississippi school district ends segregation fight.”

A fairly typical Valerie Strauss story/headline: “ A Florida court decision about third-graders and testing falls ‘on the side of stupid’.”

More court cases in the sports section below.

Testing, Testing…

Via ABC News: “Test meant to screen teachers instead weeded out minorities.” Via The New York Times: “Regents Drop Teacher Literacy Test Seen as Discriminatory.”

NoRedInk Adds New Exercises to Prepare Students for ACT, SAT,” says Edsurge. (Disclosure alert.)

“Free College”

“Can California Pull Off Debt-Free College?” asks The Pacific Standard.

The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

The Chronicle of Higher Education profiles DeVry: “A For-Profit-College Company Embraces Its Technology-Focused Past and Its Evolving Future.”

Via ProPublica: “For-Profit Colleges Gain Beachhead in Trump Administration.” Taylor Hansen, for-profit university lobbyist has joined the Department of Education.

Via AZ Central: “Arizona Summit Law School moves to affiliate with a private, nonprofit university.” That’s Bethune-Cookman University.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Big for-profit American Public now offers competency-based undergraduate degrees that don’t rely on the credit-hour standard, but federal aid isn't part of the mix, for now.”

Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

“A Corporate Learning Revolution” – a Coursera webinar. (Are MOOCs webinars? Are webinars now MOOCs?)

Via Class Central: “FutureLearn’s New Pricing Model Limits Access to Course Content After the Course Ends.”

Also via Class Central: “MéxicoX: Meet the MOOC Platform Funded by the Mexican Government.”

Via Campus Technology: “edX Retiring Original MIT Circuits and Electronics Course.”

VCU’s Jon Becker writes “More about online learning in Virginia.”

“Institutions say they will not follow in Berkeley’s footsteps and delete publicly available educational content,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Meanwhile on Campus…

Via Mic: “5th grade NJ students asked to make slave auction posters for history assignment.”

Via Caged Bird: “White Howard University Professor Holds Mock Slave Auction.”

Mark Zuckerberg visited North Carolina A&T State University on Monday, and the Gizmodo headline pretty much sums it up: “Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of a One Percent Black Company, Spoke to Black Students About ‘Diversity’.”

Via Buzzfeed: “Everyone Please Take This Very Wholesome Survey So Mrs. Porter’s Second-Grade Class Can Learn About Graphs.” (Actually, I bet at this stage Mrs. Porter’s class hopes you do not take the survey.)

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Characteristics of Colleges That Raised the Most in Private Donations, FY 2016.”

Via The Atlantic: “Why One University Is Sharing the Risk on Student Debt.” The university in question: Purdue.

Via USA Today’s Greg Toppo: “Charter schools’ ‘thorny’ problem: Few students go on to earn college degrees.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “How Silicon Valley Exploits Students and Their Universities” – “Musk’s Hyperloop Pod Competition, run by his company SpaceX, is just the latest, trendiest example of Silicon Valley’s increased efforts to unite the student workers of the world together into a labor force it does not need to pay.”

It’s 2017 and we’re still writing stories about how students are distracted by technology.

Accreditation and Certification

Via the Sunshine State News: “Marco Rubio Renews Effort to Reform Higher Ed Accreditation.”

Badges, Proof and Pathways” by Doug Belshaw.

Via Inside Story: “In praise of credentialism.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Southern New Hampshire University will offer competency-based degrees to federal employees through its College for America, the university announced this week.”

Go, School Sports Team!

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “2 Former Penn State Officials Plead Guilty in Sandusky Case.”

Via ProPublica: “Nothin’ but Debt: Which NCAA Tournament Schools Give Low-Income Students the Best Shot?”

From the HR Department

The Verge on layoffs (and a pivot) at the annotation startup Genius: “Brain Drain.”

Contests and Competitions

Via NPR: “As Braille Literacy Declines, Reading Competitions Held To Boost Interest.”

This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

“Are online preschools signaling the future of education?” asks eSchool News.

“Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs With Smartphones?” asks The New York Times.

“Does Nonresident Tuition Show that Privatization Works?” asks Chris Newfield.

(Reminder: according to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”)

Upgrades and Downgrades

How long ’til some ed-tech company markets this as anti-cheating tech?

“Why Ed Tech Will Fail to Transform Education (for Now),” Michael Feldstein argues.

“We can teach women to code, but that just creates another problem,” says Miriam Posner.

“Why Are Asian Americans Missing From Our Textbooks?” asks The Pacific Standard.

Antigonish 2.0

Blockchain startup LBRY has made a copy of the course content that UC Berkeley pulled offline due to a lack of ADA compliance. The content was licensed CC-BY-NC, underscoring how companies seem to interpret “non-commercial” in some pretty odd ways. What would be nice, I’d say, instead of profiting off this material as a marketing ploy, would be to make it ADA compliant. That’s how you benefit the community.

Via The Verge: “When your child’s favorite YouTube celebrity is a secret racist.”

In other Google news, Google now allows anyone to use Google Classroom, even those without a GAFE account. I wonder about how data collection works with this. (Well, actually, I can guess…)

“Problems with Personalized Learningby Dan Meyer.

“CZI Takes Over Building Summit Learning Platform,” Edsurge reports. CZI stands for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The Summit Learning Platform is the learning management system that Facebook had been building for the Summit Public Schools charter chain.

UNESCO on “Media and Information Literacy.”

Via the Business Daily Africa: “Techie rakes in cash selling online exam papers to schools.”

Tele-instruction has become the emerging tool in higher education for teaching and learning models,” says Education Dive. “Tele-instruction.”

Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

“In the future there will be mindclones,” says Techcrunch, which I’m sure is never ever wrong about the future.

Via the MIT Technology Review: “The Entrepreneur with the $100 Million Plan to Link Brains to Computers.”

Via The Next Web: “How Artificial Intelligence enhances education.”

“What Does it Mean to Prepare Students For a Future With Artificial Intelligence?” asks Edsurge.

Via The Atlantic: “Training Students to Outpace Automation.”

Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

CareDox has raised $6.4 million in Series A funding from Digitalis Ventures, First Round Capital, Giza Venture Capital, TEXO Ventures, and Prolog Ventures. The startup, which sells an electronic health record system to schools, has raised $13.54 million total.

NeoStencil has raised $1 million from Brand Capital and Paragon Trust. The online education company has raised $1.06 million total.

I read the Backchannel story “Now We Know Why Microsoft Bought LinkedIn” and I still don’t know why Microsoft bought LinkedIn. Because Reid Hoffman, I guess?

Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

Via Stat: “House Republicans would let employers demand workers’ genetic test results.”

“How Should We Address the Cybersecurity Threats Facing K–12 Schools?” asks Doug Levin.

Via Techcrunch: “Teen quiz app Wishbone hacked, users’ emails and phone numbers exposed.”

Via the Office of Inadequate Security: “Victims of W–2 phishing scams (2017 list).”

Via KrisTV.com: “School administrators fall victim to possible scam.” Administrators with Ben Bolt I.S.D. in Texas, that is.

And the phishing attacks on schools spread to the UK. Via Schools Week: “Ofsted email scam asks people to ‘confirm’ Paypal details.”

Data and “Research”

Via The Economist: “Tests suggest the methods of neuroscience are left wanting.”

Educational attainment in the US, mapped.

Via Gizmodo: “Report Shows AT&T Ignores Poor Neighborhoods in Cleveland.”

Via Edutechnica: “LMS Data – Spring 2017 Updates.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “An analysis of new student loan data finds the number of federal loans in default at the end of 2016 increased 14 percent from 2015.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Two analysts at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public-policy organization in Washington, D.C., have … concluded that colleges with more-affluent students are disproportionately unwelcoming to free speech.” Many methodological flaws. Much confirmation bias.

Via Education Dive: “New research from University of South Florida vice president of economic development Paul Sanberg suggests that colleges and universities should be more aggressive in developing startup projects on and around campus, which can lead to great gains in revenue and positive development of institutions.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “A new study from the University of California, Riverside, shows that student veterans attending rural community colleges struggle with integrating into campus communities.”

Via Campus Technology: “Institutions Tap Student-Level Data to Improve Learning.” That’s according to analysis from the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities and the Institution for Higher Education Policy.

Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Market for PCs in the U.S. Is Growing, But Global Sales Take a Hit.”

“Who lost the most marks when cheating was stopped?” asks the BBC.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Institutional costs per degree at California’s two public four-year higher education systems dropped by almost one-fifth from 1987 to 2013, according to a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California.”

Via the BBC: “Graduates aren’t skilled enough, say employers.”

Via ProPublica: “Debt by Degrees – Which Colleges Help Poor Students Most?”

Via The Hechinger Report: “Study: Half or more of community college students struggle to afford food, housing.”

Via The Guardian: “Teachers must ditch ‘neuromyth’ of learning styles, say scientists.”

Icon credits: The Noun Project

Rationalizing Those 'Irrational' Fears of inBloom
16 March 2017 | 12:35 pm

This article first appeared on Points, a Data & Society publication in February 2017

That inBloom might exist as a cautionary tale in the annals of ed-tech is rather remarkable, if for no other reason than ed-tech – at least its manifestation as a current blend of venture capital exuberance, Silicon Valley hype, philanthropic dollars, and ed-reform policy-making – tends to avoid annals. That is to say, ed-tech today has very little sense of its own history. Everything is “new” and “innovative” and “disruptive.” It’s always forward-facing, with barely a glance over its should at the past – at the history of education or the history of technology. No one had ever thought about using computers in the classroom – or so you might glean if you only read the latest marketing about apps and analytics – until this current batch of philanthropists and entrepreneurs and investors and politicians suddenly stumbled upon the idea circa 2010.

Perhaps that very deliberate dismissal of history helped doom inBloom from the start. Those who worked on the initiative seemed to ignore the legacy of the expensive and largely underutilized ARIS (Achievement Reporting and Innovation System) system that had been built for New York City schools, for example, hiring many of ARIS’s staff and soliciting the company in charge of building it, Wireless Generation, to engineer the inBloom product.

While those making sweeping promises about data collection and data analytics wanted to suggest that, thanks to digital technologies, InBloom offered a unique opportunity to glean insights from data from the classroom, many parents and educators likely had a different sense – a deeper history –of what data had already done or undone, of what data could do or undo. They certainly had a different sense of risk.

The compulsion to gather more and more data is hardly new, although certainly new technologies facilitate it, generating more and more data in turn. In 1962, Raymond Callahan published Education and the Cult of Efficiency, tracing to the early twentieth century the eagerness of school leaders to adopt the language and the practices of business management in the hopes that schools might be run more efficiently and more “scientifically.”

There’s something quite compelling about those hopes, it seems, as they underlie much of the push for education reform and education technology in schools still today. Indeed, this belief in efficiency and science helped to justify inBloom, as Data & Society’s new report on the history of the $100 million data infrastructure initiative demonstrates.

That belief is evident in the testimonies from various politicians, administrators, entrepreneurs, and technologists involved in the project. Data collection – facilitated by inBloom – was meant to be “the game-changer,” in the words of the CEO of the Data Quality Campaign, providing a way to “actually use individual student information to guide teaching and learning and to really leverage the power of this information to help teachers tailor learning to every single child in their class. That’s what made inBloom revolutionary.” “The promise was that [inBloom] was supposed to be adaptive differentiated instruction for individual students, based on test results and other data that the states had. InBloom was going to provide different resources based on those results,” according to the superintendent of a New York school district.

But this promise of a data-driven educational “revolution” was – and still is – mostly that: a promise. The claims about “personalized learning” attainable through more data collection and data analysis remain primarily marketing hype. Indeed, “personalized learning” is itself a rather nebulous concept. As Data & Society observed in a 2016 report on the topic,

Description of personalized learning encompass such a broad range of possibilities – from customized interfaces to adaptive tutors, from student-centered classrooms to learning management systems – that expectations run high for their potential to revolutionize learning. Less clear from these descriptions are what personalized learning systems actually offer and whether they improve the learning experiences and outcomes for students.

So while “personalized learning” might be a powerful slogan for the ed-tech industry and its funders, the sweeping claims about its benefits are largely unproven by educational research.

But it sounds like science. With all the requisite high-tech gadgetry and data dashboards, it looks like science. It signifies science, and that signification is, in the end, the justification that inBloom largely relied upon. I’m someone who tried to get the startup to clarify “what inBloom will gather, how long it will store it, and what recourse parents have who want to opt out,” and I remember clearly that there was nevertheless much more hand-waving and hype than there ever was a clear explanation (“scientific” or otherwise) of “how” or “why” it would work.

No surprise then, there was pushback, primarily from parents, educators, and a handful of high profile NYC education activists who opposed InBloom’s data collection, storage, and sharing practices. But as the Data & Society report details, “instead of seeking to build trust at the district level with teachers and parents, many interview participants observed that inBloom and the Gates Foundation responded to what were very emotional concerns with complex technical descriptions or legal defenses.”

This juxtaposition of parents as “emotional” and inBloom and the project’s supporters as “scientific” and “technical” runs throughout the report, which really serves to undermine and belittle the fears of inBloom opponents. (This was also evident in many media reports at the time of inBloom’s demise that tended to describe parents as “hysterical” or that patronized them by contending the issues were “understandably obscure to the average PTA mom.”) The opposition to inBloom is described in the Data & Society report as a “visceral, fervently negative response to student data collection,” for example, while the data collection itself is repeatedly framed in terms of its “great promise.” While the report does point to the failure of inBloom officials to build parents’ trust, many of the interviewees repeatedly dismiss the mistrust as irrational. “The activism about InBloom felt like anti-vaccination activism. Just fear,” said one participant. “I don’t know how else to put it,” said another. “It was not rational.”

But inBloom opponents did have reason – many perfectly rational reasons – for concern. As the report chronicles, there were a number of concurrent events that prompted many people to be highly suspicious of plans for the data infrastructure initiative – its motivations and its security. These included inBloom’s connection to the proponents of the Common Core and other education reform policies; the growing concern about the Gates Foundation’s role in shaping these very policies; Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance; several high profile data breaches, including credit card information of some 70 million Target customers; the role of News Corp’s subsidiary Wireless Generation in building the inBloom infrastructure, coinciding with News Corp’s phone hacking scandal in the UK, as well as its decision to hire Joel Klein, the former NYC schools chancellor who’d commissioned the failed ARIS system, to head News Corp’s new education efforts. As the report notes, “The general atmosphere of data mistrust combined with earlier education reform movements that already characterized educational data as a means of harsh accountability.”

In the face of this long list of concerns, the public’s “low tolerance for uncertainty and risk” surrounding student data is hardly irrational. Indeed, I’d argue it serves as a perfectly reasonable challenge to a technocratic ideology that increasingly argues that “the unreasonable effectiveness of data” will supplant theory and politics and will solve all manner of problems, including the challenge of “improving teaching” and “personalizing learning.” There really isn’t any “proof” that more data collection and analysis will do this – mostly just the insistence that this is “science” and therefore must be “the future.”

History – the history of inBloom, the history of ed-tech more generally – might suggest otherwise.

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