Hack Education Weekly News

(National) Education Politics

After rolling back for-profit higher ed regulations last week, Betsy DeVos turns her attention to dismantling civil rights as she holds a series of Title IXlistening sessions.”

More on the Department of Education’s for-profit university machinations in the for-profit section below.

Via Broadly: “Betsy DeVos to Meet with Men’s Rights Groups, Reports Say.”

Via The New York Times: “Campus Rape Policies Get a New Look as the Accused Get DeVos’s Ear.” Here’s a choice quotation from the head of the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office, Candace Jackson:

Jackson later apologized.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “After Meeting With DeVos, Title IX Activists Say They Still Have Many Questions.”

Via Buzzfeed: “Betsy DeVos Wants To ‘Quickly’ Change The Way The Government Treats Campus Sexual Assault.”

Via The New York Times: “DeVos Says She Will Revisit Obama-Era Sexual Assault Policies.”

Who Does DeVos’s Department Really Represent?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Via The New York Times: “DeVos’s Hard Line on New Education Law Surprises States.”

Via The Washington Post: “A brief history of DARE, the anti-drug program Jeff Sessions wants to revive.”

Via ProPublica: “Trump Has Secretive Teams to Roll Back Regulations, Led by Hires With Deep Industry Ties.”

Via Military Times: “Lawmakers reach initial deal to expand GI education bill.” The proposed bill would eliminate the 15-year time limit on accessing education benefits.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Bipartisan support builds for expanding Pell Grant eligibility to short-term certificates, although some experts worry about quality control and funding.” I guess you won’t be able to use Pell Grants at Dev Bootcamp tho (more on that below).

On the US House of Representatives’ proposed budget: “$2 Billion for Teacher Training, Salaries Eliminated in House Budget Plan,” Education Week reports. Inside Higher Ed describes the budget plan as “(Largely) Shunning White House on Higher Ed Spending.”

(State and Local) Education Politics

Via Chalkbeat: “Report: Special education voucher program leaves some of New York City’s poorest families without services.”

Via The Denver Post: “Outdated, sagging Colorado schools get $300 million boost from pot sales, other taxes.”

Via NPR: “Reading, Writing And Fracking? What The Oil Industry Teaches Oklahoma Students.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “John Behling, the new president of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, said Friday that he wants institutions to recruit leaders from the private sector and otherwise ‘streamline’ the process for hiring chancellors and other top administrators. In so doing, he might have shed light on why a state budget proposal includes language – opposed by faculty members – that would ban the regents from ever considering only academics as top administrators.”

Via Education Week: “Detroit District May Rethink Authorizing Charter Schools.”

Immigration and Education

Via Inside Higher Ed: “DHS Head Won’t Commit to Defending DACA.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Trump Administration Considers Measure to Make Staying in U.S. Harder for Foreign Students.”

Via The Atlantic: “The Schools Transforming Immigrant Education.”

Via The New York Times: “In Blow to Tech Industry, Trump Shelves Start-Up Immigrant Rule.”

More on the Afghan robotics team in the contest section below.

Education in the Courts

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Federal Judge Dismisses Suit Against Texas Campus-Carry Law.”

Via The Washington Post: “Columbia University settles Title IX lawsuit with former student involving ‘mattress girl’ case.”

Via the AP: “The Ohio Supreme Court won’t stop the state from starting Thursday to recoup $60 million from one of the nation’s largest online charter schools amid a legal battle.”

More legal cases in the testing section below.

Testing, Testing…

Via The New York Times: “California Supreme Court Moves to Make Bar Exam Easier to Pass.”

Via The New York Times: “How Universal College Admission Tests Help Low-Income Students.”

Via Chalkbeat: “When states pay for the SAT or ACT, more poor students go to college.”

Financial Aid and the Business of Student Loans

The Department of Education explains “how marriage impacts your student loans.”

Via The Wall Street Journal: “Number of Students Applying for Federal Aid Rises 6%, After Several Years of Decline.”

The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

Kaplan is closing Dev Bootcamp, a coding bootcamp it acquired in 2014. More from Inside Higher Ed, from Edsurge (disclosure alert!), and from Hacker News.

Also via Edsurge: “How Boundaries Between Colleges and Companies Will Continue to Blur.”

Also via Edsurge: “What a Reinvented College Looks Like: 4 Alternative Higher-Ed Models.” The models: Minerva, MissionU, “New Research University,” and “New Urban College.” No disclosure, no surprise, that Edsurge shares investors with at least one of these.

The Chronicle of Higher Education asks if, with the rollback to Obama-era regulations, states can do more to hold for-profit colleges accountable.

Via US News & World Report: “Trump Administration Begins Rewriting For-Profit Regulations.”

Via NPR: “Back To The Starting Line On Regulating For-Profit Colleges.”

Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

“The University of California, Los Angeles, is planning a major expansion in the online certificate and graduate degree markets that it hopes will reach as many as 15,000 students by early next decade,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Via Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill: “Enrollment Implications Regarding Directive for Online Community College in California.”

Via Education Dive: “Coursera’s Tom Willerer talks personalization, access.” Willerer was previously at Netflix (just to give you an idea of the meaning of “personalization” in the headline).

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “How a BYU Campus Is Reshaping Online Education – and the Mormon Faith.”

Online courses will eventually replace traditional education,” The Daily Californian predicts. Sigh.

Speaking of predictions about the future of online education, EdTech Strategies’ Doug Levin pens part 2 of his look at Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn’s prediction that “by 2019, half of all high school classes will be taught over the Internet.”

More on court cases involve online charter schools in the legal section above.

Meanwhile on Campus…

Tampa Bay Times’ Cara Fitzpatrick revisits the schools she covered as part of her Pulitzer winning series on “failure factories”: “The Fight for Fairmount Park.”

Via Pacific Standard: “The Dangers Lurking in California School Drinking Fountains.” Spoiler alert: it’s not just lead.

Emily Kim, formerly a lawyer for charter chain Success Academy, is launching her own charter chain. It’ll be focused on integration, she promises.

Via The New York Times: “Long After Protests, Students Shun the University of Missouri.”

University of Michigan adds an automated text-analysis tool to a growing program intended to give more students a chance to learn through writing,” Inside Higher Ed reports. IHE blogger John Warner responds: “Algorithmic Assessment vs. Critical Reflection.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Despite Forged Signature, Bethune-Cookman U. Proceeds With $306-Million Dorm Contract.”

NPR examines recovery schools – that is, schools geared towards students with addictions.

Accreditation and Certification

Congratulations to Malala Yousafzai who has finished high school.

Via Chalkbeat: “Some New York charter schools could soon be allowed to certify their own teachers. What could that look like?”

WBUR reports that “This New MIT Master’s Program Doesn’t Require A College Or High School Degree.”

Go, School Sports Team!

Via SB Nation: “What football will look like in the future.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Cornell University has announced that it is ending its contract with Nike, saying the athletic apparel company was unwilling to sign a ‘standard’ agreement pledging to follow a code of conduct for its workers, a code developed and endorsed by many colleges and universities.”

From the HR Department

“Mind-reading robo tutor in the sky” company Knewton has a new CEO, Brian Kibby, formerly with Pearson.

The Business of Job Training

Jobsolescence” is not a word but it’s used in this headline nonetheless.

Larry Cuban on “Coding: The New Vocationalism” (Part 1 and Part 2)

Contests and Awards

Via the AP: “Denied Visas Twice, Afghan Girls Will Come to U.S. for Robotics Contest.”

Google profiles Niji Collins, a winner in the latest Google Code-In contest.

Upgrades and Downgrades

Edsurge profiles “personalized learning” software used in a virtual school that has some 450 incarcerated students. The software in question, Odysseyware, is featured in a recent series of articles in Slate, chronicling the worst online classes, particularly those used for credit recovery programs. No mention of that or of any problems with this sort of ed-tech in the Edsurge piece, no surprise, which was sponsored by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, just to give you an idea of how these organizations see the future of “personalized learning.”

Africa is a Country profiles Bridge International Academies: “No education crisis wasted: On Bridge’s ‘business model’ in Africa.”

More on Bridge from Business Insider: “Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are backing a controversial education program in East Africa.”

For the second time in as many weeks, Edsurge wants to know if educators’ job titles should be changed. First it was “professor.” Now it’s the word “teacher” that should be scrapped. Sensing a trend here?

Via Inside Higher Ed: “OpenStax Launches Learning Platform.”

Adaptive software is not the same as personalized learning, says eSchool News. Fortunately for pundits and PR, personalized learning can be anything you want it to be.

Via MIT Technology Review: “Another Price Slash Suggests the Oculus Rift Is Dead in the Water.” But I’m sure VR is still the future of education for many marketers.

Speaking of the future of education, via Complex: “How Pokemon Go Went From Viral Sensation To Wasteland in Just One Year.”

Via The New York Times: “To Close Digital Divide, Microsoft to Harness Unused Television Channels.”

Via Edsurge: “Genius, Crowdsourced Annotation Service, Discontinues Education Offerings.”

Via Techcrunch: “Kids app maker Toca Boca debuts its first consumer product collection at Target.”

Axios reports that “Another VC resigns after accusations of ‘misconduct’.” This time, it’s Frank Artale, co-founder of Ignition Partners. (To my knowledge, this firm has not made any ed-tech investments. So yay?)

But never fear women in tech! “Ashton Kutcher plans to host an open dialogue on gender equality,” Techcrunch reports.

Edsurge reports that 100Kin10, an organization that promises to train 100,000 STEM educators in the next decade, has received some $28 million in corporate pledges.

Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

The Getting Smart blog predicts that “By 2025, Swarms of Self-Driving Vehicles Will Transport Students to Learning Sites.” And it opts to go full Orwell with this prediction: “You can remind the troublemakers that with facial recognition you can run, but you can’t hide.”

The Getting Smart blog also highlights a recent PwC report: “AI Boosts Value of Thinking, Creativity and Problem-Solving.”

Via MIT Technology Review: “U.S. to Fund Advanced Brain-Computer Interfaces.”

(Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform

It’s not (necessarily) venture philanthropy, but The Chronicle of Higher Education tracks the “Major Private Gifts to Higher Education.”

Recode profiles Priscilla Chan, co-founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Via The New York Times: “Award-Winning Philanthropists Explain the Roots of Their Giving.”

Charity is no substitute for justice withheld – St. Augustine

Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

It’s not an ed-tech investment, but let’s note it nonetheless. “Betsy DeVos Invested In Military Tech Contractor Run By Son-In-Law, While Brother Shaped Afghan War Policy,” International Business Times reports. DeVos’ brother is Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater. DeVos’ investment is in LexTM3, which she’s funded three times since Trump became POTUS.

Tutoring company Clark has raised $2.2 million in seed funding from Lightspeed Ventures, Rethink Education, Flatworld Partners, and Winkelvoss Capital.

Vidcode has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from BrainPOP, Cherry Ventures, CoVenture, Rethink Education, Stephano Kim, and ZhenFund. The learn-to-code company has raised $1.62 million total.

NetDragon has acquired JumpStart, currently the developer of a game inspired by the ed-tech classic Math Blaster.

BYJU’s has acquired tutoring company Edurite from Pearson.

Pearson sells off a 22% stake in Penguin Random House to majority owner Bertelsmann.

Industry analysis: Bloomberg looks atSilicon Valley’s Overstuffed Startups,” noting that IPOs and acquisitions have stalled. But Techcrunch reports that “US venture investment ticks up in Q2 2017,” so who knows.

CB Insights lists “15 Early-Stage Ed Tech Companies To Watch.”

Data and “Research”

The RAND Corporation is out with a study on personalized learning – “Modest Gains, Big Challenges,” reads the Education Week headline. Doug Levin looks at this recent Gates Foundation-sponsored research and asks “Why Do Students in Personalized Learning Programs Feel Less Positive About School?”

The Wall Street Journal looks atPaying Professors: Inside Google’s Academic Influence Campaign.” Google responds. (And there’s been quite a bit of pushback on the research and the reporting.)

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Federal obligations to universities for science and engineering declined by 2 percent in the 2015 fiscal year, new federal data show.”

Via Chalkbeat: “Do school vouchers ‘work’? As the debate heats up, here’s what research really says.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Students are more likely to graduate from colleges that are more expensive and have larger budgets, a new study out of Oregon State University shows.”

Oh look. This story about laptops. Again.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “A new study from the Urban Institute found limited interest among prospective college students about graduates’ labor market outcomes, despite the data’s appeal to policy makers and researchers.”

Press releases as predictions. Via The Telegraph (and based on “market research”): “E-books sales to drop as bookshelf resurgence sparks ‘shelfie’ craze.”

Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Online PD Pays Dividends for Teachers’ Tech Learning, Survey Suggests.” The survey was from Project Tomorrow.

The Atlantic looks at research on “The Diminishing Role of Art in Children’s Lives.”

Via Education Week’s Inside School Research blog: “Reading ‘on Grade Level’ May Depend on Your School’s Test, Study Finds.”

Pew Research Center has released the results of its latest survey on how Americans view institutions. One of the big headline grabbers: the sharp decline in Republicans’ favorable view of higher education. 58% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents “now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country.” More thoughts on the survey from Alex Reid, from the ANOVA, from Bryan Alexander, from The Chronicle of Higher Education, and from Inside Higher Ed.

Pew Research Center releases its most recent report on online harassment – “Roughly four-in-ten Americans have personally experienced online harassment, and 62% consider it a major problem.”

Via Buzzfeed: “Many Women Of Color Feel Unsafe Working In Science, New Study Finds.”

Via The Atlantic: “Most Scientific Research Data From the 1990s Is Lost Forever.” Oops.

Icon credits: The Noun Project

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The History of Ed-Tech: What Went Wrong?

Beth Holland, a doctoral student at JHU and “EdTech Researcher” at Education Week, sent an email asking some questions about the history of ed-tech. The gist of these: how did ed-tech get from the early, inquiry-based pioneers like Seymour Papert to the crap we see today. Once my response hit more than 500 words, I thought I’d better “blog” my thoughts rather than just answer via email…

There’s a popular origin story about education technology: that, it was first developed and adopted by progressive educators, those interested in “learning by doing” and committed to schools as democratic institutions. Then, something changed in the 1980s (or so): computers became commonplace, and ed-tech became commodified – built and sold by corporations, not by professors or by universities. Thus the responsibility for acquiring classroom technology and for determining how it would be used shifted from a handful of innovative educators (often buying hardware and software with their own money) to school administration. Once computers were networked, the responsibility shifted to IT. The purpose of ed-tech shifted as well – from creative computing to keyboarding, from projects to “productivity.” (And I’ll admit. I’m guilty of having repeated some form of this narrative myself.)

But what if, to borrow from Ian Bogost, “progressive education technology” – the work of Seymour Papert, for example – was a historical aberration, an accident between broadcast models, not an ideal that was won then lost?

There’s always a danger in nostalgia, when invents a romanticized past – in this case, a once-upon-a-time when education technology was oriented towards justice and inquiry before it was re-oriented towards test scores and flash cards. But rather than think about “what went wrong,” it might be useful to think about what was wrong all along.

Although Papert was no doubt a pioneer, he wasn’t the first person who recognized the potential for computers in education. And he was hardly alone in the 1960s and 1970s in theorizing or developing educational technologies. There was Patrick Suppes at Stanford, for example, who developed math instruction software for IBM mainframes and who popularized what became known as “computer-assisted instruction.” (Arguably, Papert refers to Suppes’ work in Mindstorms when he refers to “the computer being used to program the child” rather than his own vision of the child programming the computer.)

Indeed, as I’ve argued repeatedly, the history of ed-tech dates at least as far back as the turn of the twentieth century and the foundation of the field of educational psychology. Much of we see in ed-tech today reflects those origins – the work of psychologist Sidney Pressey, the work of psychologist B. F. Skinner, the work of psychologist Edward Thorndike. It reflects those origins because, as historian Ellen Condliffe Lagemann has astutely observed, “One cannot understand the history of education in the United States during the twentieth century unless one realizes that Edward L. Thorndike won and John Dewey lost.”

Ed-tech has always been more Thorndike than Dewey because education has been more Thorndike than Dewey.

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Hack Education Weekly News

(National) Education Politics

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Silence From the Secretary, Despite Major Rules Changes.”

Lots, lots more about Betsy DeVos’ policies in the student loan and for-profit higher ed sections below.

Via Politico: “The American Action Forum, a right-leaning public policy group, is recommending that DeVos consider gutting the federal student aid pilot programs created under the Higher Education Act. A new policy paper from the group published on Thursday says that ‘experimental sites’ – which waive some federal requirements for colleges that want to test out different ways of delivering federal financial aid – have not proved effective.” Some of these experimental sites included MOOCs and coding bootcamps.

(State and Local) Education Politics

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Illinois House of Representatives voted Thursday to override a gubernatorial veto of a package of budget bills, ending a 736-day standoff that had left the state’s higher education institutions slashing expenses and scrambling to compensate for uncertain funding streams.”

Via The Baltimore Sun: “Maryland becomes first state to outlaw scholarship displacement by public colleges.” Scholarship displacement is a practice of lowering financial aid when a student has a scholarship that boosts her aid over the cost of college.

Via Chalkbeat: New York “Mayor de Blasio strikes a charter deal, making it easier for schools to expand, pay for space.”

More on states’ legal actions against Betsy DeVos for her reversal of Obama-era regulations on for-profit universities in the for-profit higher ed section below.

Immigration and Education

Via The Verge: “US denies visas to Afghanistan’s all-girl robotics team.” The Gambian team, which was also initially denied entrance to the US, will be granted visas.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Assessing the Travel Ban: What New Data on Overseas Recruitment Does – and Doesn’t – Tell Us.”

Education in the Courts

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow is appealing a lower court’s ruling that it must repay $60 million to the state of Ohio as it cannot document students “attended” its online charter school.

“A Wave of Disability-Lawsuit Threats Against Colleges May Have Receded,” says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “In a lawsuit against Baylor University, 10 women who brought complaints of sexual assault against other Baylor students say the university’s strict alcohol policy was used to ‘shame, silence and expel’ a student, and they included emails from a former university regent as proof.”

For more on lawsuits about for-profit higher ed, see the for-profit higher ed section below.

The Business of Student Loans

Via The USA Today: “Millions of student loans could be headed for a shakeup in coming months.”

More on the legal actions taken by states over Betsy DeVos’ rollback of the borrower defense rule in the for-profit higher ed section below.

The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

From the US Department of Education press release: “DeVos Presses Pause on Burdensome Gainful Employment Regulations.” More from The Chronicle of Higher Education and from Inside Higher Ed.

18 States Are Suing Betsy DeVos Over For-Profit College Rules,” Buzzfeed reports. More on the legal actions over the delay of the borrower defense rule from NPR and from The NYT.

Via The Washington Post: “SEC settles fraud charges against defunct for-profit college company ITT.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Federal Trade Commission began mailing more than $49 million in refund checks to former DeVry University students Wednesday as part of a settlement between the for-profit institution and the agency. DeVry agreed to the $100 million settlement after the FTC sued the institution for its use of employment statistics in advertising.”

“College made millions by tricking Indigenous people, court finds,” The Guardian reports. “Unique International College used a misleading and unlawful scheme to target vulnerable communities in 2014 and 2015, pushing individuals to enrol in courses in management, salon management and marketing.”

Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

Via Class Central’s Dhawal Shah, writing in Edsurge: “MOOCs Find Their Audience: Professional Learners and Universities.” (Edsurge, for what it’s worth, shares investors with Class Central, Udacity, and Coursera (although there’s no disclosure on that article to that end) – funny how the narratives about the “revolutionary” potential of MOOCs get spread, eh?)

Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill follows up on the Edsurge article with his own analysis: “MOOCs Now Focused on Paid Certificates and OPM Market.”

Tecnológico de Monterrey has joined edX.

More on the ongoing legal battles between the state of Ohio and the virtual charter school Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow in the courts section above.

Meanwhile on Campus…

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is denying allegations that he helped use his office to help secure a loan for the now defunct Burlington College, which at the time was led by his wife.

Inside Higher Ed reports that the University of Missouri at Columbia will prevent students from using their ID credit cards to buy “nonacademic items” from campus stores.

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “One Activist Has Hundreds of Colleges Under the Gun to Fix Their Websites.” (That is, to fix them because they are inaccessible to those with disabilities.)

Via Chalkbeat: “Aurora Public Schools, CSU online degree program hammering out details of new partnership.” The partnership includes the former constructing a new building to hold CSU’s Global Campus.

Claremont Theology might join Willamette University, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Via Pacific Standard: “In Pakistan, These Schools Are Putting Morality Back Into the Curriculum.”

More on AltSchool in the surveillance section below. Because honestly, where else would you put news about that private school company but in the surveillance section.

Accreditation and Certification

Via The Washington Post: “Chicago won’t allow high school students to graduate without a plan for the future.” That is, “They must show that they’ve secured a job or received a letter of acceptance to college, a trade apprenticeship, a gap year program or the military.” This seems like it’ll be a boon for for-profit higher ed, so good job, Rahm Emanuel.

More on certifications in the MOOC section above.

Testing, Testing…

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Irregularities Lead to AP Scores Being Canceled.” That is, canceled at Scripps Ranch High School in California.

Predictions about the future of test prep from Campus Technology: “Top 3 Trends Affecting U.S. Test Preparation Market Through 2021.”

Via Chalkbeat: “From CSAP to PARCC, here’s how Colorado’s standardized tests have changed (and what’s next).”

Go, School Sports Team!

“Colleges are spending more on their athletes because they can,” says USA Today.

From the HR Department

“Did Amway Create the Gig Economy?” asks The Awl. (“Betteridge’s Law of Headlines” aside, the question’s worth asking for a number of reasons, but worth noting of course because Amway was founded by Betsy DeVos’ father-in-law.)

Via The New York Times: “Microsoft to Cut Up to 4,000 Sales and Marketing Jobs.”

The NEA, the largest teachers’ union in the US, held its representative assembly where, according to NEAToday, “Educators Vow to Hold Strong, Defend Public Education.”

Via The New York Times: “State Dept. Restores Job Offers to Students After Diplomat Outcry.”

“Why Did a UCLA Instructor With a Popular Free-Speech Course Lose His Job?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Business of Job Training and Job Placement

Via Edsurge: “Swedish Startup Hopes to Replace Resumes With ‘Gamified’ Job Matching System.” The company in question is called Sqore.

Upgrades and Downgrades

A series of stories in The New York Times about sexual harassment in the tech industry. “Women in Tech Speak Frankly on Culture of Harassment,” writes Katie Benner. Among those accused of harassment, Chris Sacca (perhaps best known as one of the investors on the TV show Shark Tank) and Dave McClure (the founder of 500 Startups, one of the most active ed-tech investors in recent years). Since The NYT story broke, McClure has stepped down from his firm. More via The NYT: “Harassment in the Tech Industry: Voices Grow on Social Media.”

Via Bloomberg: “Twenty-five years ago, U.S. tech companies pledged to stop using chemicals that caused miscarriages and birth defects. They failed to ensure that their Asian suppliers did the same.”

“In the knowledge economy, we need a Netflix of education,” say Karl Mehta and Rob Harles in an op-ed in Techcrunch. (No, we don’t.)

“Tracking Attributes like Grit and Character – There’s an App for That,” writes Charlie Coglianese, the “Chief Data Wizard” at Schoolrunner in an op-ed in EdWeek’s Market Brief. (No, there’s not.)

Two very different responses to Google’s “Be Internet Awesome” marketing. One by Donnie Piercey in Edsurge: “Trolls, Catfish, Cyberbullies – Oh My! How to Help Students Stay ‘Internet Kind’.” The other by Benjamin Doxtdator: “Frontier notes on metaphors: the digital as landscape and playground.”

Inside Higher Ed profiles EAB, which has trademarked “student success management system.”

Via Techcrunch: “Six months after acquisition, SoFi is shutting down Zenbanx.” SoFi is a student loan provider, trying to become a more mainstream banking and financial services company.

“Why don’t teachers use Minecraft?” asks Dean Groom.

Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

“PBS Show Will Teach Preschoolers How To Think Like Computers,” says Edsurge, which seems like a bad idea since computers don’t “think” and since humans need more empathy these days and less bullshit technofuturist ideology.

Robotics and AI tech can revolutionize classroom ed,” says Education Dive.

“Need jobs? Get robots, and education right,” says Techcrunch.

Via Wired: “AI Is Making It Extremely Easy for Students to Cheat.”

Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

I probably won’t include this in my calculations of ed-tech investments, but I’m noting it here nonetheless because it dovetails so nicely with “mindfulness” and “social emotional learning” hoopla. Headspace, has raised $36.7 million in Series B funding. The meditation app (which does market itself to schools) has raised $75 million total.

Side has raised $5.7 million in Series A funding from Xavier Niel, Anglae Ventures, Antoine Martin, Connect Ventures, Fly Ventures, Jacques-Antoine Granjon, and TheFamily. The short-term job placement startup has raised $7.15 million total.

Education publisher Nelson has acquired digital grade book company Edusight.

Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

The BBC on AltSchool: “The futuristic school where you’re always on camera.”

Not directly related to education, but certainly relevant to those who care about what Google does with data – via Techcrunch: “UK data regulator says DeepMind’s initial deal with the NHS broke privacy law.”

Data and “Research”

Inside Higher Ed covers controversy surrounding an article about net neutrality in the International Journal of Communication that did not disclose funding from an industry group, CALinnovates.

Via Chalkbeat: “How much money does Aurora Public Schools spend and on what? New online tool has answers.”

Education Week’s Sarah Sparks writes about research on how data changes the way schools make decisions (and not necessarily for the better).

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Colleges That Received the Highest Amounts in Pell Grants and Federal Student Loans for Undergraduates, by Sector, 2014–15.”

Via MIT Technology Review: “The most popular people on Twitter are disproportionately white males, according to the first study of race and gender inequality in the Twitterverse.”

According to anthropologist Lauren Herckis, professors hesitate to adopt “innovative teaching methods” because they fear looking stupid in front of students.

UVA’s Dan Willingham “On fidget spinners & speeded math practice.”

Via The Telegraph: “Smartphones blamed for dramatic rise in head lice as schoolchildren gather together to view screens.”

Icon credits: The Noun Project

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The Business of Ed-Tech: 2017 So Far

There have been several articles in the industry and investor press recently that describe the ed-tech market as “on the rebound,” with venture capitalists getting their “second wind” and finding ed-tech once again to be something worth throwing money at.

Yay.

And indeed, according to my calculations too, the amount of money invested in education technology companies is up from this time last year and up from this time in 2015 as well. (And 2015 was a record-setting year for ed-tech investment.)

For what it’s worth, investment analyst firm CB Insights predicts that funding this year will not exceed that 2015 level, but one of the reasons I like to track the data myself is that everyone’s numbers and everyone’s assessment of the industry seem to be different, depending in part on “what counts” as ed-tech.

2017 vs. Previous Years

So far this year, there have been 95 investments in ed-tech companies, totaling $1.8 billion. (And yes, I do include student loan companies here. If you’re an ed-tech analyst and you insist that private student loans are something you shouldn’t or needn’t monitor, you’re not paying attention to what’s going on.)

The average investment this year has been $21.2 million. (The median investment size: $4 million.)

Here’s a comparison of what funding looked like in Julys of previous years:

What Kind of Companies Are Raising Money?

More than half of deals so far this year have been in what some call “early stage” companies – that is, companies raising seed or their first venture capital funding.

But the bulk of dollars have gone to “late stage” companies. Companies raising seed funding have raised $55 million so far this year. Companies raising C, D, and F rounds have raised over $1 billion.

Investment By Country

Number of deals by country:

$1.4 billion in venture capital has gone to US companies so far this year. $280 million has gone to Chinese companies. $34 million has gone to Canadian companies. $25 million has gone to Indian companies.

What Do These Startups Do?

Investors seem to really like “online education.” There have been 9 investments so far this year in companies that describe themselves that way – what a broad description, I realize – for a total of $320 million.

Tutoring companies also remain popular: 8 investments totaling $151 million.

There were 4 investments in coding bootcamps, totaling $37.6 million.

The type of startup receiving the most funding: student loan companies, which have raised $540 million so far this year.

To Whom Are These Startups Selling?

Investments in companies serving the K–12 sector make up the majority of those funded so far this year. (But note: the kinds of companies that get coverage in the ed-tech and tech press – those that I’m likely to see and include in my research – are more likely to be those targeting K–12 and post-secondary education than those targeting the corporate learning market.)

The Biggest Investments So Far This Year

The companies that have raised the most money so far this year:

  • SoFi (private student loans) – $500 million
  • EverFi (“critical skills” training) – $190 million
  • Hero K12 (behavior management) – $150 million
  • Yuanfandao (tutoring) – $120 million
  • Grammarly (grammar and spelling assistance) – $110 million
  • Xueba100.com (homework assistance) – $100 million
  • Coursera (online education) – $64 million
  • AltSchool (private school; learning management system) – $40 million
  • MasterClass (online classes taught by celebrities) – $35 million
  • Trilogy Education (coding bootcamp) – $30 million
  • College Ave (private student loans) – $30 million
  • BYJU’s (test prep) – $30 million
  • MakeBlock (robotics) – $30 million

The Most Well-Funded Ed-Tech Startups

These are the ed-tech “startups” that have raised the most venture capital. That is to say, these companies have not IPO’d or been acquired so even if they’re years old, they still sorta count as “startups.” (Clearly not all this funding happened this year):

  • SoFi (private student loans) – $1.88 billion
  • Affirm (private student loans) – $420 million
  • EverFi (“critical skills” training) – $251 million
  • Yuanfudao (tutoring) – $244.2 million
  • HotChalk (online education service provider) – $230 million
  • Coursera (online education service provider) – $210.1 million
  • BYJU’s (test prep) – $204 million
  • Pluralsight (skills training) – $192.5 million
  • Udemy (skills training marketplace) – $173 million
  • AltSchool (private school; learning management system) – $173 million
  • Kaltura (video platform) – $165.1 million
  • D2L (learning management system) – $165 million
  • Udacity (skills training) – $160 million
  • Knewton (algorithmic textbooks) – $157.25 million

The Most Active Investors of 2017

Most of the investors who’ve participated in the 95 deals so far this year have only participated in one ed-tech deal. There are just 9 firms that have made three or more investments in 2017:

  • Reach Capital (2017 investments: AdmitHub, Holberton School, Nearpod, Epic!, BookNook, Mystery Science, Mrs. Wordsmith, Abl)
  • GSV (Voxy, Raise.me, MasterClass, CreativeLive, Nearpod, Coursera, Motimatic)
  • University Ventures (investments: AdmitHub, OOHLALA, Motimatic, Examity, CollegeVine (formerly Admissions Hero), and Paragon One)
  • Y Combinator (investments: OOHLALA, Paragon One, KidPass, Outschool, Mystery Science)
  • Learn Capital (investments: Paragon One, Outschool, Mystery Science, Coursera)
  • First Round (investments: Wonderschool, CareDox, Abl)
  • FundersClub (investments: AdmitHub, Outschool, Wonderschool)
  • Owl Ventures (investments: Lingo Live, Raise.me,Abl)
  • Rethink Education (investments: Voxy, Abl, Trilogy Education)

Do note the overlap in their investments – the “herd mentality” of venture capitalists.

Ed-Tech Exits

There are only a couple of outcomes once a company has raised venture capital. I mean, it has to pay its investors back, of course. So either it gets acquired, merges with another company, goes public, or goes away.

There have been 40 acquisitions so far this year. This is down from 68 this time last year and down from 64 this time in 2015. Acquisitions, that is to say, are down significantly.

Companies that were actively acquiring startups in previous years – Blackboard, Pearson, and PowerSchool for example – have not bought any startups this year. (Frontline Education, which bought five startups last year, has acquired just one so far in 2017.)

Only one education company has gone public this year: Laureate Education, which raised $490 million with its initial public offering.

So What?

Stating that the amount of ed-tech investment is up so far this year doesn’t really tell us much about what the ed-tech industry really looks like.

No doubt, we should ask why it’s up – why are investors re-enthused about education companies (particularly when successful exits seem to be slumping)? What role do federal and state education politics play in ed-tech investment? (Private student loans. Coding bootcamps. Betsy DeVos. Donald Trump. For-profit universities. Voucher programs. Online charter schools. And so on…)

Find an error in my calculations? Feel free to file an issue on – or better yet, contribute to – the GitHub repository that powers this analysis.

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