Hack Education Weekly News

Education Politics

Via The New York Times: “North Carolina’s Love of College Sports Spurred Move to Repeal Bathroom Law.” Welp. It’s not clear, however, if the NCAA and others will end their boycott of the state.

Via PBS Frontline: “Climate Change Skeptic Group Seeks to Influence 200,000 Teachers.” The group in question is the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Via The New York Times: “Student Loan Forgiveness Program Approval Letters May Be Invalid, Education Dept. Says.”

It seems like the Department of Education is doing everything it can to screw over students’ financial aid.

From the Department of Education press release: “To protect sensitive taxpayer data, the IRS and FSA announced today the Data Retrieval Tool on fafsa.gov and StudentLoans.gov will be unavailable until extra security protections can be added. While we are working to resolve these issues as quickly as possible, students and families should plan for the tool to be offline until the start of the next FAFSA season.”

Via The Washington Post: “Trump signs bills overturning Obama-era education regulations.”

Via Politico: “After proposing a $9.2 billion cut to the Education Department’s budget for next year, the President Donald Trump is now calling on Congress to slash nearly $3 billion in education funding for the remaining five months of this fiscal year, according to a document obtained by POLITICO.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Trump Proposal to Cut Indirect Research Payments Would Hit State Universities Hardest.” And via WaPo: “Trump budget cuts could hit research universities hard, Moody’s warns.”

More on the Trump budget via Inside Higher Ed: “Cutting College Prep.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Trump‘s Proposed Cuts Threaten Colleges’ Key Job-Training Programs.”

Via Education Week: “DeVos Compares School Choice Fight to Uber vs. Taxis; Decries State of Test Scores.” (Nice timing, Betsy, as this was a useful comment to include in the talk I gave this week on the future of the "driverless school.")

Via The Washington Post: “Trump taps Kushner to lead a SWAT team to fix government with business ideas.” That’s Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, and that’s SWAT, as in a militarized police force.

“The Mad Rush to Undo Online Privacy Rulesby Siva Vaidhyanathan writing for Bloomberg. “ISPs Can Continue to Collect and Sell All of Our Browsing History, and We’ll Never Know,” says Bill Fitzgerald.

“Higher education and library associations called on the Federal Communications Commission Thursday to uphold Obama-era rules requiring broadband providers to treat all traffic on the internet equally,” Inside Higher Ed reports. (Sadly, I think “net neutrality” under Trump is toast.)

“House bill would further politicize the Register of Copyrights,” Creative Commons cautions.

Immigration and Education

Via The Washington Post: “Virginia judge sides with Trump administration on new travel ban.”

Via The Guardian: “Hawaii judge refuses to overturn block on Trump travel ban.”

Via The New Yorker: “After an Immigration Raid, a City’s Students Vanish.”

Via the Daily Kos: “Fearing deportation, immigrant parents are now canceling their U.S. citizen kids’ food assistance.”

Via Education Week: “High School Rape Case Becomes Flashpoint in Immigration Debate.”

Education in the Courts

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Spanier Is Found Guilty of Child Endangerment in Sandusky Sex-Abuse Case.” That’s Graham Spanier, the former president of Penn State.

More on Penn State in the “meanwhile on campus” section below.

Testing, Testing…

“How the SAT and PSAT collect personal data on students – and what the College Board does with it,” by The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss.

“Free College”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Here’s a Map of ‘Free College’ Programs Nationwide.”

Via the Pasadena Star-News: “Pasadena City College offering tuition-free first year for local high schools students.”

The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Trump administration defended the gainful-employment rule in federal court Wednesday, suggesting that it may not quickly roll back the regulation designed to crack down on programs graduating students unable to pay down high student loan debt loads.”

Also via Inside Higher Ed: “A new report from the American Enterprise Institute argues that state and local funding of public colleges stacks the deck against for-profit institutions under the gainful-employment rule, an Obama administration regulation that measures the ability of graduates of vocational programs to repay their student loans.”

Via The Atlantic: “The Closing of the Republican Mind on For-Profit Colleges.”

Fresh Air’s Terry Gross talks to Tressie McMillan Cottom about her new book, Lower Ed, and “How For-Profit Colleges Sell ‘Risky Education’ To The Most Vulnerable.”

Via The New York Times: “Arizona Summit Law school, a troubled for-profit institution owned by the InfiLaw System, has been placed on probation by its accrediting body, the American Bar Association.”

Via The Wall Street Journal: “Coding Schools Build Tuition-Back Guarantees Into Business Model.”

Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Online education platform Coursera has set a goal of offering 15 to 20 degree programs by the end of 2019. The company took another step toward that goal Wednesday, announcing new degree offerings from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and France’s HEC Paris.”

Via Edsurge: “Coursera’s Rick Levin on the Evolution of MOOCs and Microcredentials.”

Meanwhile on Campus…

Via MuckRock: “The same billionaire that funded Trump’s campaign bankrolled Milo’s college speaking tour.” That’s Milo Yiannopoulos, the speaker, and Robert Mercer, the billionaire. Small world!

Via The New York Times: “In School Nurse’s Room: Tylenol, Bandages and an Antidote to Heroin.”

Via The LA Times: “After therapy dog refuses to drink, San Diego Unified finds lead in water.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Louis J. Freeh, who five years ago produced a scathing report on the culpability of Pennsylvania State University administrators in the Jerry Sandusky child-molestation scandal, released a two-page statement on Friday that tore into the university’s leaders and called for the resignation of President Eric J. Barron.”

Via The LA Times: “UC Berkeley chancellor improperly accepted free fitness benefits, probe finds.”

“What it’s like at San Quentin’s coding school,” according to Techcrunch.

Via Education Dive: “‘Mall of America of colleges’ provides one-stop shop for local ed needs.”

Via NPR: “Concerns After Texas School Opens ‘Prayer Room’ That’s Attracting Muslim Students.”

Via NPR Code Switch: “Muslim Schoolchildren Bullied By Fellow Students And Teachers.”

Camelot Education, a for-profit manager of alternative schools, is facing challenges nationwide after our report on alleged physical abuse of students by staffers,” says ProPublica.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Louisiana Monroe says it’s getting rid of two major natural history collections to make way for a sports field.”

Via the BBC: “Students must swim before they graduate, says China university.” That’s Tsinghua University, a.k.a. “Harvard of the East.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “After a Student Dies, Penn State Bans a Fraternity and Liquor at All Greek Houses.”

Via The Wall Street Journal: “Schools Shift to Free, Public-Domain Curricula.”

The Wall Street Journal is concerned that students at Harvard are studying authors “marginalized for historical reasons.”

“Western-style universities are challenged in Hungary and Russia,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Via the Starbucks press release: “Starbucks and ASU Expand College Achievement Plan.”

Accreditation and Certification

Via Inside Higher Ed: “2 Think Tanks Weigh In on Accreditation” – that’d be the Heritage Foundation and the Center for American Progress.

Via Edsurge: “BloomBoard Partnership Gives Teachers Graduate-Level Credit for Micro-Credentials.”

Fast Company profiles David Blake, the co-founder of the alt-credentialing startup Degreed.

Go, School Sports Team!

Via The News & Observer: “Cost of bills in UNC academic scandal nears $18 million.”

“Why Is a Suspect in the Vanderbilt Rape Case Talking to Athletes About Sexual Assault?” asks The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Via The Washington Post: “Transgender high school wrestler to compete against boys thanks to new USA Wrestling policy.”

More on sports in the politics and courts sections above.

From the HR Department

Via The New York Times: “Oculus Founder, at Center of Legal Battle Over VR, Departs Facebook.” That’s Palmer Luckey, funder of anti-Clinton “shit-posting” efforts.

Via WSLS: “Liberty University online education drops, staff layoffs.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “AAUP report concludes that a professor at Community College of Aurora was likely fired for refusing to compromise on rigor in his courses as part of a ”student success“ initiative.” More on this story from Jonathan Rees.

Via The Detroit News: “In a move rarely seen in academia, Wayne State University is trying to fire multiple faculty members depicted as abusing their tenure by doing as little work as possible.”

Cornell Grad Union Election Too Close to Call,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Also via Inside Higher Ed: “Ithaca College’s new non-tenure-track faculty union reached a tentative contract agreement with the institution this week, averting a threatened strike.”

The American Arbitration Association declared this w
From The New York Times’ “Corner Office” series: “Jessie Woolley-Wilson on Creating Benevolent Friction at Work.” (She is the CEO is Dreambox Learning.)

The Business of Job Recruitment and Training

“Save Your College (and America’s Workforce) Through Corporate Training” – a really god-awful op-ed in Edsurge by venture capitalist Ryan Craig and for-profit higher ed CEO Frank F. Britt.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The rapid growth of Handshake, a career-services platform, is also raising questions about whether some students’ grades are made visible to employers without permission.”

Contests and Awards

The 2017–2018 Spencer Education Journalism Fellowships have been awarded by Columbia University’s J-School: Antonio Gois, Cara Fitzpatrick, Nick Chiles, and me. (!!!)

This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

“Can Grit Be Measured?” asks Edsurge.

“Will Personalized Learning Become the New Normal?” asks The Atlantic.

“Was the ‘Open Education’ movement of the ’70s ahead of its time?” asks Education Dive.

“Do You Have What It Takes to be a Successful Edtech Product Manager?” asks Edsurge.

(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

“Can We Afford Free Textbooks?” is a terrible op-ed by Robert S. Feldman, a deputy chancellor at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Thankfully, IHE added a disclosure to the end of the article: “He also serves as chair of the McGraw-Hill Education Learning Science Research Advisory Council.”

iPads Did Not Revolutionize Campus Teaching,” Edsurge informs us, “(But a Few Colleges Give Every Student One).”

Apple’s Bid To Reclaim The Classroom From Chromebooks May Be Too Late,” says Fast Company.

“Privatizing Recess: Micromanaging Children’s Play for Profit” by Nancy Bailey – a story on Playworks.

Technology ‘Disrupting’ Teaching, Part 1 and Part 2" by Larry Cuban.

Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “The Future of Curriculum: Playlists, Open Ed., and Tough Choices for Teachers.”

Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

Via Campus Technology: “AI Market to Grow 47.5% Over Next Four Years.” Education Dive rewrites the story with this headline: “Report predicts AI spike in education.”

Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

MasterClass has raised $35 million “to expand celebrity-led courses.” Investors in this Series C round include Institutional Venture Partners, Advancit Capital, Bloomberg Beta, GSV Acceleration, Javelin Venture Partners, MX Investments, New Enterprise Associates, Novel TMT Ventures, Sam Lessin, and Yan-David Erlich. The company has raised $56.4 million total.

BYJUs has raised $30 million in Series F funding from Verlinvest. The test prep company has raised $204 million total. Yay! Test prep!

Raise.me has raised $12 million in Series A funding from Redpoint, GSV Acceleration, Owl Ventures, and SJF Ventures. The startup claims it’s “reinventing financial aid” and has raised $16.5 million total.

Voxy has raised $12 million in Series C funding from SJF Ventures, Contour Venture Partners, GSV Acceleration, Inherent Group, Rethink Education, and Weld North. The English language-learning startup has raised $30.8 million total.

Edlio has acquired Sangha.

Excelligence Learning Corporation has acquired ChildCare Education Institute.

Here’s Pearson’s annual report for 2016. It’s bad news. And yet! Via the BBC: “Pearson boss sees pay boost despite firm’s struggles.”

Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

“Introducing the K–12 Cyber Incident Mapby Doug Levin.

And speaking of incidents, here’s one from Montana, “Hackers hit Forsyth schools server, cause disruptions,” reports KTVQ.

Via Dark Reading: “Millions of Stolen US University Email Credentials for Sale on the Dark Web.”

Via the EFF: “Privacy By Practice, Not Just By Policy: A System Administrator Advocating for Student Privacy.”

“Who Owns Your Face?” asks The Atlantic. I bet you can guess the answer.

More on testing data in the privacy section above.

Data and “Research”

Forbes perpetuates the worst sorts of stereotypes about college students as it reports on a survey by a student loan company LendEDU: “College Students Using Loans For Spring Break, Alcohol, Drugs.”

“A shortage of job candidates with fluency in data science and analytics is among the nation’s most yawning of skills gaps, one requiring substantial changes by higher education institutions and employers alike,” according to a report by the Business-Higher Education Forum.

Via NPR: “A Surprising Explanation For Why Some Immigrants Excel In Science.”

Higher Ed Analytics Market Is Growing in Complexity,” according to a report by Eduventures.

School-Choice Data Reveals Parents Opting Out of Private Schools for Charters and Virtual,” says Edsurge, drawing on a report from the Brookings Institution’s Education Choice and Competition Index.

Via DML Central: “Google Scientist Tells How Tech Affects Learning.”

“More on demographics: American white people’s declining lifespan and what it means for education” by Bryan Alexander.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Study: Income-Based Repayment Reduced Defaults.”

“The World’s Top Venture Capitalists” – according to The New York Times at least.

Icon credits: The Noun Project

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“There’s no moral issue for me, I did the best science I could. I was struggling to survive and didn’t have the luxury of being moral” — Daniel Jackson-Yang (@dabjacksonyang) March 31, 2017 {LinkToTweet}

Learning Analytics – I’ve been asked for my opinions

UoE is gearing up to put LA systems in place and surveys are being sent out to students as a gesture towards consultation. I was happy to provide the patina of consent to this institutional shift as it gives me some material for this blog. In bold are excerpts from the survey and italics are my comments and questions. I would also like to juxtapose the survey with a twitter conversation on LA systems from previously in the course here and here.


In the forth-coming years, learning analytics will be increasingly prevalent in higher education.

< This is a reasonable statement in isolation but within the context of the survey, especially as the opening line, it makes it sound that the application of LA is fait accompli and uncontroversial.


The educational data is used to implement support services that are used to aid student learning such as the development of early alert systems for those who may be at-risk of failing a course or dropping out, personalised learning environments, and improving student feedback processes.

< Positioning LA as being in line with learner-centred discourse. Possibly as a way of preventing critical engagement with the implications of LA?


As students will be the main beneficiaries from learning analytics, it is important for their opinions and expectations are accommodated into the design and implementation of any developed services.

< A very definitive statement. Are we so sure that students will be the main beneficiaries? Is it possible that the main benefits will be managerial control and perceived administrative efficiency and accountability?


The university will explain all the learning analytics service processes as clearly as possible (e.g., how my educational data is collected, analysed, and used)

< The operative words being “as possible”. How clear will these explanations be? How clear can they be if the university chooses to use propriatory software with blackboxed algorithms? Where will these explanations be made available to students? Will it be obvious or hidden somewhere in the course handbooks (which as a course secretary I can tell you no student looks at, ever)

The university will ask for my consent to collect, use, and analyse any of my educational data (e.g., grades, attendance, and virtual learning environment accesses)

The university will ask for my consent before using any identifiable data about myself (e.g., ethnicity, age, and gender)

< Will consent be asked for once to cover the duration of the degree? Should it be asked for at several points once the students have a chance to live with the implications of their decision? Can I opt in to some data collection but not others? E.g. you can see my grades but not my VLE access?

The university will provide support (e.g., advice from personal tutors) as soon as possible if the analysis of my educational data suggests I may be having some difficulty or problem (e.g., I am underperforming or at-risk of failing)

< Failing is not as subjective as underperforming. If you get less than 40 on an undergraduate course you have failed by the criteria set out by the university. But underperforming is far trickier. This will vary from subject to subject e.g. if I took Maths I’d be overperforming to even get a pass, whilst I would expect to ace a History course. Will the system reflect this?

Underperforming is entirely contingent on circumstances. The best I can do at one point of time, in a particular environment might be completely different in another.

The university will ask for my consent before my educational data is outsourced for analysis by third party companies

< Will it spell out what these third parties intend to do with the data? Will the university profit from selling the data set to third parties? What does it intend to do with said profits? Can they guarantee that the data will be held securely by third parties and not sold on again?

The university will give me the right to opt-out of data collection and analysis even if the action reduces the opportunities to provide me with personal support

< This gives insight into how opt-out will be framed to students. The university will do its best to make it sound like a bad choice so it can preserve the integrity of its data collection.

The university will request further consent if my educational data is being used for a purpose different to what was originally stated

< Again, how will these explanations be framed? Can students opt out later on?

The learning analytics service will collect and present data that is accurate (i.e., free from inaccuracies such as incorrect grades)

< Interesting to see no “as possible” in this sentence. It WILL be accurate, no question. We wouldn’t want to undermine the idea that the analytical data will be infallible.

The learning analytics service will show how my learning progress compares to my learning goals/the course objectives

< And what if I have completely different learning goals from the course objectives? Under what kind of circumstances will the students make their learning goals? Will there be an element of public performance in these goals if they know they are going to be rated on them later on?

The feedback from the learning analytics service will be used to improve the educational experience in a module/course/programme (e.g., identifying problems in the feedback, assessments, and learning activities)

< No mention of whether the introduction of analytics may worsen or just significantly change the education experience in an amiguous way. It will apparently only improve things.

The teaching staff will have an obligation to act (i.e., support me) if the analytics show that I am at-risk of failing , underperforming, or if I could improve my learning

< Which staff? Act in what way? In what time frame? Will the teaching staff be measured on the outcome of their actions? Will their workload be balanced to reflect such expectations?


Spencer Fellow!

Columbia Journalism School has awarded me a Spencer Education Journalism Fellowship for the 2017–2018 academic year. I can’t even begin to articulate how truly thrilled and humbled I am for this opportunity.

It’s not going to change much here on Hack Education. The fellowship will help me pursue the work I already undertake here. It will change my home base as I will be relocating from Los Angeles to New York City for all or part of the school year.

The project that I proposed involves studying the networks of education technology investors and how they are shaping education policies (as well as our imagination about what the future of education might look like). I already pay quite close attention to how venture capital flows into ed-tech, and during my fellowship I’ll expand this research in a couple of ways. First, the selection of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, with her 108-page financial disclosure form, serves as a reminder that venture capital (particularly “Silicon Valley” venture capital) is really just one of the players here. Private equity and hedge funds are particularly important too (although much less boastful than their VC counterparts), as are the socio-political relationships among the various investors and entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

During my fellowship, I’ll be investigating and tracing out these networks in order to identify some of the more powerful groups – education technology’s equivalent to the “Paypal Mafia,” if you will – and the ideas and policies that they are pushing. “Personalization” is an obvious one.

I posted a rough draft of my fellowship proposal on a new subdomain where I’ll be posting some of my research and analysis along the way: network.hackeducation.com. But most of my stories will, as usual, appear here on Hack Education.

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@Eli_App_D Bit hyperbolic. ditching lectures doesn’t guarantee good teaching. Same as delivering lectures means it is bad: https://t.co/yHr3WB3aYH — Daniel Jackson-Yang (@dabjacksonyang) March 31, 2017 {LinkToTweet}