Hack Education Weekly News

(National) Education Politics

“Who Is Betsy DeVos?” asks New York Magazine. “And how did she get to be head of our schools.”

“Not An Advocate for Students or the Public Interest” – historian Sherman Dorn onBetsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.”

Via Politico: “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has increased her financial stake in a ‘neurofeedback’ company that says its technology treats attention deficit disorder and the symptoms of autism. DeVos reported a new investment of between $250,001 and $500,000 in the Michigan-based Neurocore, according to a financial disclosure form that was certified by government ethics officials on Wednesday.”

From the Department of Education press release: “Secretary DeVos Accepts President Trump’s Q2 Salary as a Donation for STEM-Focused Camp.” $100,000. Trump’s budget, of course, cuts $9.2 billion from the Department of Education.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The Department of Education has placed restrictions on access to federal student aid for West Virginia public universities after the state was late submitting required annual financial statements for the third year in a row. The restrictions, known as heightened cash monitoring, mean that for five years higher ed institutions in the state must disburse aid to students first and then ask the feds for reimbursement.”

More on the politics of student loans in the business of student loan section below.

President Trump spoke to the Boys Scouts’ annual Jamboree, and his talk was, to put it nicely, “rambling.” “The president of the Boy Scouts needs the Trump administration to approve his mega-merger,” Quartz reports – that’s Randall Stephenson, also the CEO of AT&T. The Boy Scouts have apologized for Trump’s speech – sorta. It was one of those “I’m sorry you were offended” sorts of fauxpologies.

Poor Pickle.

Via CNN: “Cabinet members beware: What Trump is doing to Sessions can happen to you.” The story contains some machinations at the Department of Education in which the White House tried to fire a Jeb Bush-supporting staffer.

Bloomberg reports that “Trump Administration Tapping Tech CEOs for STEM Policy Approach.” Those involved: investor Laurene Powell Jobs, Apple’s Tim Cook, and representatives from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative – so all the country’s best experts on STEM education clearly.

Via The Washington Post: “ NAACP: School choice not the answer to improving education for black students.”

(State and Local) Education Politics

Via The Salt Lake Tribune: “Lawmaker: Utah‘s veteran educators may need to ’die off’ before technology fills classrooms.” The lawmaker in question: Republican State Senator Howard Stephenson.

Education in the Courts

Via Education Week: “Supreme Court sets Sept. 5 hearing on charter school funding.”

Apple has been ordered to pay the University of Wisconsin $506 million for patent infringement.

Via The New York Times: “Foster Care as Punishment: The New Reality of ‘Jane Crow’.”

More legal cases in the for-profit higher ed section below.

“Free College”

“Dean Dad” Matt Reed on “Promises, Promises” – the free college programs in Oregon and New York.

The Business of Student Loans

Via the AP: “Records: Student-loan forgiveness has halted under Trump.”

Via The Student Loan Report: “Halfway Through 2017, Here Are the Best & Worst Student Loan Servicers.” Congrats, Navient. You’re the worst.

Via Bryan Alexander: “Student loans are cramping the American economy: what this could mean.”

More on student loans and for-profits in the for-profit higher ed section below.

OK, OK. It’s not necessarily student loan debt, but the story features swordsmen loan collectors, so I’m sharing it nonetheless. Via The Wall Street Journal: “Spain Has a Debt Problem, and So Now It Has a Zorro Problem.”

The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

“The Lower Ed Ecosystem: Bootcamps Edition” by sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom.

“Why Are Coding Bootcamps Going Out of Business?” by me.

One thing I didn’t talk about in that story: what’s going to happen about the venture capital wing of The Iron Yard. I’m also curious how this news – again, I’m not sure two closures are really a “trend” – will affect student loan startups.

The Flatiron School has released its latest “outcomes report.”

On Tuesday a court dismissed a petition by Ashford University (owned by Bridgepoint Education) to allow its online programs to be eligible for GI Bill benefits. But as Inside Higher Ed reports later in the week: “In the latest development in an eventful saga, Ashford University on Wednesday announced that it is closer to preserving access to Post–9/11 GI Bill benefits.”

Via the Twin Cities Pioneer Press: The Minnesota “Supreme Court says Globe U and MN School of Business made illegal loans.”

National American University Holdings has acquired Henley-Putnam University.

“Graduate student enrollment is declining at for-profit institutions, but the sector continues to resonate with one particular demographic – black women,” according to Inside Higher Ed, drawing on a report from the Urban Institute.

Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

Lots of MOOC PR appeared in the news this week. Not sure where you plot this on the “hype cycle.”

“What if MOOCs Revolutionize Education After All?” asks Edsurge.

“Now that MOOCs are mainstream, where does online learning go next?” asks The Next Web.

More questions about MOOCs in the Betteridge’s Headlines section below. And more on MOOCs in the credentialing section below as well.

Via The Daily Times: “Blount County Schools building new options to personalize learning.” Boy, it seems as though “personalized learning” is really just code for “virtual charter schools.”

Meanwhile on Campus…

There are currently over 100 HBCUs in the US, but an article in HBCU Digest predicts “About 50 HBCUs Will Survive the Next Decade. It’s Time to Start Investing in Them.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A Warning, a Crusade, and a Public Reckoning at the U. of Florida.”

The Wall Street Journal looks at the free textbook initiative at CUNY.

Via The WSJ: “How a Catholic School Turned $15,000 Into $34 Million Thanks to Snapchat.” How Saint Francis High School plans to spend the money it earned from the Snap IPO – provided Snap shares are still worth anything.

STAT on telemedicine in schools: “At a growing number of schools, sick kids can take a virtual trip to the doctor.”

Accreditation and Certification

Via The New York Times: “Proposal Would Let Charter Schools Certify Their Own Teachers.” This proposal is for some New York charters.

Analysis from Mindwires Consulting’s Michael Feldstein: “‘Alternative Pathways:’ How to Rethink Vocational Education.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “MIT Deems MicroMasters a Success.”

Research from Ithaka S+R on “non-college credentials,” as reported by Inside Higher Ed.

Go, School Sports Team!

Via The New York Times: “110 NFL Brains.” “A neuropathologist has examined the brains of 111 N.F.L. players – and 110 were found to have C.T.E., the degenerative disease linked to repeated blows to the head.” In addition to looking at NFL players’ brains, the researchers also look at those of high school players and found evidence of CTE there too.

Via ESPN: “Ravens OL John Urschel, 26, retires abruptly, two days after CTE study.” Urschel is getting his PhD in math at MIT.

Are folks in Texas paying attention to the danger they’re exposing their kids to? Probably not. Via The LA Times: “After Texas high school builds $60-million stadium, rival district plans one for nearly $70 million.”

Meanwhile in that other big football state, Nebraska, the World Herald reports that “Sherwood Foundation buys data-tracking helmets for every OPS high school football player.” OPS = the Omaha Public Schools

From the HR Department

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Steven Salaita, Whose Revoked Job Offer Inflamed Higher Ed, Says He’s Leaving Academe.”

USC says it will fire Carmen Puliafito, the former dean of its medical school and the center of a LA Times investigation into his drug use and partying.

Ed-Tech Magazine asks “How Diverse Is the Higher Ed IT Workforce?” Spoiler alert: not very.

Every once in a while – well actually, pretty often – someone has to trot out a Steve Jobs quote in order to justify their vision for the future of education. So this, from the American Enterprise Institute, is completely unsurprising: “School-choice advocate Steve Jobs in 1995: ‘The unions are the worst thing that ever happened to education’.”

The Business of Job Training

“Big Venture Investments in HR Startups & What it Means for Education” by Learn Capital’s Tom Vander Ark.

Contests and Awards

Via Techcrunch: “Microsoft’s Imagine Cup crowns its 15th winner, the X.GLU smart glucose meter for kids.”

This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

Are MOOCs, Bootcamps and Other Alternative Education Options Effective?asks US News & World Report.

Should big data be used to discourage poor students from university?asks ZDNet.

Are iPads and laptops improving students’ test scores?asks the Pioneer Press.

Can personalized learning prevail?asks Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Is higher ed creating the next dropout factories?asks Education Dive.

(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 Ed Week’s Market Brief: “African Ed-Tech Incubator Aims to Set Companies, and Students, on Winning Path.” The incubator, which claims to be the first on the continent, is led by Jamie Martin, an advisor to former UK education secretary Michael Gove so this all sounds awful.

Speaking of imperialism, The Guardian covers a report from Global Media which describes Facebook’s Free Basics program as “digital colonialism.” “Facebook is not introducing people to open internet where you can learn, create and build things. It’s building this little web that turns the user into a mostly passive consumer of mostly western corporate content,” says Ellery Biddle, Global Voices’ advocacy director.

As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg travels around the US to “learn about people’s challenges,” one of his employees, living out a a garage, suggests maybe Zuck pay attention to inequalities in his own backyard.

The New York Times profiles the Horowitz family: son Ben is part of the famous venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, father David is a right-wing activist.

The New York Times continues its coverage of the awfulness of tech companies’ employee policies: “Abuses Hide in the Silence of
Nondisparagement Agreements.”

Inc lists “5 Entrepreneurs That Are Shaking Up Education” and includes the CEO of Blackboard. Oh Inc. Never change.

“A Tech Bubble Killed Computer Science Once, Can It Do So Again?” asks IEEE.

Microsoft plans to axe Microsoft Paint.

Adobe plans to axe Flash.

As schools move to digital-only, encouraged of course by the ideology of “innovation,” it’s important to remember how fragile this makes resources. The Harvard Library Innovation Lab on link rot: “A Million Squandered: The ‘Million Dollar Homepage’ as a Decaying Digital Artifact.”

Related: Michael Caulfield makes “A Call to Info-Environmentalism.”

Elsewhere in media literacy, the AP reports thatTexas educators work to use technology to fight fake news.”

Via Edsurge: “Google and Digital Promise Reimagine Teacher Tech Training with New National Program.”

Via Education Week: “Google Launches $50 Million Effort on the Future of Work.”

Virtual Reality and education: some thoughts” from Tony Bates.

Via Campus Technology: “2017 Ed Tech Trends: The Halfway Point.” VR, AI, etc.

Via the press release: “Canvas Announces Skill for Amazon Alexa.” Because everyone’s just dying to interact with the LMS through their home surveillance device.

Bloomberg interviews the CEO of SnapAsk: “Bringing the Uber Model to Online Tutoring.” At this stage, any company that compares themselves to Uber is out of their mind.

“These Kids Are Learning CRISPR At Summer Camp,” Motherboard reports. What could possibly go wrong?

Via Edsurge: “Global STEM Alliance is Encouraging Students to be a New Kind of Billionaire.” “A new kind of billionaire” is this bullshit: “The new definition of a billionaire is a person or group of people, that can touch, teach or influence a billion people.”

Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

Artificial intelligence holds great potential for both students and teachers – but only if used wisely,” say Simon Knight and Simon Buckingham Shum writing in The Conversation.

From the Raspberry Pi blog: “IoT Sleepbuddy, the robotic babysitter.”

Via Campus Technology: “Carnegie Mellon Debuts Initiative to Combine Disparate AI Research.”

Also via Campus Technology: “Stanford Launches Platform Lab for Centralized Control of Autonomous Cars, Drones.”

Also via Campus Technology: “2 Cornell U Teams Land up to $15 Million to Study AI, Autonomous Systems.”

More details on the funding news below by here’s the headline from the press release: “Liulishuo raises approximately $100M in Series C funding to extend its lead in building smart AI English teachers.”

Tutorbots are here,” says Donald Clark, listing “7 ways they could change the learning landscape.”

(Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform

Non Profit Quarterly looks at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s plans for education. (Or what we can glean about the plans, considering the investment company’s lack of transparency.)

Laurene Powell Jobs (widow of Steve Jobs) has bought a majority stake in The Atlantic, so I guess there’ll be a lot more stories there about how awesome ed-tech is.

Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

BYJU’s has raised an undisclosed amount of money from Tencent. The test prep company has raised at least $204 million in funding.

Liulishuo has raised $100 million in Series C funding from China Media Capital, Wu Capital, Cherubic Ventures, GGV Capital, Hearst Ventures, IDG Capital Partners, and Trustbridge Partners. It’s not known how much the English language-learning company has previously raised.

Duolingo has raised $25 million in Series E funding from Drive Capital. The language learning app has raised $108.3 million total.

Signal Vine has raised $2 million in Series A funding from New Markets Venture Partners. The messaging company has raised $2.25 million total.

PlayAblo has raised $600,000 from ABI-Showatech for its “gamified learning experience.”

Frontline Education has acquired the School Improvement Network. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Not an ed-tech update, but it’s a business of tech update so I’ll include it here. Via The New York Times: “Facebook’s Profit and Revenue Surge, Despite Company Predictions of a Slowdown.”

Also not an ed-tech update, but also a story that’s relevant to the business of tech and the business of ed reform: “Move Over, Bill Gates. Jeff Bezos Gets a Turn as World’s Richest Person,” The New York Times reports. Briefly. Just briefly. As Amazon’s stock price fell below $1063 a share, Gates took the top spot back.

More details on Betsy DeVos’s investment in Neurocore in the politics section above.

Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Measuring Clicks, Emotions, and Brain Waves: Student Recruitment Keeps Evolving.” So, it’s like advertising but with even more privacy invasion.

Via Ed Week’s Market Brief: “Predictive Analytics in Ed-Tech Create New Questions in K–12, Higher Ed” – a dispatch from an Education Technology Industry Network event.

Speaking of predictive analytics, this by The Atlantic’s Adrienne LaFrance raises a lot of questions about kids (and advertising) and algorithms: “The Algorithm That Makes Preschoolers Obsessed With YouTube.”

From the press release: “Big Data Analysis Helps Students Choose College Majors.”

Proctoring company Proctorio says it now integrates with Google Classroom – something in the press release about “complimentary exam integrity.”

Speaking of Google and surveillance, "Google Glass 2.0 Is a Startling Second Act, says Wired’s Steven Levy. The spyware will be used in factories. I guess that means it’ll be used in schools since they rely on a factory model of education?

Via Honi Soit: “University abandons Cadmus anti-cheating software.” The university in question: University of Sydney. The software would have registered students’ locations when using the app to write essays.

Via PC Mag: “FBI: Your Kid’s Internet-Connected Toys Might Be Spying on Them.”

There’s another Internet-connected spy story in the upgrade/downgrade section above – something about the LMS Canvas and Alexa.

Data and “Research”

Edsurge looks at the “Board of Directors for 20 Best Funded Private US Edtech Companies.” Shocking: there are very few women on these boards.

The investment analysts at CB Insights report that “Kid-Friendly: Baby And Children’s Tech Startups On Track To Reach Five-Year Deal High.” (It’s challenging, I think, to separate “kid tech” from “ed-tech,” in part because the latter is increasingly consumer-focused and is often not about “learning” in the first place.)

Edsurge reports that “Fueled by Big Rounds, US Edtech Funding Surges to $887M in First Half of 2017.” By my calculations, the number is higher: $1.4 billion. But I insist on including student loan startups.

Via The Chronicle of Philanthropy: “Nonprofits with large endowments are collecting more than twice as much money as they are spending on grants, facilities, and administrative and other costs, a new data analysis of 1,600 organizations by The Chronicle shows.” Among the big endowments: Liberty University and the NCAA.

Via WaPo’s Valerie Strauss: “ Neil deGrasse Tyson blames U.S. schools for flat-Earthers – and teachers aren’t amused.”

Pro tip: do not include fMRIs in your slides in order to justify whatever you want to say about education reform and education technology by what you think these images say about attention, engagement, cognition, brain activity, etc.

Via Education Week: “Social-Emotional-Learning Researchers Gather Input From Educators.”

Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “New Guidance on Conducting Research Unveiled for Ed-Tech Companies.” The guidance comes from the Education Technology Industry Network, a division of the Software & Information Industry Association.

Like the “What Works Clearinghouse,” except not – USC’s Morgan Polikoff on “The Don’t Do It Depository.”

For $500 you can buy the report from the Serious Play Conference that outlines the future of game-based learning and predicts these products will have $8.1 billion in revenue by 2022.

Campus Technology says that that famous predictor Gartner predicts that IT spending is going to hit $3.5 trillion in 2017.

Mindwires Consulting’s Phil Hill offers some data on Google Classroom adoption in higher ed.

Via WalletHub: “2017’s Most & Least Educated Cities in America.”

Via Education Week: “U.S. Children Gain Ground in Home Supports, Federal Data Show.”

Inside Higher Ed on a new study on the connection between tuition and state funding: “For every $1,000 cut from per-student state and local appropriations, the average student can be expected to pay $257 more per year in tuition and fees – and the rate is rising.”

Via NPR: “College Tuition Grows At Slowest Pace In Decades.”

The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson invokes T. S. Eliot. “This is the Way the College ‘Bubble’ Ends. Not with a pop, but a hiss.”

“The Online College Students 2017: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences” – a survey from The Learning House Inc and Aslanian Market Research.

More data on for-profit higher ed enrollment in the for-profit higher ed section above.

Some interesting statistics about education from The Economist’s recent article on China and Africa:

…in 2014 the number of African students in China surpassed the number studying in either Britain or America, the traditional destinations for English-speakers (France still beats all three, however). Much of the growth is because China has given tens of thousands of scholarships to African students, the academics say.

Bridge International Academies touts research by Bridge International Academies that Bridge International Academies improves student outcomes in Liberia.

“Why the Myth of Meritocracy Hurts Kids of Color” by Melinda D. Anderson in The Atlantic.

Ravens can plan for future as well as 4-year-old children can,” says New Scientist.

Icon credits: The Noun Project

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Why Are Coding Bootcamps Going Out of Business?

Within the past week, two coding bootcamps have announced they’d be closing their doors: Dev Bootcamp, owned by Kaplan Inc., and The Iron Yard, owned by the Apollo Education Group (parent company of the University of Phoenix). Two closures might not make a trend… yet. But some industry observers have suggested we might see more consolidation and closures in the coming months.

It appears that there are simply more coding bootcamps – almost 100 across the US and Canada – than there are students looking to learn to code. (That is to say, there are more coding bootcamps than there are people looking to pay, on average, $11,000 for certification following 12 weeks of intensive training in a programming language or framework).

All this runs counter, of course, to the pervasive belief in a “skills gap” – that there aren’t enough qualified programmers to fill all the programming jobs out there, and that as such, folks looking for work should jump at the chance to pay for tuition at a bootcamp. Code.org and other industry groups have suggested that there are currently some 500,000 unfilled computing jobs. But that number is more invention than reality, a statistic used to further a particular narrative about the failure of schools to offer adequate technical training. That 500,000 figure, incidentally, comes from a Bureau of Labor Statistics projection about the number of computing and IT jobs that will added to the US economy by 2024, not the number of jobs that are available – filled or unfilled – today.

Perhaps instead of “everyone should learn to code,” we should push for everyone to learn how to read the BLS jobs report.

There isn’t really much evidence of a “skills gap” – there’s been no substantive growth in wages, for example, that one would expect if there was a shortage in the supply of qualified workers. And while we can talk about jobs that will be added to the overall economy in the coming years, it’s important to remember that the job market isn’t national; it’s local. A Haskell programmer in Silicon Valley might earn $250,000 a year, for example; a Haskell programmer in Des Moines probably won’t. Hell, there might not be any Haskell jobs in all of Iowa.

For its part, Dev Bootcamp had coding bootcamps in Austin, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. The Iron Yard had coding bootcamps in Atlanta, Austin, Charleston, Dallas, Durham, Greenville, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Nashville, Orlando, Raleigh, Tampa Bay, and Washington DC. (An Iron Yard location in Detroit had already closed its doors.) In all these locations, the bootcamps boasted that they were working with high profile local employers. But the question remains: did local employers really want or need bootcamp grads? Or rather, there are (at least) two questions: were there a sufficient number of tech jobs in these cities to make the bootcamp tuition and time spent worthwhile; and was the training at a bootcamp sufficient to get hired?

In December of last year, Bloomberg published a warning to prospective students: “Want a Job in Silicon Valley? Keep Away From Coding Schools.” The article contended that many companies have found coding bootcamp grads unprepared for technical work: “These tech bootcamps are a freaking joke,” one tech recruiter told the publication. “My clients are looking for a solid CS degree from a reputable university or relevant work experience.” Google’s director of education echoed this sentiment: “Our experience has found that most graduates from these programs are not quite prepared for software engineering roles at Google without additional training or previous programming roles in the industry.”

Of course, with all these regional schools, the bootcamps aren’t really training employees for work in the Bay Area (although I think that is part of their marketing – get a certificate, and you can land a job with a famous tech company). And despite the poor reputation bootcamps might have among some tech firms, Course Report, a review site for bootcamps, touts these schools’ successful job placement rates. Course Report claims that among those graduates it surveyed, 73% had found full-time employment using the skills they’d learned, and those had seen an average salary increase of $26,000. No doubt, it’s worth pointing out that there is very little independent research to validate these sorts of claims – much of the research is industry-sponsored, and much of the data, self-reported.

Also worth noting: that of those surveyed by Course Report, 60% already had bachelor’s degrees. Arguably, this makes the bootcamp certification more of an addition to the college degree than a substitute for one. And this complicates any discussion of credentialing and hiring – does someone land a programming job because she or he has a college degree or because she or he has a coding bootcamp certificate? How might gender and race play into this?

How might the school itself play into this? I don’t just mean coding bootcamps in general, but specific bootcamp brands. Brands like Dev Bootcamp and The Iron Yard, obviously, have taken a hit to their “legitimacy” by closing – I’m borrowing this term from sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom – but these schools were also associated with what McMillan Cottom calls “lower ed” in the first place. That is, they’d become subsidiaries of the for-profit colleges Kaplan and the University of Phoenix respectively – coding bootcamps as “the new for-profit higher ed.” Does that association matter to bootcamp students, and just as importantly, does that association matter to employers?

For-profit higher ed has been in the news a lot in the last couple of years, and the news hasn’t been so good: stories about the high rate of student loan debt, charges of fraudulent marketing, and the closures of chains like Corinthian Colleges and ITT (a technical college, to boot). According to one study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the average student at a for-profit college is actually worse off after attending. That is, these students are less likely to be employed; and if they do have jobs, they are more likely to earn less.

But of course the “average student” at a for-profit college is not the same as the “average student” at a coding bootcamp. As McMillan Cottom documents in her book Lower Ed, “the typical for-profit college student is a woman and a parent. For-profit colleges dominate in producing black bachelor’s degree holders.” According to the latest survey (again, survey) from Course Report, 55% of bootcamp students are male; 70% are white. 39% paid for their bootcamp tuition themselves; and 17% took out loans. 96% of those enrolled for-profit colleges, by comparison, take out loans.

Much of the latter is federal loan money. Bootcamps, on the other hand, are not eligible for federal financial aid. The Obama Administration did launch a pilot program – the Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) initiative – to evaluate the possibility of “non-traditional providers” like bootcamps becoming aid-eligible. But there’s been no word from the Trump Administration if this will be continued or expanded. (Among those bootcamps participating: The Flatiron School in partnership with SUNY Empire State College, MakerSquare in partnership with the University of Texas Austin, HackerRank in partnership with Wilmington University, and Epicodus in partnership with Marylhurst University.) Perhaps bootcamps (and their investors) were hoping that federal financial aid would subsidize their operations like it has done the rest of for-profit higher ed; but that money hasn’t materialized.

Nevertheless, coding bootcamps – and “learn-to-code” startups more generally – remain one of the most active areas for ed-tech investment. Over $70 million in venture capital has been funneled in coding bootcamps so far in 2017. But unlike in previous years, there have yet to be any big acquisitions in the industry this year. In 2016, Capella Education, another for-profit college chain, acquired the bootcamps Hackbright Academy and Dev Mountain; and fellow for-profit Strayer Education acquired the New York Code and Design Academy. (Other 2016 bootcamp buys: General Assembly acquired Bitmaker, Bloc acquired DevBridge, and Full Stack Academy acquired Starter League.) There’s been some criticism of those bootcamp founders who sold their companies to these for-profits and subsequently “checked out,” allowing the quality of their offerings to suffer. But that’s likely what happens if your company raises venture capital: a bigger company buys you (and crushes you).

When Dev Bootcamp announced it was closing, the company admitted that it had been “unable to find a sustainable model” that didn’t compromise its vision for “high-quality, immersive coding training that is broadly accessible to a diverse population.” Indeed, despite the tech industry’s disdain for the education system and particularly for the politics of its (unionized) labor force, “high-quality, immersive coding training” is going to be an expensive, labor-intensive proposition. For its part, the for-profit higher education industry has not been known to invest heavily in instruction; its dollars – primarily federal financial aid dollars at that – have gone instead to marketing and recruitment.

So it may just be that the business of teaching everyone to code (and to code well and to do so without federal dollars) isn’t a very good business at all, particularly at the sort of scale that for-profit higher ed chains – career colleges and coding bootcamps alike – have come to expect.

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Hack Education Weekly News

(National) Education Politics

US Secretary of Education spoke to ALEC this week. The American Legislative Exchange Council is a right-wing organization that pens model legislation, including the “Stand Your Ground” gun laws, anti-union legislation, and laws that expand virtual schools. (Here’s a list of education organizations that are members or sponsors.) Betsy DeVos has previously invested in K–12 Inc, a prominent ALEC member. Education Week reminds us “Why Betsy DeVos and ALEC Are Natural Allies on School Choice.”

The Department of Education released DeVos’s remarks to ALEC, which include an invocation of Margaret Thatcher’s famous quotation “There is no such thing as society.”

Via The Washington Post: “DeVos tells conservative lawmakers what they like to hear: More local control, school choice.” Protestors were outside the meeting in force.

“Local control,” sure. But as Education Week reports, “States Bristle as DeVos Ed. Dept. Critiques Their ESSA Plans.”

Elsewhere in irony, WaPo’s Valerie Strauss writes about “The deep irony in Betsy DeVos’s first speech on special education.”

President Trump Made a Promise to Black Colleges. It Hasn’t Happened,” writes The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Adam Harris.

Via Politico: “DeVos: Civil rights office will return to being a ‘neutral’ agency.” I do not know what it means to be “neutral” on civil rights unless you just replace “neutral” with “whiteness.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “More than 50 groups have signed a letter demanding that Candice E. Jackson, acting assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education, reject a statement she made this month in a New York Times interview. Ms. Jackson told the newspaper that ‘90 percent’ of campus sexual-assault accusations resulted from an accuser’s regret over a sexual encounter.” Also from CHE: “Key Democrat Calls for DeVos to Remove Top Civil-Rights Official.”

Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “White House Touts FCC Chair’s Plan to Scale Back Net Neutrality.”

Inside Higher Ed reports that “The Republican budget resolution envisions more than $236 billion in cuts to mandatory spending for education programs over 10 years.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The House veterans affairs committee on Wednesday unanimously approved an update to the Post–9/11 GI Bill, an ambitious package of legislation that would lift the lifetime time limit on use of benefits and restore aid for veterans affected by closures of for-profit colleges, among other provisions.”

The Kenyan Ministry of Education says that the Bridge International Academies are not complying with the country’s laws, and the company, which runs chains of schools across the developing world, has not received approval for its curriculum.

Africa is a Country continues its coverage of Bridge, “Why is Liberia’s Government rushing to sell its public schools to U.S. for-profits?”

Of course none of this – not Africa is a Country’s excellent reporting nor Peg Tyre’s recent story in the NYT – stops Nicholas Kristof from touting Bridge as a “solution.”

(State and Local) Education Politics

Via Education Week: “Minecraft Party to Raise Money for Technology in Philly Schools.”

Via Chalkbeat: “New York City continues to lose track of thousands of school computers, audit finds.”

Immigration and Education

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Twelve higher education associations this week registered ‘serious concern’ about a proposal under consideration at the Department of Homeland Security that would require international students to reapply annually for permission to stay in the U.S.”

Education in the Courts

Via NBC: “Arizona: Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination In Mexican American Studies Ban Back in Court.”

The curriculum company Great Minds is appealing a lawsuit in which it claimed that FedEx had violated the “open” in its open educational resources by making copies.

Via The Washington Post: “Iran sentences Princeton graduate student to 10 years for espionage, report says.”

Testing, Testing…

Via Education Week: “Thousands of English-Learners Fall Short on Test of Language Skills.” The test in question in ACCESS 2.0, which recently changed how it was scored.

More colleges are going “test optional” for applicants: Dominican College, High Point University, the University of Evansville, and Hanover College.

The Business of Student Loans

Via The New York Times: “As Paperwork Goes Missing, Private Student Loan Debts May Be Wiped Away.”

Via NPR: “Private Student Loans: The Rise And Fall (And Rise Again?)” (Sallie Mae says that student borrowing is rising.)

Via NPR: “Teachers With Student Debt: The Struggle, The Causes And What Comes Next.”

There’s more research on student debt in the research section below.

The “New” For-Profit Higher Ed

Via Edsurge: “Dev Bootcamp Community Reacts to Closure Decision.” (Disclosure alert.)

Via The San Francisco Chronicle: “Dev Bootcamp couldn’t tough out industry shakeout.”

The Iron Yard announced this week that it will also be closing. This coding bootcamp was acquired by the University of Phoenix’s parent company, Apollo Education Group, in 2015.

“Troubled Colleges Rebrand Under Faux-Latin Names,” Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy reports. The for-profit Everest College is now “Altierus,” and DeVry is “Adtalem.”

Online Education and the Once and Future “MOOC”

The LA Times asks, “ In this digital self-help age, just how effective are MasterClass’s A-list celebrity workshops?”

Campus Technology rewrites the press release that Examity will be used for identify verification and proctoring in edX classes.

Coursera has a new partner, the insurance company AXA, which will offer some 300 Coursera classes to its employees.

“What if the US had an OU?” the Open University’s Martin Weller asks.

Meanwhile on Campus…

This LA Times story is something else: “An overdose, a young companion, drug-fueled parties: The secret life of USC med school dean.”

Anya Kamenetz interviews Purdue’s president Mitch Daniels about the future of higher ed.

Campus Reform continues to make accusations against professors and stir up hate mobs against them. From The Chronicle of Higher Education: “A Case of Mistaken Identity Spurs Hateful Messages for a Sikh Professor.”

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “U. of Central Florida Student Says He Was Suspended for Viral Tweet of Ex’s Apology.”

“My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges – and I almost lost myself in the process,” writes Anisah Karim. This is a good example of why we should be more critical when we hear about schools that boast everyone was admitted to college – at what cost?

“Students who can’t afford uniforms in New Orleans all-charter-system are routinely barred from attending school. And their parents can end up in jail,” AlterNet reports.

Via NPR: “When Black Hair Violates The Dress Code.”

“My Black Stepson Is Proof That Our Schools Put White Culture First” by Andre Perry. Important thoughts here on social emotional learning and structural racism.

Via The Washington Post: “Some D.C. high schools are reporting only a fraction of suspensions.”

Via Education Week: “For Principals, Student Sexting a Speeding ‘Freight Train,’ Full of Peril.”

Accreditation and Certification

Credly Receives Open Badges Certification,” Campus Technology reports.

Go, School Sports Team!

Hugh Freeze resigns as Ole Miss’ football coach,” The Clarion-Ledger reports. The move comes after it was revealed he made a call to an escort service.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “Former National Football League player and current Fox NFL analyst Chris Spielman has filed a federal lawsuit against his alma mater, Ohio State University, claiming his image and those of other athletes were used without permission.”

Via Deadspin: “Teens Discover The Boston Garden Has Ignored Law For Decades, May Owe State Millions.”

From the HR Department

Rebecca Schuman is back with her annual “Rate My JIL,” where she skewers the higher ed job market. She takes on a job posting at the University of Illinois Chicago that pays just $28K, for starters. IHE writes about the “outcry,” and “Dean Dad” Matt Reed responds with his own “speculative postmortem.”

Former Under Secretary of Education and former NewSchools Venture Fund CEO Ted Mitchell is the new head of the lobbying group American Council on Education (ACE).

Via Patheos: “BYU-Idaho Professor Fired After Defending LGBT Rights in Private Facebook Post.”

Personalized learningequals cutting the teacher workforce in Oklahoma.

Via NPR: “Number Of Teens Working Summer Jobs Declines.”

The Business of Job Training

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Ads Spell Out What Career and Technical Education Really Is – and Who It’s For.”

Stanford University’s Larry Cuban publishes part 3 of his series “Coding: The New Vocationalism.”

Edsurge investigates the validity of a claim it published that “people will change careers 15 times over their lifetimes.” Perhaps fact-check these sorts of things before publishing them?

Via the Google blog: “Google introduces Hire, a new recruiting app that integrates with G Suite.”

Google boasts about teaching skills” using VR.

Sound the “factory model of education klaxon”! Edsurge on “Bridging the School-to-Business Gap: What Public Schools Can Learn From Industry.”

Contests and Competitions

Via NPR: “Students Compete In First-Ever International High School Robotics Competition.”

The New York Times reports that “Burundi Robotics Team Vanishes After U.S. Competition.” Authorities do not believe foul play is involved – two of the students were seen crossing into Canada.

Via Techcrunch: “Literacy XPRIZE starts field tests of semifinalist apps in LA, Philadelphia and Dallas.”

This Week in Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

Will Virtual Reality Drive Deeper Learning?” asks Edutopia.

Is gender inequality in technology a good thing?” asks Donald Clark, using “neurodiversity” as an excuse to justify the ongoing exclusion of women from the field.

Can predictive analytics help higher ed save $1M a year?” asks Education Dive.

(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

Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla insists that “Venture capital has less sexual harassment than other industries.” (Khosla’s education portfolio includes Kiddom, Affirm, Bridge International Academies, littleBit, and Piazza. His wife is the co-founder of OER organization CK–12.)

Via Wired’s Nitasha Tiku: “VC Firms Promise to Stamp Out Sexual Harassment. Sounds Familiar.” That is, it sounds a lot like the industry’s promises to address diversity.

The Teaching Channel, a video-based professional development organization heavily backed by the Gates Foundation, is becoming a for-profit company.

Via KQED’s Mindshift: “MIT’s Scratch Program Is Evolving For Greater, More Mobile Creativity.”

Via Edsurge: “Amazon Inspire Goes Live (But Without Controversial Share Feature).”

The Verge profiles the SocialStar Creator Camp, a summer camp for teens wanting to become viral Internet stars.

“Together, technology and teachers can revamp schools,” says The Economist, touting Skinner’s work – it’s like the author read my work but didn’t really read my work.

Via Education Week: “Personalized Learning: ‘A Cautionary Tale’.”

eCampus News offers “9 online learning predictions for the upcoming term.” The list includes cloud computing, ffs.

It’s 2017, and ed-tech is so “disruptive” that we’re still debating the LMS, a technology that is at least 30 years old (and that’s just if you date it to the founding of Blackboard. It’s about 50 years old if you recognize some of PLATO’s functionality is LMS-like.) From WCET: “In Defense of the LMS.” Via Bryan Alexander: “Moodle and the next LMS: reflections and more questions.” Brian Lamb and Jim Groom offers some challenges to the next generation digital learning environment (NGDLE) – because if all else fails, go with a new acronym. More on the LMS in the research section below.

Speaking of a very strange sense of history: most of these items touted by Edsurge as “90s ed-tech” were not invented in the 1990s.

Robots and Other Ed-Tech SF

Let Robots Teach American Schoolkids,” says George Mason University economics professor Tyler Cowen. Hell, why not let robots teach economics at George Mason University?!

Via Edsurge: “At Louisville Summer Camps, Robots Meet Literacy to Support Vulnerable Students.” (Disclosure alert.)

More on robots in the contest section above.

(Venture) Philanthropy and the Business of Ed Reform

Who’s received Gates Foundation grant money since 1998? I’ve published descriptions of the 3000+ grants here.

Venture Capital and the Business of Ed-Tech

University World News reports that the private equity firm has invested $275 million to build a platform for African universities – Honoris United Universities.

Kahoot has raised $10 million in Series A funding from Creandum, Northzone, and Microsoft Ventures. The gaming company has raised $26.5 million total. Edsurge reports it’s also joined the Disney Accelerator program.

Ironhack has raised $3 million in Series A funding form JME Venture Capital. It’s another coding bootcamp. Good luck, guys.

Career development company Learnerbly has raised $2.09 million in seed funding from Frontline Ventures, Claire Davenport, Future Planet Capital, Jason Stockwood, London Co-Investment Fund, Playfair Capital, Renaud Visage, R Ventures, and Stephan Thomas.

PeopleGrove has raised $1.8 million in seed funding from Reach Capital, Bisk Ventures, Collaborative Fund, FLOODGATE, GSV Acceleration, Karl Ulrich, LaunchCapital, RiverPark Ventures, and University Ventures. The mentorship platform has raised $2.53 million total.

KickUp has raised $730,000 in seed funding from Red House Education. The professional development company has raised $2.27 million total.

Escape Technology has raised an undisclosed amount of money from Alpine Investors.

Advertising company AcademixDirect has acquired “career exploration app” PathSource.

Silverback Learning has acquired testing company EdifyAssess.

Privacy, Surveillance, and Information Security

Schools collect more data, but how is it used?” asks The Hechinger Report’s Nichole Dobo.

From the Ed-Fi Alliance’s blog: “The Ed-Fi Alliance Releases Evolutionary Data Standard v2.1.”

Via Campus Technology: “Average Cost Per Record of US Data Breach in Ed: $245.”

Via Education Week: “University, middle school partner on cybersecurity education.”

Data and “Research”

According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of colleges and universities eligible to award financial aid has fallen precipitously in the last year. “The Culling of Higher Ed Begins,” says Inside Higher Ed. “Numerous schools shut down programs due to the threat of the Obama administration’s ‘gainful employment’ rules, which yank financial aid eligibility from for-profit college programs where students take on too much debt and earn little in return,” Buzzfeed points out.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “A new report from Third Way, a centrist think tank, attempts to measure higher education’s performance across sectors and types of institutions. The group used federal data on completion, students’ earnings six years after enrollment and loan repayment rates. The report features aggregate figures for four-year institutions, community colleges and certificate-granting institutions, with breakouts by sector.”

“Research for Action has released the results of a two-year examination of three states’ performance-based funding formulas for public colleges,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Via Edsurge: “How Much Do Educators Care About Edtech Efficacy? Less Than You Might Think.”

Via Edsurge: “‘Precision Education’ Hopes to Apply Big Data to Lift Diverse Student Groups.” (This headline pairs nicely with the one above and one below, don’t you think?)

Via EdWeek’s Market Brief: “Adaptive Learning Products Gain Ground in K–12, Market Survey Finds.”

Code.org boasts that “Girls set AP Computer Science record…skyrocketing growth outpaces boys.” The industry-backed group is taking credit for the increase in the number of AP CS test-takers. There’s a nifty infographic, which Melinda Gates shared on Twitter. (No disclosure in the Edsurge coverage that the College Board, Code.org, and Edsurge itself are all backed by Gates Foundation money.) Like Tim Stahmer, I have some questions about that graph. I mean, the number of AP exams in CS recently doubled too. Is it that surprising that, in turn, the number of exams taken grew as well? How well are these students doing in the AP courses (and not just on the exam)? And “why are underrepresented minorities and poor over-represented in Code.org courses?” Mark Guzdial asks.

Well, I suppose Senator John McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis was bound to elicit these sorts of stories. From The Atlantic: “Do Cellphones Cause Brain Cancer or Not?”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “An overwhelming majority of colleges and universities did not change priority aid deadlines in response to an earlier financial aid cycle last year, according to a survey of member institutions by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.”

“A new research paper finds that excess credit hour policies don’t lead to completion, just more student debt,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “A new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that rising student debt levels are a substantial contributor to the decline in home ownership among young Americans.”

Mindwire Consulting’s Phil Hill provides data on the “Academic LMS Market Share By Enrollments” – part 1 and part 2.

“Why Americans Think So Poorly of the Country’s Schools” – Jack Schneider on polls and surveys about public education.

The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that the Campaign for Accountability has had to update its list of scholars who’ve been funded by Google, due to a number of criticisms and flaws in the data. Worth noting: the group is funded by Google’s arch-nemesis, Oracle.


Maryan Mirzakhani, the first woman to with math’s Field Medal, has died from cancer. A professor at Stanford, she was 40. What a loss.

Icon credits: The Noun Project

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‘Personalized Learning’ and the Power of the Gates Foundation to Shape Education Policy

In early June, I gave a keynote at the OEB MidSummit on the history of "personalization.“ I only had 20 minutes, so it’s a partial history at best. But as ”personalized learning" has become one of the most prominent buzzwords in education technology, I think it’s worth investigating its origins and its trajectory at length.

”Personalized learning" is often tied to the progressive educators of the early twentieth century – to John Dewey and Maria Montessori, for example – even though much of the educational software that’s marketed by Silicon Valley and education reformers as “personalized learning” has very little to do with progressive educational theory, except perhaps at the most superficial level. Sure, there’s an invocation of “choice” and “moving-at-your-own-pace,” but the progenitor for much of today’s “personalized learning” seems to be ad-tech rather than ed-tech.

As part of my Spencer Fellowship, I’m investigating the networks of investors and entrepreneurs who are shaping education technology policies and products, and I’ve decided to focus on how “personalized learning” has come to dominate the narratives surrounding technology-based education reform.

There are two obvious sources of funding and PR for “personalized learning” – the Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The former has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on “personalized learning” products and projects; the latter promises it will spend billions.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative does not list on its website where its money goes. (It’s a for-profit company, not a charitable foundation so it does not fall under the same reporting requirements as the Gates Foundation does.) As such, it’s going to take me some work to piece together exactly what CZI is funding. (Organizations we know have received CZI money: Chiefs for Change, the College Board, Edsurge (to promote personalized learning projects), and tutoring company BYJU’s, for starters.)

The Gates Foundation’s investments in “personalized learning” are much easier to track. And to that end I have a couple of projects of my own to unveil:

The amount of money that the Gates Foundation has awarded in education grants is simply staggering: some $15 billion across some 3000+ grants since the organization was founded in 1998.

The Gates Foundation first started funding grants “to support personalized learning environments where all students achieve” in 2000, and it has backed the development, adoption, and marketing of “personalized learning” every year since then. (It’s not clear when a school gets a grant for “personalized learning” what software it purchases – is that software also funded by the Gates Foundation? I am assuming here that “personalized learning” necessarily means buying software.)

With billions of dollars spent on shaping policies and narratives, the Gates Foundation remains one of the most influential (and anti-democratic) forces in education. As such, it gets to define what “personalized learning” is – what it looks like.

(Still want to insist that “personalized learning” is progressive? Never forget: Bill Gates once called constructionism, progressive educator Seymour Papert’s theory of learning, “bullshit.” Or at least, I’ll never forget…)

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