Hack Education Weekly News: Pearson, PARCC, and the Public Domain

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A relatively quiet week what with everyone focused on the Mayan Apocalypse, Christmas, and whatnot.

Law and Politics

The state of California has been denied its No Child Left Behind waiver, according to KQED. The Obama Administration has offered these waivers to states, giving them a way out of some of the expectations (improved test scores) and punishments (i.e. losing funding) associated with the G. W. Bush-era education law — provided, that is, that states conform to Obama’s education agenda, including using test scores to assess teachers. The California Teachers Association has refused to accept the latter. 33 states and the District of Columbia have had their waivers approved.

As of January 1, 2013, we can welcome to the public domain (in countries that follow the “life plus 70 years” copyright period) the works of writers and artists like anthoplogists Franz Boas and Bronisław Malinowski and Anne of Green Gables author L. M. Montgomery. Mike Masnick has pulled together the list of new items in the public domain for the U.S. — empty. “Yeah. It looks suspiciously like last year’s list. And the year before that. And before that. And so on. Oh, and also… I hate to ruin the surprise, but next year’s list? Pretty much the same. Year after that? Yeah, that too. For anyone who actually understands the value of the public domain in enriching and enhancing culture, the fact that the US – at the behest of the entertainment industry, which has often mined the public domain for its own works – isn’t just shameful, it’s downright despicable. We’re stifling our own culture.”

After a long silence following the mass killings at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticutt, the NRA has now offered its proposal to help keep this sort of thing from happening again in the future: more guns at schools. “If it’s crazy to call for putting police in and securing our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy,” said spokesperson Wayne LaPierre. Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter opted instead to call it “a completely dumbass idea.” (The idea. Not LaPierre.)

Tech and Testing

PARCC (the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), one of two organizations prepping the Common Core State Standards-related assessments, reached a number of agreements in its recent December meeting, including approving the minimum technology standards for administering computer-based assessments. Specs include processor speed (1 GHz or higher), screen size (9.5” or higher — so sorry, no test-taking on your Androids, kids), the operating system), and operating systems (e.g. Windows 7 or higher)

Funding and Acquisitions

Education giant Pearson has purchased a 5% stake in NOOK Media, which was spun off of Barnes & Noble earlier this year. When it did so, Microsoft also took a stake in the company (about 17%). According to the press release, Pearson says that “with this investment we have entered into a commercial agreement with NOOK Media that will allow our two companies to work closely together in order to create a more seamless and effective experience for students." The Wall Street Journal cites an unnamed analyst who calls the trio of B&N, Pearson, and Microsoft an "online education dream team." Hahahahahahahahaha. Um. No.

Research and Data

A competition on the machine learning site Kaggle is looking for folks to “visually uncover trends in the Colorado public school system” by using 3 years of school grading data supplied by the Colorado Department of Education. The prize is $5000. The deadline, January 19.

Photo credits: Audrey Watters



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