| NEWS | Digital Education
The online-services giant Google has acknowledged that it collects and mines for commercial purposes a wide range of personal information on student users who log in through its popular Apps for Education service, then venture to the company’s search engine and other products.
“This is the first time that Google has admitted that it is in fact spying on children in schools,” said Joel Reidenberg, a law professor and privacy expert at Fordham and Princeton universities. “They are appropriating [students’] educational login to be able to track students when they use the [account] for non-Apps for Education purposes.”
Industry representatives, however, argue that Google is doing nothing wrong, that the company should be applauded for its increased transparency, and that it appears to be making a good-faith effort to navigate tricky technical waters faced by many large technology companies that provide commercial and educational products and services.
“I think they’re within their right to improve their products by using student information,” said Brendan Desetti, the director of education policy for the Software & Information Industry Association, a Washington-based trade group.
The new information about Google’s practices—brought to light in a letter to U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.—is the latest in a stream of controversies surrounding the company’s handling of student data. In 2014, the company found itself in hot water after Education Week reported that it had acknowledged “scanning and indexing” student email sent using Google Apps for Education, or GAFE. Google officials say the company has since stopped that practice.
But in December, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy-advocacy group, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, alleging in part that the company was using information collected from GAFE users who venture to other Google services in ways that violate the voluntary Student Privacy Pledge. That complaint prompted Franken to demand answers.
The company’s letter stresses that it is up to schools to grant access to students to venture outside GAFE and to secure parental consent for allowing them to do so.
Reidenberg took issue with that. “Number one, school administrators are generally not informed that this is what Google does,” he said. “Second, we have very strong public policies trying to get schoolchildren online for educational purposes and Internet research. If administrators follow those [policies], and kids are logged into Apps for Education, this is letting Google spy on them.”
| NEWS | District Dossier
The superintendent of the Tacoma, Wash., public schools and a middle school principal in Florence, Ala., are this year’s recipients of the Women in School Leadership award at the annual conference of AASA, the School Superintendents Association.
The award “pays tribute to the talent, creativity, and vision of outstanding women educational administrators in the nation’s public schools,” according to the organization.
Carla Santorno, Tacoma’s schools chief since 2012, is a career educator who started as a teacher in Denver. She also had previously served as Seattle’s chief academic officer.
Aimee Rainey, the principal of Florence City Middle School, is Alabama’s current middle school principal of the year. She’s been a principal for 12 years and has led award-winning schools. She served as a member of Alabama’s Commission of AdvanceED, a nonprofit that reviews K-12 school systems, and as a reviewer on the Educational Leadership Constituent Council, which oversees college and university accreditation.
–Denisa R. Superville
| NEWS | Time and Learning
We all get an extra day this year, on Feb. 29, thanks to that astronomical oddity known as leap year. And the people at ExpandED Schools are challenging us to use it wisely.
It’s part of a campaign to raise awareness about the learning gap and the importance of extra instructional time.
“Owning leap day seemed like a really natural fit to honor what we and so many others around the country are doing in terms of advocating for expanded learning time,” said Deb Levy, the group’s communications and marketing head.
The mission of the New York City-based organization is to close the learning gap between students from low-income families and their upper- and middle-class peers by increasing access to extended-learning opportunities.
Levy said that by the time poor children reach 6th grade, they’ve incurred a 6,000-hour learning gap. “This is things like summer camp, after-school activities, and weekend trips to cultural institutions.”
In honor of leap year, ExpandED Schools has put out what’s called a Bonus Day Bucket List, which lists ways people can make the most of the extra day, such as registering to vote or learning to knit.
“It’s just to make people think about what they can do with extra time,” Levy said. “We expand the school day, but it’s not just so kids can sit at a desk longer and be drilled on math and reading. It’s so that they can get exposed to learning experiences that they might not have otherwise. That’s the learning gap that we’re talking about.”
ExpandED Schools is partnering with several companies in New York City to sponsor events or classes on leap day, with the proceeds going to support their programs.
Students at many ExpandED Schools will also participate by taking a group leap on the day that happens every four years.
| NEWS | Politics K-12
Newly minted acting U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. , who has been officially nominated to head up the Department of Education, loves to weave his background as a social studies teacher into his speeches. It turns out King is the first former principal to serve as education secretary—or acting secretary. That got us wondering: How many other former classroom teachers have been at the helm of the department? How many had other sorts of teaching backgrounds?
It seems that just four out of the 11 of the officials who have led the department as secretary or acting secretary since its inception in 1980 were full-time K-12 teachers at one point in their careers, according to our research team. Others, though, had done work in K-12 schools (like serving as a big city superintendent, as did King’s predecessor, Arne Duncan), taught at the university level, or had other K-12 education policy or higher education experience.
Here’s a list of those with actual K-12 classroom experience, put together with the help of Education Week Library Interns Rachel Edelstein and Connor Smith:
• Terrel H. Bell (served under President Ronald Reagan): Taught high school chemistry, physics, and athletics in Eden, Idaho. Plus, he served as the superintendent of a bunch of school districts in the West, including Salt Lake City. And he was the Utah state chief.
• Ted Sanders (served as acting secretary under President George H.W. Bush): Taught in Mountain Home, Idaho, and for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Plus, he was the state chief in Nevada and Illinois (also Ohio after his stint in the cabinet).
• Rod Paige (served under President George W. Bush,): Taught health and physical education, plus was a coach.Later, he became the superintendent of schools in Houston, where he won national superintendent of the year.
• John B. King Jr. (serving as acting secretary under President Barack Obama): Taught high school social studies in Boston and Puerto Rico and co-founded a charter school in Roxbury, Mass. He was also a managing director with the nonprofit Uncommon Schools. And he later served as state chief in New York.
| NEWS | State EdWatch
An unprecedented turnover in state-level educational leadership occurred last year, according to a new report from Achieve, an education advocacy group focused on state-level policy.
In 2015—a year in which 14 new governors and a new District of Columbia mayor took office—31 states got new education chiefs. In addition, there were 95 new state school board members in 33 states, a turnover of almost a fifth of all the country’s state school board members. In all, only seven of the 50 states saw no changes in educational leadership.
And it may not be over. In 2016 alone, there are set to be at least six new governors and two new education chiefs, and many board members’ terms will come to an end this year, the report says.
As Education Week‘s Andrew Ujifusa wrote last year in describing the turnover in state superintendents, the change in leadership could be attributed to several things. Among them: Southern states such as Kentucky and Tennessee flipping from majority Republican to majority Democratic; education becoming more of a political lightning rod; and education leaders’ jobs becoming more complicated and under increased pressure to implement federal education statutes and regulations.
–Daarel Burnette II
| NEWS |Teacher Beat
Could $1 billion make teaching the best job in the world? Well, the U.S. Department of Education is banking that it can at least help make a dent in the perception of teaching as underpaid and not prestigious, anyway: It’s pitching a $1 billion program toward that end as part of its fiscal 2017 budget request.
Under its proposal, districts would use the funds to improve teacher salaries, working conditions, and professional development. Overall, the initiative also aims to help improve the distribution of teacher talent, something the agency has struggled to get states to do.
The federal program, called RESPECT: The Best Job In the World (the acronym stands for “Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching”), would give out competitive grants of $50 million to $250 million to states, which would then offer subgrants to school districts.
Does this all sound a little familiar? Well, as it happens, the department proposed a $1 billion teaching program last year, too (and a $5 billion one several years before that), none of which got any traction in Congress. The new program’s emphasis does seem somewhat different, perhaps because Education Department officials say that it builds on educator feedback from its Teach to Lead project.
Even though this is envisioned as a one-time, mandatory-spending program, funding prospects for it probably aren’t any better than in the past, given Congress’ tepid reaction to the overall budget request.
A version of this article appeared in the February 24, 2016 edition of Education Week as Blogs