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EdTech Thoughts 1/2 - 1/8
Bring back Blue Books
And we’re back! I hope you all had a relaxing end of the year and are re-charged for all 2023 may offer.
If you signed up over the holiday break, a reminder of what this newsletter is:
Ed Tech Thoughts is a short ( ~ 5 mins), weekly overview of the top stories in EdTech, with a few (hopefully interesting) gut reactions attached.
For longtime readers, today’s post is a normal roundup, not my promised end-of-year post. That is coming later this week in a format I am very excited about ; )
On to the news!
Funding / M&A
Note: funding announcements are, characteristically, a little slow at the beginning of the year. I expect to see more volume in the coming weeks
Eduvanz raises $12.6M: Mumbai-based Eduvanz provides loans for schooling, test prep, and upskilling in India. The round is an extension of August 2021’s Series B fundraise. There are a lot of potential reasons for a company to raise an extension round rather than a new round, which I expect to dig into as more are announced this year. In Eduvanz’s case, the article shows expenses scaling closely with revenue, implying that the company may still be working out its long-term customer acquisition strategy
Schola raises $10M: Phoenix-based Schola helps K12 schools in the US recruit and enroll students. It does so by letting parents segment school options by needs and interests. While Schola is based in the school choice hotbed state of Arizona, their CEO cites New York and Los Angeles as its fastest-growing markets. I would be curious to learn more about the company’s growth in Florida and Arksansas too
Uolo acquires Tekie: Fresh off announcing $22.5M in venture funding, this is the first of what Uolo would like to be many acquisitions. It looks like this deal was mostly about customer acquisition, as Tekie’s coding curriculum product overlaps with Uolo’s
H2 2022 EdTech funding in India overview: Not a funding round itself, but a helpful overview of a country that is of increasing importance to the EdTech ecosystem
Bring back Blue Books
My solution to the chatGPT cheating debate is that we should bring back Blue Books.
I mean this (mostly) seriously. Students should handwrite the essays, or portions of essays, that truly teach them something about good writing.
We do this with math today. Students go through years of instruction before formally touching a calculator. The goal of this training is not to compete with calculators, but to teach the core principles that allow students to leverage calculators on more complicated assignments later in their academic careers.
If an instructor believes a critical assignment can be completed using chatGPT and no additional effort, they should assign the task in a Blue Book. If the cost of watching students complete an analog task (or the thought of having to manually grade said task) outweighs the expected learning outcome, the assignment probably needs to be re-thought.1
The promise and challenge of chatGPT for educators is that it separates the skills of writing and thinking. That is sort of mind-melting. But, in the the long run, it means we can spend more time educating students to be discerning citizens and other higher-order tasks rather than the mechanics of the five-paragraph essay.
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Op-eds advocating for student growth at elite universities seem to pop up about once a once | a | year. This one was particularly well-argued, but I continue to believe the premise is flawed. The business of elite universities is not educating students - most elite universities lose north of $10K per undergraduate per year - it is leveraging exclusivity to profit in other, less cost-intensive ways.2 Scaling the number of undergraduates puts their whole business model at risk.
Speaking of exclusivity! US News acquiesced to the demands of the top law schools and will devote less weight in its ranking methodology to graduate earnings and peer perception. It is sort of alarming that the rankees are defining the rules of engagement to the rankers, but I guess we all just go back to our lives now.
I love reading about new approaches to a teacher shortage conversation that is finally growing more nuanced. It seems unlikely that a federal minimum wage would pass anytime soon, but at least it is being discussed at the national level. It was also heartening to read that New Mexico passed a bill raising the teacher salary floor to $50K and that Maryland and Delaware were considering similar initiatives.
Stories like this remind me of the OPM market, where institutions are wrestling with when to partner with private providers vs. when to build in-house capabilities. It is helpful to read about a variety of models, as there is no single right answer.
The headline number to know is 54.5% of the original ESSER allocation ($103.2B of $189.5B) spent or budgeted to be spent. The K12 system has until September 2024 to advocate for and spend the rest.
The giant hole in my chatGPT argument is what to do about high-stakes testing. Rest of World does a fascinating deep dive into the world of Chinese companies that help students cheat on tests like the TOEFL, GMAT, and LSAT (apparently Chinese state exams are strictly off-limits). All of this is being done in the face of human and AI proctoring from some of the biggest testing companies in the world.
Question of the week
Note: votes are anonymous
Results of last post’s poll:
Image of the week
A real ad from my gmail this morning…I’m going to go out on a limb and say lifetime-access discounts were not factored into the M&A model 8 months ago
Ed Tech Thoughts is a short ( ~ 5 mins), weekly overview of the top stories in EdTech, with a few (hopefully interesting) gut reactions attached. If you enjoyed this edition, I hope you will subscribe and/or forward to your friends!
If I missed something, or there is a topic you’d like to learn more about, I encourage you to submit a story! Submissions can be named or anonymous
I’m assuming a perfect world here, where everyone has positive intent. There are obvious practical problems with this scenario
At my alma mater, Amherst College, the full price of tuition, room, and board costs students $80,250. The total cost to Amherst for that student is $113K. This means the school loses $30K per student per year for every full-pay student (a population that is now less than 40% of the student body). If anything, using $10K/student/year above was too conservative