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Pearson Will Pay $1 Million Fine For ‘Understating’ 2018 Data Breach, Misleading Investors

pearson will pay 1 million fine for understating 2018 data breach misleading investors
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Education giant Pearson will pay a $1 million fine to settle charges that it misled investors about a 2018 data breach during which millions of student records were stolen. 

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced earlier this month that the London-based, multinational educational publishing and software provider “made misleading statements and omissions” to downplay the Chinese hack, which affected 13,000 school, district, and university customers.

Pearson misrepresented the incident, which had already happened, as a hypothetical risk in its July 2019 semi-annual report, the SEC found. Around the same time, the company also said in a media statement that the intrusion may have included dates of birth and email addresses, despite already knowing they were stolen.

The media statement left out millions of rows of student data, usernames, and passwords that were stolen. And Pearson claimed to have “strict protections” in place when in reality it failed to patch the vulnerability for six months, according to the SEC. 

“Pearson opted not to disclose this breach to investors until it was contacted by the media, and even then Pearson understated the nature and scope of the incident, and overstated the company’s data protections,” said Kristina Littman, chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Cyber Unit, in a press release.

“As public companies face the growing threat of cyber intrusions, they must provide accurate information to investors about material cyber incidents.”

Pearson agreed to pay the civil penalty “without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings.”

In an emailed statement, the company said told EdWeek Market Brief it is “pleased to resolve this matter with the SEC.”

The only Pearson product targeted by the Chinese hackers starting in November 2018 — the AIMSweb 1.0 software platform — was retired in July 2019 as part of a previously scheduled plan, according to the company. The web-based software was a tool for entering and tracking students’ academic performance.

“Protecting our customers’ information is of critical importance to us,” said Laura Howe, senior vice president of global communications for Pearson, in an email statement. “Pearson continues to enhance its cyber security efforts to minimize the risk of cyberattacks in an ever-changing threat landscape.” 

The 2018 hack was part of a decade-long, global cyberattack that targeted the intellectual property and confidential business information of companies across a wide variety of industries, including COVID-19 research, according to the Department of Justice.

The federal government indicted two suspects last year, former engineering students in China who allegedly stole hundreds of millions of dollars of trade secrets, intellectual property, and other valuable information, sometimes on behalf of the Chinese government’s Ministry of State Security.

Image by iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Ed-Tech Usage Soared During COVID. Now Districts Are Scrutinizing Those Tools

ed tech usage soared during covid now districts are scrutinizing those tools
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After their ed-tech usage soared during the first year of the pandemic, some districts are now looking to “constructively reduce” the number of tools and platforms in play. That has implications for companies.

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Syncing Up Technology and Curriculum: A Major Need in the COVID Era

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Vendors need to guarantee strong customer service, integration with learning management systems, and strict data privacy, say a pair of K-12 tech leaders from Indiana.

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Texas Districts Seek Online Software Programs, Instructional Supplies; Michigan School System Needs Reading Intervention Program

texas districts seek online software programs instructional supplies michigan school system needs reading intervention program

Online software platforms, instructional supplies, blended reading intervention program. A district in Texas plans to purchase multiple online software platforms, while another district in the state intends to buy instructional supplies, materials and equipment. Further, a Michigan district has issued an RFP for a reading intervention program.

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What District Officials Love — and Hate — About “Learning Loss”-Focused Products

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EdWeek Market Brief surveyed district administrators, principals, and teachers about whether they have a positive or negative view of products designed to curb “learning loss” — and why.

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New California Law Pours Money Into Open Educational Resources

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed into law a budget measure that provides millions of dollars to support the creation of openly licensed academic resources at the college level, in one of the most striking examples of a state throwing its weight behind the free, revisable materials.

The Democratic governor last week approved a higher education budget proposal that devotes $115 million toward reducing textbook costs and the development of open educational resources.

While the measure is aimed at the state’s postsecondary system, backers of open educational materials have told EdWeek Market Brief that it could benefit pre-college students in part by making those materials more freely accessible to high school students who are pursuing advanced content.

Open educational resources are typically defined as learning materials that are either in the public domain, or created on licenses that allow them to be freely shared and modified by users, including teachers and students.

They’ve become popular in some school districts, which have seen them as alternatives to commercial texts and a way to give educators more freedom to create resources tailored to their specific needs.

The California budget measure is the single largest investment by any U.S. state in open educational resources, said Cable Green, the director of open education at Creative Commons, a nonprofit that supports OER and creates licenses for their development.

The state’s action will allow California public colleges to continue to build degree and certificate pathways for students with no textbook costs, he predicted. And it will produce savings for students in not having to buy texts that are worth many times the state’s $115 million investment, he added.

“The impact of this open education investment will be massive,” Green said an email. He also said California’s new policy could inspire replication. “Any state can easily follow California’s lead and make similar investments.”

Photo: Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference in Oakland, Calif., on July 26. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)


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The Most Essential Features Districts Want in Social-Emotional Learning Products

the most essential features districts want in social emotional learning products
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EdWeek Market Brief surveyed district officials on which features of SEL products and programs are most important to them.

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Spending on Tech-Based Curriculum Jumps During the Pandemic, New Survey of IT Leaders Finds

spending on tech based curriculum jumps during the pandemic new survey of it leaders finds
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K-12 curriculum software and subscription spending grew at a higher rate than any other technology budget area for school districts last school year, as their IT budgets mostly increased from the previous school year.

In a survey of 170 district technology leaders by the Consortium for School Networking, 62 percent of participants reported their schools’ funding for curricular software/subscriptions rose between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, with 56 percent also noting a spike in cybersecurity investment.

Another 56 percent of respondents said their district’s overall IT budget expanded, with 12 percent citing a “major” increase, according to a summary of the report.CoSNGraph

District technology leaders ranked cybersecurity as the top unmet technology need, followed by home access connectivity and interoperability.

“In a situation where even well-funded corporations in the private sector struggle to address cybersecurity issues, poorly funded districts are at a disadvantage,” CoSN said. “One respondent called the need for more cybersecurity funding as ‘desperate.’”

Cybersecurity has been a focus area for CoSN, which is one of several organizations that endorsed the Enhancing K-12 Cybersecurity Act. That bill would set a path for the federal government to guide best practices for K-12 cybersecurity and provide cybersecurity grants to schools that could benefit certain education companies.

Congressional lawmakers have not acted to advance the bill.

Big Investments in Hybrid Learning

In addition to greater curricular software and cybersecurity spending, the majority of those surveyed also noted new technology initiatives, with 64 percent saying that they added classroom technology to support simultaneous hybrid learning, such as rotating cameras, microphones and speakers; and 60 percent reporting that they now offer a remote-only instruction option.

Further, 37 percent of tech chiefs said they added “district-wide student-facing Cloud-based applications,” such as learning management systems, to their digital ecosystems, and 23 percent of districts gave devices or extra monitors to educators for home use.

Only 2 percent of participants reported not supporting new IT initiatives or existing IT efforts that weren’t already supported pre-pandemic.

Almost all district leaders are looking to the federal government for technology funding help.

About three-quarters of those questioned plan to request support from the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund for Wi-Fi hot spots, while 90 percent of respondents said infusions provided through three stimulus bills enacted over the last 17 months significantly helped remote-learning or related IT initiatives in their districts during the pandemic. (See EdWeek Market Brief’s recent, nationwide survey showing how district officials plan to spend the new, $7 billion connectivity fund overseen by the FCC.)

The three COVID stimulus packages heaped an overall $189.5 billion financial windfall on U.S. K-12 schools. Districts have until Sept. 30, 2024, to commit the last bit of that money.

Compared with the CoSN review, a recent EdWeek Market Brief survey found a slightly lower percentage – 62 percent – of 280 district administrators interviewed, planned to seek ECF reimbursement for Wi-Fi hot spots for home use. However, the CoSN survey did not specify that the hot spots sought for reimbursement pertained only to home use.

“There is a marked shift in how school district IT leaders are preparing for this fall, compared to the back-to-school survey results from last year,” CoSN CEO Keith Krueger said in a statement. “While the federal government delivered critical funding when school districts needed it most, we must now invest in cybersecurity and ensure sustainable, secure and equitable home broadband access for students and educators into the future.”

Image by Getty

Graph provided with permission from the Consortium for School Networking


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10 Variables That Matter Most in Making New Ed-Tech Successful

10 variables that matter most in making new ed tech successful
UVA 2

The success or failure of implementing ed tech in a school district is determined by factors including the culture of the staff and decision-making power given to teachers, a new report contends.

Researchers for the EdTech Genome Project identified 10 variables they believe matter most to schools’ successful selection and implementation of new technology — a framework they say ed-tech companies can also use to gain insight into their K-12 customers.

The research, led by the University of Virginia and nonprofit EdTech Evidence Exchange, aims to give educators and ed-tech providers a common language and context for talking about what tools do or do not work, a standard that can help inform future purchasing decisions, according to the report.

The goal is to help districts make better choices for their students about the sea of ed-tech options, and help companies better support district partners, said lead researcher Emily Barton. Ultimately, the project aims to decrease the number of ed-tech products being used ineffectively or not at all, she said.

Researchers found about 60 percent of pre-pandemic purchases — worth at least $26 billion annually — failed to meet usage goals set by schools.

“We simply do not have enough information to support educators’ decision making around ed-tech,” said Barton, an assistant research professor at UVA. “A key piece of that is understanding … that the ‘right’ technology to bring into one environment might be very different than the right technology to bring into another environment.”

The Genome project was born from the EdTech Evidence Exchanges’ expressed mission to help educators make better-informed decisions about the technology they use. A steering committee of teachers, administrators, researchers and association leaders identified the 10 most significant variables based on existing research and lived experience. A working group assembled for each variable spent six months refining their definitions.

The key variables that determine whether ed tech is implemented successfully, according to the report, are how well it aligns with the following in a district:

  • Vision for teaching and learning
  • Selection processes
  • Teacher agency
  • Infrastructure and operations
  • Implementation systems and processes
  • Staff culture
  • Teacher beliefs and knowledge
  • Strategic leadership support
  • Professional learning
  • Competing priorities

The report doesn’t offer a “right” or “wrong” vision, culture, or selection process. Rather it defines the dimensions of each variable and what questions districts and companies should ask themselves when implementing ed tech products.

For example, the report argues that weighing teachers’ beliefs about ed tech includes considering their feelings, knowledge, and experience toward technology; and their understanding of how students learn.

Barton said teachers’ beliefs can be “make or break.” If a company representative is walking into a room of educators who are generally skeptical about technology and haven’t had great experiences with digital tools in the past, they may want to spend extra time during training explaining how their product can benefit students to lay a better foundation.

“Understanding the beliefs of the educators they’re working with could really shift and color the way that they present that professional development opportunity,” she said.

As a next step, the Genome project researchers are testing a database, known as the EdTech Evidence Exchange Platform, which would allow educators to look up whether an ed-tech tool or program is successful at a district similar to their own based on the 10 variables. The data for each district would be captured by surveying multiple teachers.

A release date has not been set yet, Barton said.

This comes after the pandemic forced a surge in demand for ed-tech products while schools turned to remote learning and as districts prepare to spend federal stimulus aid money aimed at improving connectivity outside of school.

“We are trying to create this really incredible evidence source for educators who are out there making decisions,” Barton said. “At this point we really recommend educators take a look at these variables and start having conversations with colleagues [and] engage with potential vendors: Where might they have strengths and weaknesses?”

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What Post-Pandemic Social Emotional Learning Looks Like in One Major District

what post pandemic social emotional learning looks like in one major district
MB K 12 Insider July 22 21

During the nationwide pivot to remote learning, teachers and administrators in the Metro Nashville Public School District in Nashville, Tenn., were forced to put social emotional learning on the backburner. Their most urgent challenge was getting students who were forced into remote learning to log in and engage in school.

Now, many districts, including Metro Nashville,…

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