Michigan’s education plan closer to approval by feds

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Michigan’s proposed state education plan moved a step closer Wednesday to implementation after a phone call between the Michigan Department of Education and officials from the U.S. Department of Education.

The Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to develop plans that address standards, assessments, school and district accountability and special help for struggling schools. Michigan submitted its plan in April and it is under review by the feds.

State Superintendent Brian Whiston said Michigan’s education plan will have less student testing; focus on student academic growth; institute a partnership model for improving low-performing schools and have a school accountability system tied to the Top 10 in 10 strategies. It also gives schools more flexibility on how they choose to improve and greater ownership in how they follow their own plans.

Based on the Wednesday phone call, Whiston said the federal education department will finalize its feedback letter, outlining parts of the Michigan plan that need more detail. Whiston was told by federal officials that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will make her determination based on the state’s compliance with federal requirements.

“We were told that the secretary’s determination will be based on compliance with the letter of the law only, and no subjective judgments on what is in the plan,” Whiston said. “This is in line with what Secretary DeVos promised about giving more flexibility and control back to the states on what they think is best for their state.”

Whiston said in addition to the technical amendments to the plan, more work will be required by state education officials to show how the state’s Transparency Dashboard will be designed and used to identify the state’s most struggling schools.

“We will get that done and back to (the U.S. Department of Education) so we can get the secretary’s determination by the end of August,” Whiston said.

In April, both Gov. Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley criticized aspects of the plan. Calley asked federal officials to return the plan to Michigan to refine metrics for special education students. Snyder said he did not support one of the three accountability system proposed because it did not include letter grades for schools.

In May, state education officials were required to submit additional information on the plan to the U.S. Department of Education, which deemed eight parts to be incomplete.

In June, an independent peer review of Michigan’s education plan found it lacks the clarity and detail necessary to give the state the opportunity to improve outcomes in the classroom.

The review was a joint project between Bellwether Education Partners, an educational consultant in Washington, D.C., and the Collaborative for Student Success, a nonprofit.

Michigan’s K-12 plan lacked fundamental information in all of the nine categories evaluated, said Jim Cowen, executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success.

The state received its highest score — 3 out of 5 — in the standards and assessments category. The review says in this category, Michigan’s plan is based on strong standards as adopted by the state, “though it does not provide much information” about the alignment of its new assessments with the state’s standards and college and career readiness.

The project used the expertise of more than 30 bipartisan state and national experts to capture the strengths and weaknesses of each state’s plan. The review said Michigan can improve in other areas including goals, academic progress, supporting schools and selecting an accountability system.

According to reviewers, Michigan’s plan has proposed three accountability systems: An A-F rating system that combines measures into one overall rating for each school, an A-F rating system that reports component grades of each of six measures but does not compile those into one overall grade; or a “dashboard” that reports raw data but does not attempt to rate schools on any of the components or overall.

“Michigan states that all three of these options would include subgroup data, but only the first option would meet ESSA’s requirements that states identify schools with low subgroup performance as in need of additional support,” the review said.


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By Shirley Siluk. Updated January 18, 2017 10:21AM

Federal Trade Commission
Top Tech News
Chip-making giant Qualcomm is using unfair and anti-competitive practices to force cellphone companies to use its processors, according to a complaint filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).Among the FTC’s allegations is that Qualcomm forced Apple into an exclusive arrangement to use its baseband processors to prevent competitors from boosting sales through Apple’s strong position in the global smartphone market. In return, Qualcomm cut the amount Apple had to pay in patent royalties, according to the FTC.

The FTC voted 2-1 to file the lawsuit, with Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen dissenting. Ohlhausen said the decision to file the complaint was based on “a flawed legal theory.” Qualcomm yesterday expressed the same opinion, noting in a statement that it has “never withheld or threatened to withhold chip supply in order to obtain agreement to unfair or unreasonable licensing terms.”

FTC: Qualcomm Forced Apple into Exclusive Arrangement

The FTC’s complaint centers on Qualcomm’s patents for modem chip technologies that make it possible for mobile phones to connect with cellular networks. Those technologies were incorporated into telecom industry standards, making them essential for 3G and 4G communications.

In exchange for becoming part of such standards, Qualcomm committed to licensing those patented technologies to other companies on “FRAND” (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) terms, the FTC noted. However, Qualcomm instead “consistently refused to license its cellular standard-essential patents to its competitors,” violating its FRAND commitments, according to the FTC’s complaint.

When Apple sought to reduce its royalty payments, Qualcomm “conditioned partial relief on Apple’s exclusive use of Qualcomm baseband processors from 2011 to 2016,” according to the FTC. “Qualcomm’s exclusive supply arrangement with Apple denied other baseband processor suppliers the benefits of working with a particularly important cell phone manufacturer and hampered their development into effective competitors.”

Apple recently began using modem chips from Intel instead of Qualcomm’s processors in some versions of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which came out last year.

Qualcomm Also Facing Complaints in Korea, EU

In a rare dissenting statement, Ohlhausen questioned the basis for the complaint against Qualcomm. In addition to lacking “economic and evidentiary support,” the FTC filing was questionably timed, arriving on “the eve of a new presidential administration,” she noted. Ohlhausen also said the complaint would undermine U.S. intellectual property rights around the world.

Qualcomm noted in its response that the FTC complaint was filed while the commission has just three of its five required members in place. It also pointed out that FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez has said she plans to resign as part of the transition to a new administration.

“We have grave concerns about the two Commissioners’ decision to bring this case despite a lack of evidence supporting the allegations and theories in the complaint,” Qualcomm executive vice president and general counsel Don Rosenberg said in a statement. “The intellectual-property-rights policies of the cellular standards organizations do not require licensing at the component level, and the FTC does not have the authority to rewrite industry policy. That is for the industry, not a regulator, to decide.”

The U.S. is not the only region in which Qualcomm has been facing complaints about anti-competitive behavior. In December, for example, the Korea Fair Trade Commission imposed a fine of 1.03 trillion won ($880 million) for what it called an “unfair business model” that licenses Qualcomm technology at the handset rather than chip level.

In July 2015, the European Commission, the European Union’s merger and anti-trust watchdog, also launched two antitrust investigations into “possible abusive [behavior]” by Qualcomm in connection with its pricing and licensing practices for modem chipsets.


Feds Urge You Uninstall QuickTime from Windows Computers Immediately


As much as we all love the digital world we currently live in, the issue of security is an annoyance we could all do without.

One of the latest security risks was announced by the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) with an alert urging customers to uninstall QuickTime from Windows.

QuickTime is a video player that can no longer compete with all the new players in the marketplace for Windows, which explains why Apple has stopped updating it. And in the digital world, not updating one’s application means it will quickly become vulnerable to security breaches.

Why You Should Uninstall QuickTime from Windows

As first reported by Trend Micro, Apple deprecated QuickTime for Microsoft Windows, which in computer lingo means it will still be available, but will no longer be developed or supported. The report also said the Trend Micro Zero Day Initiative released advisories detailing two new serious vulnerabilities affecting QuickTime for Windows.

The two vulnerabilities are:

  • ZDI-16-241 – Which allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code on vulnerable installations of Apple QuickTime. In order for this vulnerability to be exploited, the user has to interact by visiting a malicious page or open a malicious file. The flaw specifically resides within the moov atom, which can be leveraged by an attacker to execute the codes under the context of the QuickTime player.
  • ZDI-16-242 – This vulnerability has the same flaws, but it exists within the atom processing. An attacker can write data outside of an allocated heap buffer by providing an invalid index.

Apple will no longer be providing security updates, so these vulnerabilities are never going to be patched.

According to Trend Micro, there are no active attacks against these vulnerabilities (as of April 14, 2016). But since it was made public, there are probably many exploits being introduced in the ecosystem that will eventually take advantage of these flaws.

All software products have a lifecycle. Since Apple will no longer be providing security updates for QuickTime for Windows, US-CERT said computer systems running unsupported software will be exposed to increased risks of malicious attacks or electronic data loss. According to the organization, the only mitigation available is to uninstall QuickTime for Windows.

If you have QuickTime on Windows systems, uninstall it right away. Go to the Control Panel and click on Programs. Once you are there find QuickTime and right click and uninstall. You can also visit this Apple page for information on how to uninstall the player.  It is important to note, this only affects Windows, Apple still supports QuickTime on Mac OS X.

Image: Apple