Haiku Learning Security Update on Heartbleed (CVE-2014-0160)

Elizabeth Falcón, Quality Assurance Architect

We know you put your trust in Haiku Learning to have your information readily available and to protect it from prying eyes. Our commitment to safeguarding your information is, and has always been, our top priority. We've had the option of using SSL connections to Haiku Learning since we launched in 2006. Six months ago we made the move to require SSL on all connections to Haiku Learning. We've worked with schools through security audits to implement changes that make our platform more secure. And we have a Security Officer whose job is to track security vulnerabilities and ensure we react appropriately.

We are pleased to report that Haiku Learning was largely unaffected by the Heartbleed crisis.

Heartbleed’s Impact on Haiku Learning

  • Haiku Learning had no public-facing servers utilizing the vulnerable version of OpenSSL.
  • The only Haiku Learning server that had the vulnerable version of OpenSSL was not accessible to the public. This server is used for internal purposes and all updates were completed on April 9, 2014.
  • As an additional precaution, Haiku Learning is updating its security certificates, though this has been deemed unnecessary by our internal review.

What You Should Do as a Haiku Learning User

It is not necessary to change your Haiku Learning password. However, if you use the same username and password elsewhere, you may want to consider changing your Haiku Learning password.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email us at support@haikulearning.com.

Standards-Based Grading Makes a Splash in The Atlantic

Justin Goff, Community Specialist

Last week, Jessica Lahey’s article in the Atlantic, “Letter Grades Deserve an ‘F,’” introduced Standards-Based Grading to the mainstream discussion on American education.

When I stumbled on that article over my morning coffee, it felt a little like reading a travel guide on the neighborhood where you grew up. I’d been living in Standards-Based Grading all this time, and suddenly here it was, repackaged for an outsider. It makes the familiar seem strange, and maybe even a bit wonderful.

Reading Lahey’s piece, I instantly recognized my own journey towards standards-based assessment. As a novice teacher, I hewed closely to tradition, but quickly became dissatisfied with the kind of information I could get out of a traditional grade. First, I spent an embarrassing amount of time hacking my own standards-based grading tools out of an unholy mess of charts and spreadsheets. Then, I experimented with a traditional gradebook sorted into a bewildering array of categories - one per standard - that required me to enter grades for each assignment up to a dozen times. Somewhere along the line there, I think I went a little insane.

When, at the tail end of my last teaching assignment, I started beta-testing Standards-Based Grading in Haiku Learning, it was one of those moments of zen-like clarity, where the mind goes totally quiet save for a pleasant little hum. This was it - this was the tool. SBG’s heatmap-style display collapses all of the variables I’d been trying to capture - standard, student, performance, frequency, recency, change over time - into a single, simple, and intuitive view. Compare, for example, Lahey’s simple standards-based table (admittedly, intended more as a demonstration than as a practical tool) with Haiku’s approach:

Lahey's sample Lahey's mockup of a standards-based gradebook

Haiku SBG Standards-Based Grading in Haiku Learning

They say that converts make the best zealots, and in my case, that’s definitely true. I think the very best part of my job is demonstrating Standards-Based Grading in Haiku Learning to people who haven’t seen what it can do yet. Once educators see that SBG can be as simple and intuitive as traditional grading, while still providing much better and much more actionable data on student performance, they’re usually happy to convert to SBG, too. Change is never easy, but with Haiku Learning, it’s as easy as it gets - and, in my opinion, well worth the time invested.

Of course, Lahey’s piece isn’t perfect. Partly for dramatic effect, she plays up the tension between traditional and standards-based approaches, almost to the point that they’re presented as totally separate and antagonistic camps. In reality, the two systems can coexist nicely, especially when you’re sensitive to the differences between the data you get from each method. Plus, for practical purposes, schools will need some element of the traditional approach as long as colleges and universities continue to expect traditional transcripts, and adding a dash of traditional flavor to a new standards-based system can ease the transition for teachers, students, and parents alike.

I also wish Lahey had done a little more to distance standards-based grading from the Common Core. To date, press coverage of standards-based grading has generally been limited to professional publications, or tangled up in local coverage of how communities have reacted (usually negatively) to the Common Core State Standards. I’d hate to see schools dismiss the benefits of standards-based grading because they’re not using Common Core.

Overall, though, I think Lahey has done a great job of showing how standards-based grading is a natural solution to some of the trickiest problems in assessment. I love seeing standards-based grading being talked up in front of a national audience, and I love seeing it presented on the same stage as the kinds of broad and bold reforms normally found in the pages of the Atlantic.

Hopefully, Lahey’s article will help people see standards-based grading for what it is: a powerful and flexible tool for improving student achievement that works in a wide variety of educational contexts.

Before joining Haiku Learning as a Community Specialist in 2013, Justin Goff taught upper-school English for five years at international schools in Korea and Japan, including two years of IB English A: Literature. Justin also holds an MSc from the University of Edinburgh in Material Cultures and the History of the Book, which left him with a strange fixation on the idea of literacy as an information technology as well as an unhealthy love for pretty bundles of pulped trees. These days, he lives with his wife and son in Pittsburgh.

Just how good is Haiku Learning’s Client Services team? Stevie-Award Good!

Two weeks ago, Emily, our Support Manager, and I strolled down the opulent hallways of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas to a formal dinner. Sitting amongst hundreds of other folks from businesses around the world, there was tension in the air. Why were we dappered up, being served plates of boeuf bourguignon, and composing award speeches in our heads? Our Client Services team had won a silver medal in the the world’s premier business awards.

Emily and Daniel at the Stevies!Dapper Daniel and Elegant Emily at the Bellagio!

Now, we like shiny medals of all kinds, but it was thrilling to win this customer-service award, especially since no other ed-tech company can claim such honors this year. Our Stevie Award for Customer Service is a testament to the dedicated, personal, and professional service that the Haiku Learning Client Services team provides to schools every day.

While this is a time to recognize the wonderful folks in Client Services, it is also a time to thank our amazing schools - and the teachers and staff that make them work. We are honored that you voted for us, spoke well of us, and have spread the word that when schools choose Haiku Learning, they are not only getting the best, most-intuitive digital learning platform in the world, they are also getting awesome support and customer service. So as you wind down this school year and prepare for another exciting year next year, please know that we are honored to be working with each and every one of you. On behalf of every member of the Client Services Team, thank you for your trust in Haiku Learning! We look forward to continuing to provide award-winning support for years to come!

Warm wishes,

Daniel (for Andrew, Anna, Dusty, Emily, Jbid, Jen, and Justin)

New from Haiku: Navbar Permissions, Navbar Hotkeys, & New Page Organization Tools

We had a lot of fun building the latest set of enhancements that we released this weekend! We hope these tools and shortcuts will help teachers save time (and their wrists) with fewer clicks!

New Navbar Permissions

The Navbar is now even more powerful than ever! New enhanced security settings give schools increased Navbar flexibility at the student, teacher, and organizational levels. We've also made a few changes to the look of the Navbar to make navigation even more intuitive.

Navbar Hotkeys

Ever think to yourself, “I wish I could ditch the mouse and use hotkeys to initialize the Navbar”? Now you can launch Go, People and Classes right from the keyboard with our new shortcuts. Happy hotkeying!

New Tools in Organize Pages

Last release, we updated the look of the Organize Pages tool. With this release, you can do even more! In addition to ordering and nesting Pages, you can now add, delete and rename your Pages, as well as change the Roster Sections associated with each Page, all within the Organize Pages view. (Of course, you can still make these changes within the content context as well.)

Growing Pains

Dear Haiku Learning Community Members,

I’d like to share more details with you regarding the slowness that you experienced today, the lead up to the event, and our plans for resolution. I acknowledge that for many of you who use Haiku Learning for critical activities and functions in your classes, the disruption today was frustrating and, sadly, the inverse of our goal of making your lives simpler. For this, we deeply apologize.

A little background first: Last Thursday and Friday, at peak traffic times, our system was reporting distress resulting in slowness for some users of Haiku Learning. Our Sysops team worked with our hosting provider to narrow down the cause. Several likely causes were identified, and we took immediate action to apply fixes, including updating hardware drivers and increasing RX buffers on our server NICs. We felt that we were close to resolving the issues and thus were surprised by the events of today.

At 10:37 Eastern today, we were alerted by our monitoring services that our application was again reporting slowness. Our database cluster was falling behind in replication, and, as designed, our high-availability system kicked in to reroute traffic to compensate. As a result of the reroute at the height of traffic, the database experienced additional load, creating unresponsive behavior and, for some, timeouts. Attempts to bring the cluster back online resulted in replication delays, and content that was created in classes was sometimes slow to appear. Our Product and Client Services teams called a Code Red and conferred with several database and networking experts. Additional investigation uncovered that the issue was not related to a hardware or driver failure, which we attempted to address last week but which turned out to be merely symptoms of the issue. The flagging cluster was the result of ever-increasing loads on a few key unoptimized services in our application. We mobilized our Product team and are currently working around the clock to optimize the lagging services. At the time of this writing, and as more optimizations are found, we are applying hotfixes to improve performance.

On the heels of our DDoS attacks last fall, we are keenly aware that teachers are rattled. We are committed to maintaining the “four nines” (99.99) availability that you expect. We continue to invest deeply and work actively to build resiliency in our system, from redundancy of all critical systems to full implementation of anti-DDoS systems. Our highest priority is that we only add efficiencies and improvements to your classroom.

If you would like to continue the conversation with me, feel free to drop me a note at bryanf@haikulearning.com.

Regards, Bryan