5 I'm Reading: Consistency v Innovation; Discipline; College GPA Predictors; MOOCs; Antonio Gramsci

1. Mike Feinberg writes:

Cage-busting for us has been a process of growth and exploration. Over the past 20 years, KIPP has sought out new and better ways to fulfill our promises to students. We still have plenty to learn, and there are many new questions to answer, like:

How do we avoid getting bogged down in bureaucracy as our network grows?

How do we maintain quality across the network while preserving innovation?

We are thrilled with what we've accomplished so far, and now we're raring to go for more.

2. Over at Dropout Nation, Matt Barnum writes:

My last two years teaching in a low-income school were a stunning introduction to the constant discipline issues and the culture that they sow in thousands of schools. During my two years, I was called names that can’t be reprinted and sworn at; yelled at and ignored; given the middle finger and lied to. Desks and textbooks were vandalized; my personal supplies were stolen. A fight once broke out in my classroom; fights constantly happened throughout the school.

I didn’t leave the teaching profession wasn’t because of salaries, or career ladders, or being over-regulated, or “poor working conditions”, or lack of resources. It definitely wasn’t because of testing, or narrowing of curriculum, or because I wasn’t treated like a professional. In short, I didn’t leave for any of the reasons traditionallycited as the causes of teacher attrition.

I left teaching in large part because the requirements of school discipline – the constant exhaustion, the feeling of always being on edge – were too much for me.

3. Dan Willingham writes about a new study:

As they put the data together, the most important predictors of college grade point average are: your grades in high school, your score on the SAT or ACT, the extent to which you plan for and target specific grades, and your ability to persist in challenging academic situations.

There is not much support here for the idea that demographic or psychosocial contextual variables matter much.

Broad personality traits, most motivation factors, and learning strategies matter less than I would have guessed.

4. Dai Ellis directed me towards a student's review of 2 MOOCS:

Fully and comprehensively evaluating edX (now offering 13 courses) and Coursera (217 courses) would mean taking hundreds of online classes.

Instead, I chose one from each to be examples of the experience: edX’s 6.00x (Introduction to Computer Science and Programming), via MITx, and Coursera’s Machine Learning, via Stanford. It is important to note that, just like traditional college courses, your mileage may vary depending upon your interest in the subject and who’s teaching it.

5. E.D. Hirsch writes:

Gramsci was an astonishingly prescient and penetrating thinker whose work is all the more remarkable since it was written under depressing conditions—in prison, where he languished because his writing and journalistic work in the 1920s were so cogent and influential that Mussolini’s fascistic regime seized him in 1927 with the avowed purpose of silencing him. There he remained for eight years, until his ill health brought him to a sanitarium in 1934, and to a clinic in 1937, where he died.

He was allowed to write, but not, of course, to let anyone see his writing. It’s only because his sister-in-law, visiting his clinic room in 1937, smuggled out his 33 prison notebooks, unpublished until after the war, that we know some of Gramsci’s profound ideas about society, politics, and education.

He rightly predicted that....

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