Thursday, December 26th, 2013 | Public Agenda
We are saddened to report that Public Agenda’s Deborah Wadsworth, who led our organization between 1986 and 2003 and served on our board after her retirement, died on December 24, 2013.
As many of you know, Deborah was a woman of astonishing warmth, intelligence, integrity, and commitment. In fact, her contributions to our work began even before she joined Public Agenda. As a program officer at the John and Mary R. Markle Foundation in the 1990s, Deborah introduced Public Agenda founder Daniel Yankelovich to Kettering Foundation President David Mathews, setting in motion an institutional partnership that has endured for decades, bolstering our common mission of engaging citizens in addressing national and local challenges.
Thursday, December 12th, 2013 | Allison Rizzolo
What is your vision for a future in which our national political leaders collaborate, in spite of their differences, and do the work their people want and need them to do? Can you even imagine it?
For former Senator Bill Bradley, a Democrat who represented the people of New Jersey for 18 years, there are a few variations of such a future.
Senator Bradley joined us this week for the latest installment of our Policy Breakfast series. On a snowy, messy New York morning, Bradley addressed a full room at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, our partner in the series.
Adam Davidson, of NPR's Planet Money and The New York Times Magazine, spoke with the former Senator about the past, present and future of American politics.
Senator Bradley fondly recalled a time of personal relationships among members of Congress. "It was a time when there were personal relationships among members of Congress… People lived in Washington and socialized with each other. It made a big difference," he said.
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 | Jean Johnson
Welcome to Beyond the Polls, our regular commentary on what Americans are thinking about pivotal issues our country and communities face. Each month, we offer a second look — a deeper look — at public opinion. We try to put survey results in context and enrich them by drawing on our extensive experience listening to citizens in both research and community settings over the years.
Our aim is to explore and understand the hopes, values, concerns, and priorities people bring to today’s issues — the public questions and controversies we think about every day. Just as important, we want to juxtapose the views that polling typically captures with what happens to those views when citizens have a chance to absorb and weigh different options for addressing issues and hear what other citizens have to say about them.
So what led us to develop Beyond the Polls? Here is some of what’s behind the series:
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 | Jean Johnson
It’s reasonably clear that younger and older Americans think differently about tattoos. And maybe there’s a divide over e-mail versus texting. But now that Congress and the President are resuming talks about long-term federal budget issues, proposals to reform Social Security to stabilize its costs are back on the table.
In contrast, opinion leaders like Paul Krugman and Senator Elizabeth Warren say we should expand Social Security, arguing that current retirement policies will leave too many Americans living in poverty in their later years.
So that raises a question: Are the views and preferences of younger and older Americans really at odds when it comes to Social Security? What do polls show, and what happens when Americans of all ages have a chance to talk together about this issue?
The answers to these questions will be important for us to explore as we and our elected officials discuss and negotiate solutions to the issue of Social Security.
A quick glance at some recent polling does seem to show some wide gaps among the generations:
11.13 3 Ways the White House’s College Scorecard Can Better Serve Adult Prospective College Students
Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 | Christopher DiStasi
When the White House released a new ‘College Scorecard’ earlier this year, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrote, “Too often, students and their families don’t have the right tools to help them sort through the information they need to decide which college or university is right for them.” The White House’s scorecard aims to fill this gap by providing, in an easily digestible format, information like graduation rates, average costs and loan default rates. Policy makers say such data are important to judging the quality and performance of our schools. But the College Scorecard may not be reaching the students who need it most.
Earlier this year, we sat down with adults who are considering going or returning to college. It had been years since these individuals had seen a high school guidance counselor or a college prep class. For them, a tool like the College Scorecard could be immensely useful. But, in our focus groups, we found that the White House’s strategy does not line up with the habits of adult prospective students. In order to reach this group, which sorely needs unbiased college information and advice, the White House must better align the scorecard with their college search practices and priorities.
The following are three simple ways that the College Scorecard could be improved, based on our research.
Monday, November 11th, 2013 | Isaac Rowlett
This post was originally published on the Completion by Design blog. Completion by Design is a national initiative, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that works with community colleges to significantly increase completion and graduation rates. Read more about our work with Completion by Design.
You’ve been there before: grading papers, wrapping up a student advising appointment, and trying to muster the energy to make it through another committee meeting. You glance at your screen - a new email from your president announcing a new initiative that will boost student success rates. Details are scarce, but you’re promised that specific information is forthcoming.
What exactly, you wonder, is this student-success initiative? Didn’t we try something like this already? Do we even have time for this?How will it impact me?
At Public Agenda we spend a lot of time helping college leaders to engage their colleagues in student success efforts. We’ve encountered the above scenario time and time again, and over the past decade we’ve learned a thing or two about the do’s and don’ts of fostering meaningful and collaborative change toward improved student outcomes.
But instead of simply listing what we’ve learned, we’ve had some fun creating an “anti” how-to guide. In other words, if your goal were to fail miserably, how would you carry out a student success effort at your campus? In what follows, you’ll find our top-ten tips for failure, followed by the implications of these disastrous moves for what actually helps the work succeed.
11.07 For adult students, confidence should be a good thing, but is it limiting their chances at success?
Thursday, November 7th, 2013 | Allison Rizzolo
For adults without a college degree, making the choice to go back to school can be intimidating. These adults have been out of practice as students for a year or often much longer. They need to believe that they will succeed in order to make it to the starting gate, never mind the finish line. Otherwise, they'd never go back. Ironically and unfortunately, this confidence can also prevent them from taking steps that could increase their chances for success.
We spent part of the last year speaking with many of these adult prospective students. None had degrees, though all were planning on taking the leap back to school within the next two years. In doing so, these adults face some grim statistics.
Just half of all undergraduate students earn a degree or certificate within 6 years. Among older students – those who start college in their twenties or later – the risk of dropping out is much higher. More than half (54 percent) of those students who start school at age 25 or older end up leaving within 6 years.
If adult students want to beat the odds, they need to start by choosing a school or program that's right for them. Most of the adults we spoke to were confident that they could do so:
- 76 percent agreed that there is enough information "out there" for people to be able to choose the college and program that best fits their needs – they just have to make the effort to find it.
- 73 percent say they know someone who can give them good advice and guidance in choosing a program and college.
- 67 percent say they know someone who can give them good advice on how to pay for college and manage their finances.
On the one hand, this confidence and optimism could be advantageous in their pursuit of higher education. On the other hand, it may hinder these prospective students from asking important questions and properly evaluating all of the information they need to make good decisions.
Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 | Will Friedman, Ph.D.
Today is the year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy here in New York. To remind us of the important work we have done and inspire us to tackle the work we still must do, we are reprinting Will Friedman's commentary on collaboration in post-Sandy New York. This piece was originally published in the Huffington Post.
Photo by Daniel Thornton
Former Mayor Ed Koch once said that "New York is the city where the future comes to rehearse." While he spoke these words in 1986, they have perhaps never been truer than they are today. As the city shapes its future post-Sandy, can it also become a role model for how a community of leaders and citizens can work together to solve complex and potentially volatile public problems?
The city, after fall, faces a steep challenge. New York is living in changed circumstances. Hurricanes, rare in our past, are now a part of our normal weather pattern. Every borough other than the Bronx is, or is part of, an island, and one that's going to become more prone to flooding. Meanwhile, as it's virtually impossible to evacuate the city, what can we do to insure the residents' safety?
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 | Andy Fluke
Reprinted from the NCDD Community Blog
At the 2012 National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD) national conference in Seattle, NCDD member and filmmaker Jeffrey Abelson sat down with over a dozen leaders in our community to ask them about their work and their hopes and concerns for our field and for democratic governance in our country.
Today we’re featuring the interview with Will Friedman, president of Public Agenda, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps diverse leaders and citizens navigate complex, divisive issues and work together to find solutions. A leading organization in our field, Public Agenda is a long-time organizational member and friend of NCDD. Public Agenda sponsored NCDD Seattle at the partner level last year.
Thursday, October 17th, 2013 | Jean Johnson
While we have avoided an unprecedented federal default for the time being, the debt ceiling matter hasn’t been resolved. We could be right at the brink again in just a matter of months. Pundits and politicians from both parties lean on recent polls to demonstrate why their perspective is the one that the American public supports. But have a majority of Americans actually made up their minds about the debt ceiling? This is an issue where a single survey finding taken at face value or in isolation can be misleading.
What polling really reveals is that members of the public are still wrestling with the debt ceiling dilemma. Public opinion on this issue is still "mushy" – a term used by Public Agenda’s founder Daniel Yankelovich to describe poll findings that aren’t stable because people are still absorbing new information and ideas, grappling with trade-offs and unsure what they really think. When opinions are still mushy, survey results can fluctuate dramatically. Once people become more realistic and settled in their views, public opinion tends to be remarkably steady over time.