Engaging Ideas - 6/16/2017

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: Calls for unity and the restoration of civil discourse. A comparison of the U.S. middle class to Europe’s. A research roundup on how teachers’ stress affects students. What do college students think of guided pathways? And do doctors who are informed of prices make different choices?


How We Became Bitter Political Enemies (The Upshot)
It wasn’t long after a gunman opened fire on members of a Republican congressional baseball team on Wednesday that the emotional calls for unity began.

Congressman Banks: lawmakers need to restore ‘civil discourse’ (WANE TV)
“Gunman had strong political opinions we’re learning more about,” said Banks of Indiana's 3rd District. “There’s so much we can learn from it. Aside from that we need to work to restore a proper level of civil discourse.”


These Charts Show Just How Small the U.S. Middle Class Is, Compared to Europe's (Time)
If you have the nagging sense that income inequality is getting worse in the United States, some new data from Pew Research shows you're not imagining things.

Fixing America's infrastructure is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a better workforce (Los Angeles Times)
There’s a growing mismatch between workers and jobs that’s threatening the American Dream for millions of families. A combined infrastructure-training initiative offers the president an opportunity for a badly needed reset: a chance to reach across the aisle.


Mayor McFarlane Backs Off of Citizen Engagement Overhaul (Indyweek)
Droves of supporters of Raleigh's citizen advisory committees descended upon last Tuesday night's city council session to speak out in opposition to a new community engagement board created by the council.

Can direct democracy reenergize West's disillusioned voters? (Christian Science Monitor)
Innovative activists across Europe and the US are launching experiments to involve people more actively in political life, though with some mixed results. “In the 21st century, citizens are more educated, have the internet, and are not afraid of authority,” says Matt Leighninger, who works for the New York-based nonprofit Public Agenda. “They want to be heard and to contribute.”

K-12 Education

How Teachers' Stress Affects Students: A Research Roundup (Education Week)
“Relationships really matter for learning; there’s a lot of evidence around that,” said Robert Whitaker, a professor of public health and pediatrics at Temple University.

Data Dive: Technology Flooding Into Classrooms (Education Week)
Students have access to more ed tech than ever, but teachers remain untrained and students aren't using tech creatively.

How diplomas based on skill acquisition, not credits earned, could change education (Hechinger Report)
By 2021, students graduating from Maine high schools must show they have mastered specific skills to earn a high school diploma. Maine is the first state to pass such a law, though the idea of valuing skills over credits is increasingly popular around the country.

A school district is building a DIY broadband network (Hechinger Report)
Internet will be beamed into student homes in Albemarle County, Virginia on frequencies set aside for schools decades ago -- but mostly sold off to business since then.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

Report: Promises and Pitfalls of Online Education (Brookings Institution)
In their current design, online courses are difficult, especially for the students who are least prepared. These students’ learning and persistence outcomes are worse when they take online courses than they would have been had these same students taken in-person courses.

Report: What Do Students Think of Guided Pathways? (Community College Research Center)
This brief examines data from 48 interviews with first-year students at City Colleges of Chicago (CCC)—a large urban community college system with seven campuses that since 2010 has been implementing guided pathways—to understand students’ reactions to CCC’s ambitious, system-wide reform. A large majority of the students were enthusiastic about program maps and educational planning—hallmarks of the guided pathways approach—yet a few students had negative reactions to these very same elements of the reform. And nearly half the students reported that they experienced problems with activities such as registration and course planning while new systems and practices were being deployed by the college, pointing to substantial implementation challenges.

With Innovation, Colleges Fill the Skills Gap (The New York Times)
The Manpower Group, a human resources consulting firm, says the gap, which is often defined as the difference in job skills required and the actual skills possessed by employees, is a chasm. Of the more than 42,000 employers the firm surveyed last year, 40 percent said they were having difficulties filling roles, the highest level since 2007..

Health Care

Four solutions to value-based care challenges (Managed Healthcare Executive)
Progress has been made over the past year toward value-based care, but obstacles still persist, according to a new study.

Hospitals Are Dramatically Overpaying for Their Technology (Harvard Business Review)
For years, hospitals have invested in sophisticated devices and IT systems that, on their own, can be awe-inspiring. Yet these technologies rarely share data, let alone leverage it to support better clinical care. How did we get here? First, the number of devices that work well with others is small. Manufacturers have been slow to embrace interoperability, which would allow health care technologies to share data with one another.

There’s No Magical Savings in Showing Prices to Doctors (New York Times)
Physicians are often unaware of the cost of a test, drug or scan that they order for their patients. If they were better informed, would they make different choices? Evidence shows that while this idea might make sense in theory, it doesn’t seem to bear out in practice.


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