ON THE AGENDA | JANUARY 15TH, 2016 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 1/15

A weekly collection of stories, reports and news to spark consideration on ways to make progress on divisive issues.

A weekly collection of stories, reports and news to spark consideration on ways to make progress on divisive issues.


This is what makes Republicans and Democrats so different (Vox)
Ezra Klein writes: “Democrats are motivated by specific policy deliverables while Republicans are motivated by broader philosophical principles. But behind this finding is some interesting evidence.”

State of the State? What About the State of Your Block? (The Brian Lehrer Show)
President Obama delivered the State of the Union address, and New Jersey Gov. Christie and New York Gov. Cuomo gave the State of the State earlier this week. But WNYC went hyper-local and asked: What’s the state of the neighborhood? They examine two of the biggest stories around town: A brutal rape and a popular supermarket in jeopardy.

The Innovation the Grantmaking Process Needs (Governing)
The way governments give out money to solve problems is stuck in the past. Here are 10 examples of how to innovate the process from Beth Simone Noveck and Andrew Young at The Government Lab.

How to Fix America's Infrastructure (The Atlantic)
Board Member Philip Howard writes: “these two failures—meager funding and endless process—may actually point the way to a potential grand bargain that could transform the U.S. economy: In exchange for Democrats getting rid of nearly endless red tape, Republicans would agree to raise taxes to modernize America’s infrastructure.”


How Is the Economy Doing? It May Depend on Your Party, and $1 (The Upshot)
Neil Irwin writes: “Suppose it is dinnertime, and the phone rings. It is a polite survey taker with a simple question for you: How is the economy doing? You might answer the question based upon the news stories you’ve seen recently about the latest unemployment rate, or perhaps based on anecdotal observations, such as whether your long-jobless cousin has had any luck finding work. But a wide range of academic work suggests a different factor that is likely to shape your answer: whether the current occupant of the White House is of your preferred political party.”

K-12 Education

Public Engagement Is Essential to Scholarship (Education Week)
Jeannie Oakes, president of the American Educational Research Association, writes: “Education policymaking must negotiate strongly held public perceptions and contested political terrain—factors usually far more influential than research findings. Even the most settled and trustworthy scholarly knowledge will not be persuasive unless due attention is also given to the beliefs and politics that shape and filter public discourse. That's what effective public scholars do when they bring education research out of the weeds of scholarly journals and into the public sphere.

How Researchers Can Join the Conversation (EdWeek)
Jeffrey R. Henig of Teacher’s College at Columbia University writes:”Scholars can find ourselves in turbulent waters when we speak out in public on controversial issues relating to education reform. I heard about this directly when, in doing research for my book Spin Cycle, I talked to researchers active in the debate over charter schools. Younger scholars worried that those with opposing views would wreak revenge on them by, for example, blackballing their grant and journal submissions under the cover of "peer review." Seasoned and secure scholars worried about being drawn into making more simplistic and extreme statements than they felt comfortable with, believing that necessary to be heard above the noisy background of claim and counterclaim.”

Higher Education

The Secret to Creating a Smooth Transfer Pipeline (AACC)
A new report being released this month by the Community College Research Center, The Aspen Institute and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center tracks the performance of the nation’s colleges and states in helping students transfer to four-year universities and earn bachelor’s degrees. The report provides, for the first time, information about which colleges are supporting students in this journey and offers guidance on what enables students to be successful.

Should Prisoners Get a Free College Degree? Why Opinions Are Shifting (The Christian Science Monitor)
Harry Bruinius writes: “Such programs were once common, but after the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, eliminated Pell Grants for anyone in state or federal prisons. In that era of crime-fighting fervor, the idea that tax dollars would provide a free college education for some inmates stuck many as unfair – even if they were effective.”

Competency-Based Education, Technology, and the Liberal Arts (Inside Higher Ed)
Dr. Joshua Kim writes: “What are your thoughts on how liberal arts schools can leverage technology to accrue some of the benefits of a competency-based approach, while still preserving the true value of a liberal arts education? How can, and should, those of us working in educational technology in a liberal arts context enter (and influence) the discussion about competency-based education?”

Podcast: Where Are the Student Voices in Ed Reform? (American RadioWorks)
Andrew Brennen is 19 years old and for the past three years he’s been helping build a movement to get young people fired up about improving education. Today Brennen is a junior at the University of North Carolina and he’s also the field director of Student Voice, an organization that advocates for students. Last month, Brennen took part in a White House summit about the future of high schools. Over the coming year, Brennen will travel across the country to meet with students and help them advocate for changes in their schools.

Health Care

This is why patients cannot be customers (Kevin MD)
Dr. Tanya Feke writes: “Feedback is important if it is constructive and there may be times when a negative review is exactly what the doctor ordered. The trouble is many people have a tendency to report only on extremes of experience. When they don’t get what they want or when they have a bad experience, they are more apt to complain. It takes an even higher proportion of positive vibes to encourage someone to take time to fill a survey. Most clinic encounters fall somewhere in between. Without all data points, surveys do not give the full picture.”

Why can't anyone tell me how much this surgery will cost? (Medical Xpress)
Betsy Q. Cliff writes: “Different words relating to cost – charge, price and out-of-pocket cost – all have different meanings and there is no standard among consumer transparency websites about which of these prices to report. So, while the price variation between hospitals is well-recognized, less often discussed is that when consumers search for price, the variation in information reported means they may see wide variation within the same hospital for the same procedure. The lack of standards in this respect can leave consumers confused and means some price transparency efforts may be doing more harm than good.”


The Growing Trend of Affordable Housing Impact Statements (CityLab)
Brentin Mock writes this article about a trend in cities that requires developers and government officials to think about housing affordability on the front end of new development.


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