ON THE AGENDA | DECEMBER 9TH, 2016 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 12/9

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: The economic expectations of a divided country. School Choice 101. Adult students talk about college payoff, and a report on cost-saving competency-based education. The benefits of choosing a doctor with low office visit prices.

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: The economic expectations of a divided country. School Choice 101. Adult students talk about college payoff, and a report on cost-saving competency-based education. The benefits of choosing a doctor with low office visit prices.


Is Democracy Doomed? We've Been Here Before. (Real Clear Politics)
We need not assume the worst based on one academic study. And there are plenty of institutional obstacles to Trump’s worst impulses. But we can’t necessarily wait for a Pearl Harbor to galvanize America. If we care about our democracy, we must tend to it every day, and speak out against any threats that may arise.

Getting Voters to Focus on the Things They Actually Know About (Governing)
National elections are flashier, but voters are often far more knowledgeable about local issues. We need to get them more engaged.

Despair and Hope in Trump’s America (The Atlantic)
From James Fallows: Americans are optimistic about the communities they live in—but not their nation. Why?


Americans Expect Economic Improvement in a Deeply Divided Country (The Atlantic)
A new poll reveals some optimism about the post-election economy along with doubts that Donald Trump can bring the country together.

Automation is inevitable. Here's how to make sure we create jobs, not just destroy them. (Vox)
When society invents a new technology that makes workers more efficient, it has two options: It can employ the same number of workers and produce more goods and services, or it can employ fewer workers to produce the same number of goods and services. Jargon-filled media coverage makes this hard to see, but the Federal Reserve plays a central role in this decision. When the Fed pumps more money into the economy, people spend more and create more jobs. If the Fed fails to supply enough cash, then faster technological progress can lead to faster job losses — something we might be experiencing right now.

American Dream collapsing for young adults, study says, as odds plunge that children will earn more than their parents (Wonkblog)
Rising income inequality has eroded the ability for American children to grow up to earn more than their parents, according to groundbreaking new research from a superstar team of economists that carries deep implications for President-elect Donald Trump's policy agenda.

K-12 Educatgion

School Choice 101: What It Is, How It Works And Does It Work? (NPR)
President-elect Donald J. Trump said on the campaign trail that school choice is "the new civil rights issue of our time." But talk of school choice is, at best, confusing.

Pay for Success' Funding Model Focus of Policy Toolkit (EdWeek)
As policymakers start to embrace these funding models for early childhood education, how should they make sure they're investing in quality programs? What are the appropriate results to measure, and how should the programs be evaluated?  The Urban Institute released a pay for success toolkit Wednesday to help answer those questions.  See the toolkit here.

Despite Frequent Screen Time, Parents See Selves as Good Examples (EdWeek)
The study, "The Common Sense Census: Plugged-In Parents of Tweens and Teens 2016," aims to analyze how parents contribute to the teen and "tween" media use landscape. Key findings from the study, based upon almost 1,800 parent responses: Parents spend an average of 9 hours and 22 minutes per day on screen time (1:39 for work purposes, and 7:43 for personal purposes.) White parents, better educated parents and higher wage-earners reported spending the least time in front of screens. Seventy-eight percent of parents believe they do a good job of modeling appropriate media use to their children. Mothers are slightly more likely to hold this belief than fathers.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

Older Americans Went Back to School During the Recession. Did It Pay Off? (FiveThirtyEight)
Selinger said that he doesn’t regret his decision, and it eventually began to pay off. After earning his CNA, he took science prerequisites and applied to nursing school for an associate degree. His income doubled when he completed it in May 2013, at age 48. With additional promotions and overtime pay, he now earns more than $60,000 a year — but he’s gone as far as he can with an associate degree. This spring, he began taking classes toward his second bachelor’s.

Touted as the Next Big Solution, Competency Ed Programs That Stress Skills Aren't Always a 'Quick Moneymaker,' Study Says (The Hechinger Report)
rpk Group's research report, “Competency-Based Education: A Study of Four New Models and Their Implications for Bending the Higher Education Cost Curve,” demonstrates the opportunity competency ed offers for higher education to break away from traditional, higher-cost instruction models that have proven resistant to change.

Labor Market Outcomes and Postsecondary Accountability: Are Imperfect Metrics Better Than None? (National Bureau of Economic Research)
Findings suggest a cautious approach: while a mix of feasible labor market metrics may be better than none, reliance on a single metric, especially if measured very early, may undermine policymakers’ ongoing efforts to accurately quantify institutional performance.

Career Clusters: Forecasting Demand for High School through College Jobs (Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce)
The report, Career Clusters: Forecasting Demand for High School through College Jobs, examines the most promising opportunity for job seekers of varying education levels. Using forecasts, Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce has identified the most promising clusters for job seekers with a high school diploma or less, middle skills such as a certificate or Associate’s degree, and those with Bachelor’s degrees or better.

Health Care

Health Spending Went Up Last Year Because More People Were Getting Care, Report Says (LA Times)
While such surges in health spending have traditionally worried economists and policymakers, the 2015 increase is somewhat different, the new report from independent actuaries at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests. In the past, mounting prices for hospital stays, doctor’s visits and other medical goods and services were largely responsible for skyrocketing health spending. But the new report indicates that the latest increase – which tracks with a similar uptick in 2014 – was fueled by increased use of healthcare, likely caused by the health law, often called Obamacare.

Crossing State Lines Is No Easy Jaunt For Insurers And Local Regulators (WSJ)
As Republicans gear up to overhaul the federal health law, they face pushback from a couple unexpected corners over one of their goals: Giving health insurers greater ability to sell policies to consumers across state lines. Republicans for some time have billed interstate sales of insurance as a way to heighten competition and lower costs. It is one of the few specific health initiatives displayed on President-elect Donald Trump’s transition website. Still, the GOP is drawing some opposition from state insurance regulators—many of them Republican—and insurance-industry officials, who question how such a plan would work, given that many aspects of insurance are regulated differently by each state. “That sounds like a silver bullet to solve a major problem, and there are no silver bullets,” said Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon. “There are no simple answers.”

Incremental Fixes Won’t Save the U.S. Health Care System (Harvard Business Review)
We need to take bold action to correct our health system’s current trajectory. Incremental shifts, the approach to date, simply won’t address the real challenge confronting the U.S. health care system — that is, a disjointed care delivery system that results in inefficiency, overspending, lack of consumer accountability, and a sub-par experience all across health care. Instead, we need to adopt policies that result in significant discomfort for the laggards and outsized rewards for the leaders.

Patients who choose doctors with low office visit prices save hundreds of dollars per year on overall health care costs (Harvard Medical School)
Patients who choose primary care doctors with low office visit prices can rack up considerable savings on overall health care costs according to new research from Harvard Medical School. The report, published Dec. 5 in the December issue of the journal Health Affairs, suggests that office visit costs may be a reliable indicator of what a patient will pay for a wide range of services and procedures.


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