ON THE AGENDA | FEBRUARY 12TH, 2016 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 2/12

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

A collection of recent stories and reports that sparked consideration on ways to make progress on divisive issues.


Policymakers Need to Start Taking Social Media Seriously (Governing Magazine)

In gathering public input, governments remain stuck in a world of public hearings and postal mail.

Polling and the Election

Could Pop-up Social Spaces at Polls Increase Voter Turnout? (Smithsonian Magazine)

Placemaking the Vote, one of the finalists in the Knight Cities Challenge, wants people to hang out at their polling places.

Restoring Opportunity

This Is Why You Can’t Afford a House (The Daily Beast)

There’s little argument that inequality, and the depressed prospects for the middle class, will be a dominant issue this year’s election. Yet the most powerful force shaping this reality—the rising cost of housing—has barely emerged as political issue. The connection between growing inequality and rising property prices is fairly direct. Thomas Piketty, the French economist, recently described the extent to which inequality in 20 nations has ramped up in recent decades, erasing the hard earned progress of previous years in the earlier part of the 20th century. After examining Piketty’s groundbreaking research, Matthew Rognlie of MIT concluded (PDF) that much of the observed inequality is from redistribution of housing wealth away from the middle-class.

Women in Company Leadership Tied to Stronger Profits, Study Says (The New York Times)

A review of nearly 22,000 companies found an association between gender diversity in executive positions and increased profitability.

Resources to address poverty and build prosperity (Everyday Democracy)

Stories about the growing rates of poverty in our country are in the news every day. Poverty stands as a primary barrier to individuals, families and communities doing well – and to full participation in the life of our communities and country. In this article, you'll see stories of communities that have worked to build prosperity that will inspire you to make change in your own community, as well as resources that will help you take action.

Announcing the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty (Urban Institute)

With funding from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Urban Institute is in the earliest phases of supporting the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty. Chaired by David Ellwood and consisting of 24 leading voices on these issues, the partnership is a new collaborative aimed at discovering permanent ladders of mobility for the poor.

K-12 Education

What's in Obama's Budget (Politico Newsletter)

The White House had steadily leaked news out about Obama's $4.15 trillion budget, which came out Tuesday. What's in it for education? Three main proposals. The president wants to restore year-round Pell Grants, which the president and Congress got rid of during 2011's tight budget. The expansion would cost $2 billion a year. The president wants to make computer science available to all students, at an estimated cost of $4 billion. And he'd like put $5.5 billion towards helping young people land their first jobs, which would include skills training and creating "pathways" in communities to employment for at-risk youth.

Making Science Teaching More Than 'A Backup Plan' (NPR)

The Learning Assistant Program at the University of Colorado Boulder is producing better science learning from kindergarten through college.

Stop Humiliating Teachers (New Yorker)

There’s an element of this rage at bad teachers that’s hard to talk about, and so it’s often avoided: the dismaying truth that we don’t know how to educate poor inner-city and rural kids in this country. In particular, we don’t know how to educate African-American boys, who, according to the Schott Foundation for Public Education, graduate high school at rates no better than fifty-nine per cent. Yet if students from poor families persistently fail to score well, if they fail to finish high school in sufficient numbers, and if those who graduate are unable, in many cases, to finish college, teachers alone can hardly be at fault. Neither the schools nor the teachers created the children or the society around them: the schools and the teachers must do their best with the kids they are given.

Higher Education

Low Income, High Graduation Rate (Inside Higher Ed)

Two new studies suggest many colleges may be too quick to write off low-income students and community college transfers. Money and extra support change the equation, at least for some.

Engagement is crucial in pathways work (Community College Daily)

To be meaningful, engagement must be early, often and authentic, argues Alison Kadlec, senior vice president and director or higher education and workforce programs at Public Agenda. Otherwise, leaders will end up with the “silly-putty effect,” Kadlec said. “You can twist and bend and reshape, but it goes back to its original shape.”

‘Pushy Moms’ Help Community College Students Transfer to Four-Year Schools (WNYC)

“You know how your kids wouldn’t listen to you? Well, these kids will listen to you. They will take notes on everything you say,” says Karen Dubinsky, founder of the Pushy Moms group.

A Study I'd Like to See (Community College Dean)

I bring this up because Sunday’s New York Times had a piece about competitive college admissions and some efforts to make them less stressful. Among other suggestions, it offered: “[C]olleges should say they’ll value community college courses just like A.P. courses in the admissions assessment. Even if their high schools offer few A.P.’s, most lower-income kids have access to community colleges.” Wait, what? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? I was struck, and confused. The “should” implies that right now, competitive colleges value simulated college classes over real ones. Is that actually true?

Study Explores How Black Men Find Success in College (Associated Press)

Shaun Harper, a professor and executive director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania, surveyed more than 140 students at 30 predominantly white public and private colleges. Among his findings: While high-achieving black male students aren't immune from racial stereotypes, they have found a way to push back against them — often through taking on confidence-building campus leadership roles that can change perceptions of them among their white peers and faculty.

Gallup to Give U.S. News Rankings More Competition (Education Dive)

Gallup announced Thursday it has developed a certification process for colleges based on their efforts to improve the “well-being” of students and faculty, a quality metric that could further weaken the power of U.S. News’ long-controversial rankings. The Washington Post reports the Gallup certification plan follows a national survey of 30,000 bachelor’s degree holders and 1,500 associate degree holders that revealed just 11% are thriving across all five dimensions of well-being: social, financial, sense of purpose, connectedness to community, and physical health.

Colleges can save America–community colleges, that is (Quartz)

Earlier this year, the Virginia Community College system started making textbooks and resources available online to make education less expensive and more accessible. The California Community College System began its Online Education Initiative in 2014, aiming to support online learning at 24 community colleges by implementing a common course management system, providing faculty training in online teaching, and providing more student support tools. Even as early as 2006, the Kentucky Community and Technical College system began constructing its Learn On Demand program that combines competency-based education with online modular learning to better meet the personalized needs of a varied student body.

Working Paper: What Works for Disconnected Young People (MDRC)

Policies affecting disconnected young people span a range of systems, including public schools; adult basic and secondary education; and the juvenile justice, foster care, and mental health systems. As a result services, funding, and research are often uncoordinated and fragmented, though collective impact or system-level approaches are attempting to combat these challenges.

Health Care

Stop Simplifying the Problem: Why is American Health Care so Expensive? (The Commentator)

In truth, politicians ignore the complexity of major economic and social issues in order to separate themselves from their opponents and connect with a large audience in a restricted amount of time. Essentially, candidates provide us with Snapchat versions of the facts and their opinions in order to suit the short attention spans of the media and the public. Political theater notwithstanding, campaign season provides a great opportunity to familiarize ourselves with current problems facing our country. Health care, a mainstay on the political agenda, imposes a great stress upon the American economy.

Price transparency push in Florida, Missouri (FierceHealthFinance)

The notion of price transparency among healthcare providers is continuing to surface in Florida and Missouri in two dramatically different ways. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott has launched a television commercial to push hospitals to provide more upfront pricing to patients, Florida Politics reported. In Missouri, the state hospital association has launched its own pricing website, called Focus on Hospitals. It also includes quality data.

Tackling the social determinants of health (Modern Healthcare)

Urban public health departments are launching new initiatives to address the social determinants of ill health, which are now seen as a contributing factor to the social unrest of recent years. Experts say such efforts represent an evolution of the core mission of public health departments.

Expert: Transparency, savvy patients, competition key in tackling health care prices (The CT Mirror)

“There’s this tension. On the one hand, we like big organizations,” that can provide amazing health care, Zach Cooper, a Yale health policy and economics professor, told state policymakers Tuesday. “But some of these big organizations get bigger and they abuse market power. How do we reconcile that?” Cooper spoke Tuesday to Connecticut’s Health Care Cabinet, a group of state agency leaders, representatives from provider groups and others that has been charged with finding ways to address health care costs, increase market competition, and improve care quality.

City Solutions

The Connection Between the Arts and Neighborhood Diversity (CityLab)

A new study from Nicole Foster and James Murdoch III at the University of Texas at Arlington and Carl Grodach at Queensland University of Technology adds to our understanding of the role of arts in cities. The study conducts a detailed empirical examination of the connection between arts organizations and key measures of neighborhood diversity and economic advantage or disadvantage. To get at this, the authors use extensive data on nonprofit arts organizations collected by the New York Cultural Data Project, which they compare to data on neighborhood diversity (by race, income, and industry) and indicators of neighborhood disadvantage (based on unemployment and the share of people below the poverty line and on public assistance) from the U.S. Census.


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