Engaging Ideas - 3/31/2017

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: A story on empowering residents to improve their city and a study on millennial access to political life. Research on how work environments impact teacher practice. A story on how colleges create roadmaps for students. And some hospitals’ role in mind-boggling medical bills.


Study: 60 percent of rural millennials lack access to a political life (The Conversation)
Like older voters, young ones were divided by the 2016 presidential election. A recent study of millennial voters by Tufts University found that young people had starkly different opinions about politics and civic institutions based on race, gender and social class. One important dividing line separated rural and urban youth.

Opinion: Why Democrats Should Work With Trump (The New York Times)
Would Mr. Trump accept Democrats’ help on these terms? If he really wants to start racking up “wins” for his voters, he would. He’d have to share credit — a novel experience — with Democrats, who’d get points from swing voters for being pragmatic and competent. And they wouldn’t be constrained from fiercely opposing Mr. Trump on just about everything else. America doesn’t have room for two parties of “no.”


America's explosion of income inequality, in one amazing animated chart (The Los Angeles Times)
The best graphical illustration of the economic trend we've seen is this animation, showing the shift in "middle income" households from 1971 to 2015.

Re-Capturing the American Dream: How to Restore Middle Class America (Harvard Political Review)
For most middle class Americans, the dream of a stable, well-paying job is a fiction of a past long-departed. With the arrival of the modern system of flexible labor, working class America has waved goodbye to the economic prosperity championed by its forefathers—and begrudgingly welcomed an economy marked by stagnant income levels.

Is Trump Making America Great Again? The American Dream Index Is Keeping Score (Forbes)
To gauge whether Trump is delivering on his promise to Make America Great Again, Forbes is introducing the American Dream Index. The index strives to capture whether the economy is strong enough to deliver middle-class prosperity, or put another way, the American Dream.


Hartford Decides: Empowering Residents To Choose How To Improve Their City (Hartford Courant)
Hartford's initiative, called Hartford Decides, is the first of its kind in Connecticut. It is part of a growing trend in what's known as participatory budgeting, an approach to civic engagement that is cropping up across the country, including Boston and New York City.

Can Austin innovate itself out of long meetings? (Austin Monitor)
Given the recent tilt toward performance art at City Council meetings – those poor eggs! – and running times that are the longest among major cities in Texas, it seems like the last thing Austin needs is more citizen participation on civic matters big and small.

K-12 Education

The Challenge of Creating Schools That Work for All (EdWeek)
One high-achieving school works to get a handle on the racial- and income-based disparities that continue to divide its students.

Report: Teachers’ Voices: Work Environment Conditions That Impact Teacher Practice and Program Quality (Center for the Study of Child Care Employment)
To facilitate the process of bringing teachers’ voices into quality improvement strategies, CSCCE developed Supportive Environmental Quality Underlying Adult Learning, or SEQUAL, as a tool to document contextual information about workplace conditions that impact teacher practice and program quality and to build a vocabulary for the field around teachers’ needs for workplace supports.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

Report: Performance Requirements in Need-Based Aid: What Roles Do They Serve, and Do They Work?  (CAPSEE)
Our impact analyses in both states/studies confirm that SAP failure can act as an encouragement or a discouragement, depending upon the student: overall we find a negative effect of SAP failure on persistence, but we also find that students who do return modestly improve their GPAs, at least in the short term.

At College, a Guided Path on Which to Find Oneself (The New York Times)
Colleges use different parts of the strategy and give it different names, although it often goes by “guided pathways.” The underlying idea is to give students firm guidance in choosing the right courses, along with structured, clear course sequences that lead to graduation. Colleges also monitor students’ progress closely and intervene when they go off track. One college has used guided pathways from the start: the City University of New York’s Guttman Community College.

Google Hopes To Hire More Black Engineers By Bringing Students To Silicon Valley (KQED)
Howard, the historically black university in Washington, D.C., is sending computer science students to study at Google's headquarters in California, as part of an effort called Howard West.

Google Maps for Degrees? How One College Plans to Chart Out Student Pathways (EdSurge)
The goal, says Randi Harris, assistant to the vice provost for academic innovation and student success, is to incorporate a degree audit tool into the map software so students can plan and see the courses they need to graduate, as well as how that path might change if they decide to switch majors. And when they make those decisions, it could point students in the direction of the services they might need, like an academic or financial aid advisor.

This Time, With Feeling: Integrating Social and Emotional Development and College- and-Career-Ready Standards (Aspen)
This report draws directly from states' standards in English, Science, and Math to demonstrate that the standards themselves require more than academic content knowledge. For example, giving and receiving critical feedback—one of the hallmarks of rigorous academic discourse, and a skill emphasized in state standards—clearly requires the development of skills beyond academic content.

Health Care

Effectively Moving Toward Value-Based Care (AJMC)
The move away from fee-for-service (FFS) has driven some health plans to embrace value-based care contracts and accountable care organizations (ACOs). During a session at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy Annual Meeting, held March 27-30, 2017, in Denver, Colorado, panelists outlined how the marketplace has evolved.

State and local lawmakers call for more transparency on health care costs (KTVA Alaska)
The price of health care in Alaska is higher than anywhere else in the nation. With national reform on the back burner, state lawmakers in Juneau are joining with the Anchorage Assembly in demanding more transparency from health care providers.

Telehealth Doctor Visits May Be Handy, But Aren't Cheaper Overall (KQED)
Many patients like the convenience of being able to quickly consult a doctor by text or phone or webcam instead of heading to an urgent care clinic. But the cost of consultations can add up.

Those Indecipherable Medical Bills? They’re One Reason Health Care Costs So Much. (The New York Times)
Hospitals have learned to manipulate medical codes — often resulting in mind-boggling bills.

What a Bipartisan Approach to U.S. Health Care Could Look Like (Harvard Business Review)
The ACA (or Obamacare) remains a flawed law. But rather than allow it to “implode” or “collapse,” as some suggest it will (e.g., President Trump), a group of Republican and Democratic leaders in Washington should take action and fix the broken elements of the ACA for the good of the millions of Americans who depend on it. It is time for a compromise. What might such a bipartisan agreement look like? Here are some ideas.


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