ON THE AGENDA | MARCH 4TH, 2016 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 3/4

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.


The Seven Habits of Highly Depolarizing People (The American Interest)

David Blankenhorn, the founder and president of the Institute for American Values, writes: If polarization is all around us, familiar as an old coat, what about its opposite? What would depolarization look and sound like? Would we know it if we saw it, in others or in ourselves? Perhaps most importantly, what are the mental habits that encourage it?

On Super Tuesday We Polarize. On Wednesday We Need To Start Listening to WHY. (Ben Berkowitz on Medium)

The CEO at SeeClickFix writes: In trying to listen to the other side I have only come to one tactic that works: Hear what the other side is saying, but listen to why they are saying it. In the current election cycle this empathy technique leads to a conclusion that we will be fighting each other to satisfy the same need at our core: Safety. Maslow placed Personal security, Financial security, Health and well-being, and Safety net against accidents/illness and their adverse impacts all under the ‘safety’ slice of his primal pyramid. Look at the movements that have fueled Bernie Sanders’ AND Donald Trump’s campaigns and you will find politicians playing on these insecurities in an attempt to divide us.

Nudges Aren’t Enough for Problems Like Retirement Savings (NYTimes)

“The insights from behavioral economics are beautiful from a research perspective,” said Eldar Shafir, a professor of psychology at Princeton who is an expert on decision-making and a leading proponent of the behavioral approach to economics. “But its popularity no doubt comes from a combination of lack of funds and political helplessness.” Given Washington’s political paralysis, it’s no surprise that “nudges” like these are all the rage in the Obama administration, which has brought in some leading behavioral experts.

Restoring Opportunity

Now, about that Office of Opportunity... (Brookings)

Richard Reeves writes: Opportunity is a protean word, changing shape and meaning. More specificity is required for the ideal of opportunity to gain any policy purchase. A good start is to figure out what success would look like, and what data points would be needed to demonstrate it. That means adopting a series of opportunity indicators. As [former Public Agenda board member] Alice Rivlin wrote, “analysts who want to help improve social service delivery should give high priority to developing and refining measures of performance.” Rivlin also urged adopting a dashboard measures for complex social goals: “Multiple measures are necessary to reflect multiple objectives.” In the decades since Rivlin issued her cri de coeur, both data and analytical capacity of government at all levels have improved by leaps and bounds. But there is much further to go, especially in terms of defining and quantifying social mobility.

K-12 Education

K-12 Leader Partners With Principals to Improve Instruction (EdWeek)

Julio César Contreras, a former teacher and principal, eschews micromanaging the principals he supervises in the Tulsa, Okla., school district, and asks them for what supports they need. He is recognized as a 2016 Leader To Learn From.

Dogs and cats, working together (New York Daily News)

From Richard Whitmare, senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation: "Uncommon Schools, one of the country’s highest performing charter groups, is working with several city schools. This appears to one of New York’s best kept secrets, possibly due to the political awkwardness of the situation. That’s unfortunate, because there’s a powerful story to tell here, one that Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña should be trumpeting — and leaders in other cities should be learning from."

Higher Education

Transcript of Tomorrow (Inside Higher Ed)

Carl Straumsheim writes; The University of Maryland University College will this fall pilot a digital “extended transcript.” For now, a prototype offers a look at one institution’s idea of the transcript of the future. UMUC is one of a dozen colleges involved in the Comprehensive Student Record Project, a partnership between the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) and NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education to advance different methods of tracking students’ academic progress.

New Attention, Old Problem (Community College Week)

“There are a lot of good practices out there,Evelyn Waiwaiole, director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement, said. “But they are just not happening at scale. You hear a lot about good things that are happening around the country, but you don’t see it at scale.” For example, while some colleges and the larger community college field are making strides in redesigning placement practices by modifying or restricting the use of placement tests, the reality is 87 percent of students report being required to take a placement test to assess their skills.

Community-College Advocate Urges 4-Year Colleges to Do More to Help Students Transfer (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Josh Wyner, executive director of the College Excellence Program at the Aspen Institute, says one of the biggest barriers for low-income community-college students who want to transfer to colleges where they can earn a B.A. is the lack of financial support they get from the four-year institutions.

Collaborate to Make Work Better (Chief Learning Officer)

For example, the Health Care Service Corporation, which is currently working with John Wood Community College to keep its workforce competitive, is building a 17-hour certificate program in customer service skills. Credit earned in a certificate program may be applied toward an associate degree in office technology at the college. The program is being piloted in the Quincy, Illinois-area with plans to make it a virtual offering that can be accessed by employees who live outside the John Wood CC district.

A Counselor Who Looks Like You (Inside Higher Ed)

Researchers have found that black students on predominantly white campuses struggle with underrepresentation, social isolation, academic hurdles and racial stereotyping from both their peers and their professors.

Health Care

Many Dislike Health Care System But Are Pleased With Their Own Care (NPR)

The United States has the most advanced health care in the world. There are gleaming medical centers across the country where doctors cure cancers, transplant organs and bring people back from near death. But a poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, shows that only one-third of Americans say the health care they receive is "excellent." Even fewer people are impressed with the system as a whole.

National Resource Network, NYU Partner to Launch Local Health Dashboards (POLITICO Pulse)

The National Resource Network and NYU on Thursday announced the creation of a brand-new initiative to track city health outcomes, starting with four pilot cities - Flint, Mich.; Kansas City, Kans.; Providence, R.I.; and Waco, Texas. "Most health data in the United States is simply unavailable at the city level," NRN executive director David Eichenthal said in a statement. "The Municipal Health Data for America's Cities Initiatives will give local decision makers the data that they need to work to create healthier communities."

Study: Price transparency puts hospitals in better bargaining seat (Healthcare Dive)

A new report by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that transparency about hospital purchasing practices may help drive down prices, Morning Consult reported. The finding could help hospitals improve their bargaining tactics with medical suppliers. NBER cautioned, however, that its analysis was limited to coronary stents. Price transparency had an estimated savings of 26%, the study concluded.

Consumer Choices Have Limited Impact On U.S. Health Care Spending: Study (Kaiser Health News) 
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews: "A new study throws cold water on the popular idea that consumers can save themselves and the health care system loads of money if they become savvier shoppers for health care services. The analysis by the Health Care Cost Institute focused on what consumers paid out of pocket, where comparison shopping can result in lower costs. The study found that less than 7 percent of total health care spending in 2011 was paid by consumers for “shoppable” services."

Patients Must Be Part Of Defining Quality And Increasing Value (Health Affairs Blog)

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is providing PatientsLikeMe—an online patient network—with a $900,000 grant so as to extend a research platform to create or enhance performance measures that give patients a voice and put them at the center of the clinical research process. The grant will allow researchers to pilot, share, and validate new ways to measure patient-reported outcomes and use the PatientsLikeMe network, which includes longitudinal profiles for more than 400,000 patients. PatientsLikeMe will partner with the National Quality Forum to develop, test, and facilitate broader use of patient-reported outcome measures and ensure that they can be used alongside clinician-reported measures to assess clinical performance.

City Solutions

Why Now Is the Time to Remake Economic Development (Next City)

While 95 of the 100 largest U.S. metro areas experienced aggregate job and output growth since 2009, smaller numbers have seen improvements in living standards, earnings and employment, particularly for workers of color. In terms of job quality, more than 40 percent of all metropolitan areas have lost jobs in advanced industries, and, nationally growth in low-wage jobs has far surpassed growth in middle-skill and higher-wage occupations. While income inequality is widening across the United States, the divide is even greater between racial and ethnic groups and among the 50 largest cities.


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