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

Engaging Ideas - 4/15

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

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues including democracy, public engagement, opportunity, education and health care.


Column: How to Fix Politics (The New York Times)

David Brooks writes: Starting just after World War II, America’s community/membership mind-set gave way to an individualistic/autonomy mind-set. The idea was that individuals should be liberated to live as they chose, so long as they didn’t interfere with the rights of others. By 1981, the pollster Daniel Yankelovich noticed the effects: “Throughout most of this century Americans believed that self-denial made sense, sacrificing made sense, obeying the rules made sense, subordinating oneself to the institution made sense. But now doubts have set in, and Americans now believe that the old giving/getting compact needlessly restricts the individual while advancing the power of large institutions … who use the power to enhance their own interests at the expense of the public.”

Opinion: Bipartisanship Isn’t for Wimps, After All (The New York Times)

Arthur C. Brooks writes: There is a Polarization Industrial Complex in American media today, which profits handsomely from the continuing climate of bitterness. Not surprisingly, polarization in the House and Senate is at its highest since the end of Reconstruction in the 1870s.


Interactive: Mapping How the Public Gains Information (Democracy Fund)

Understanding the role of local news and public engagement requires a systems-thinking lens that takes into consideration not only the strength of individual news outlets, but also the influence of the local economy, demographics, technological infrastructure, and the policy environment — as well as the agency of citizens to find, interpret, and share the information needed for civic involvement. The Local News & Participation systems map is an open-source tool that welcomes engagement by researchers, media companies, government and nonprofit agencies, funders, and others. Through user involvement, we expect this map to be made more accurate, complete, and practical as a vehicle for improving how the public gains access to information and participates in democracy. We invite you to explore the map and its elements in Kumu. As you do, we hope you will tell us how to better describe and illuminate the dynamics of the Local News & Participation system. Throughout 2016, we will hold webinars and work sessions to involve new perspectives and strengthen this map.

Solutions journalism increases optimism, builds self-efficacy -- and lasts longer, too (Medium)

In the experiment, a sample of 834 U.S. adults saw one of two online news articles, both reporting on the struggles of the working poor. The articles were nearly identical in length and reading level, had the same headline, and contained the same photograph. The only difference between the two was that one version focused on the working poor’s hardships, while the other reported on the hardships and how some organizations were coming to the aid of the working poor. In other words, one version was about a problem, while the other also included information about solutions to the problem.


The Economics of Power (New America)

Increasing economic inequality is not just about changes in the workforce. K. Sabeel Rahman explains why it is also about a shift in the balance of power in the economy.

K-12 Education

Six New Transparency Requirements in the Every Student Succeeds Act (EdWeek)

ESSA largely puts states in the driver's seat when it comes to how to rate schools and intervene in schools that aren't up to snuff. The transparency requirements, however, can help advocates and policymakers ensure that states, schools, and districts are still making progress with historically overlooked groups of students. They were part of the law's bipartisan bargain, and were important to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., one of the Democratic architects of ESSA, among others.

Report: How do school districts mentor new teachers? (Institute for Education Sciences)

The Institute of Education Sciences surveyed how districts in five REL (regional education laboratory) Central states -- Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota -- support new teachers.

A Simple Cure For Education's Jargonitis (NPR)

It can be hard to make sense of the words used by people who want to make schools better. Here's a Reader's Guide, using the most common words in English.

What is the Conceptual Use of Research, and Why is it Important? (William T. Grant Foundation)

We often imagine that research use involves district leaders reviewing studies on the efficacy of different programs they are considering adopting, weighing pros and cons, and making a selection. But the conceptual use of research does not inform one specific decision directly. Instead, it influences what district leaders prioritize and focus on as they do their work. This, in turn, influences a variety of policy actions and problem solving decisions across the school system. In this post, grantees Caitlin Farrell and Cynthia Coburn outline four forms of conceptual use and illustrate its potential impact on local education policy, writing, "Rather than influencing a single decision, it shapes how people see the world, how they respond to problems they encounter in their everyday work, and how they design and manage solutions."

Higher Education

New Checklist Will Help Ensure Competency-Based Programs Comply with Federal Financial Aid Policies (Education Dive)

The Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN) has released an urgently needed planning resource to help financial aid officers ensure that competency-based education programs are designed and offered in ways that allow students to pay tuition, fees, and living expenses using federal grants and loans. C-BEN released the financial aid checklist and a related academic calendar tool in advance of its meeting April 20-22 in Santa Fe, N.M.

Op-Ed: Straight From High School to a Career (The New York Times)

Missing from the debate is the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of “middle skill” jobs in the United States that are — or soon will be — going unfilled because of a dearth of qualified workers. Employers complain that electricians, pipe fitters, advanced manufacturing machinists, brick masons and radiology technicians are scarce. Katherine S. Newman, the provost of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Hella Winston, a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, are the authors of “Reskilling America: Learning to Labor in the 21st Century.”

Report: On the Verge: Costs and Tradeoffs Facing Community College Students (The Institute for College Access & Success)

In 2015, TICAS partnered with 22 California community colleges to survey students on their expenses, their aid, and the choices they make when their resources do not stretch far enough. About 12,000 students responded from across the state, and more than 4,400 shared the personal stories that form the backbone of this report.

Stopping Stop-Outs (Inside Higher Ed)

Carl Straumsheim writes: Improving economy leads to lower enrollments at community colleges, a report from the Instructional Technology Council of AACC shows. Can online programs help stanch the flow?

Report: Pathways to Equity (Institute for Women's Policy Research)

The report highlights potential on-ramp occupations to demonstrate to employers

that women working in these occupations may be good candidates for skills training and employment in the target shortage occupations. The pairing of well-paid target occupations with potential on-ramp occupations also provides information for women considering their careers.

Health Care

State Options to Control Health Care Costs and Improve Quality (Center for American Progress)

This new report documents how states can improve health care quality and lower costs, arguing that they're best positioned to enact reforms in the near-term because of gridlock at the federal level. CAP broadly outlines more than a dozen options for state governments to consider and examples of states that have already pioneered some of them.

Shopping for Health Care: A Fledgling Craft (The New York Times)

On the Fixes blog, Tina Rosenberg writes: There is practically nothing that we shop for the same way we did 15 years ago. We compare prices online, look at quality ratings and reviews, and read about the experiences of others. We have endless information. Except in health care. Most of us still buy it blind. We do as our doctor directs — and pray that our portion of the bill will be reasonable. We have very little information about quality and almost none about price. (In contrast to virtually every other field, price and quality are not related in health care.) And we find out the cost afterward. This is a problem for patients with high deductibles, like deBronkart. It’s also a huge problem for the country.

Liking Health Reform But Turned Off By Toxic Politics

(Health Affairs)

Lawrence R. Jacobs and Suzanne Mettler write: We investigated how individuals may be experiencing and responding to health reform implementation by analyzing three waves of a panel study we conducted in 2010, 2012, and 2014. While public opinion about the ACA remains split (45.6 percent unfavorable and 36.2 percent favorable), there have been several detectable shifts. The share of respondents believing that reform had little or no impact on access to health insurance or medical care diminished by 18 percentage points from 2010 to 2014, while those considering reform to have some or a great impact increased by 19 percentage points. Among individuals who held unfavorable views toward the law in 2010, the percentage who supported repeal—while still high, at 72 percent—shrank by 9 percentage points from 2010 to 2014. We found that party affiliation and distrust in government were influential factors in explaining the continuing divide over the law.


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