Engaging Ideas - 4/7/2017

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: A look at the potential dangers of partisan animosity. How town halls work best. New research on career and technical training in higher education. And what does consumer-centric health care really mean?


The dangers of partisan animosity (Vox)
There has been a lot of talk lately, from all political corners, about threats to democracy. Arguably chief among these is the growing hostility between Republicans and Democrats. Parties serve vital functions in our government and politics, and the lack of competition between parties, in part due to antagonistic perceptions between partisans, disrupts parties’ ability to function.


Research: Making It in America Depends on Where You Work (Harvard Business Review)
Imagine you’re a middle class American, with an average education and average skills. You’re employed. What are the chances that next year you’ll vault into the top third of earners? It depends quite a bit on the company you work for.


In our opinion: Town halls work best with civil dialogue (Deseret News)
The current political climate has given rise to a surge of citizen engagement in the public square, as witnessed by the large crowd attending a town hall meeting recently staged by Utah Rep. Chris Stewart. Though such participation is healthy in the democratic process, the nature of the engagement has often left much to be hoped for in the way of well-reasoned, civil dialogue.

Participatory budgeting volunteers get word out amid skepticism (Triad City Beat)
Tony Wilkins, a Republican who represents suburban District 5 on Greensboro City Council, is one of the most vocal opponents of participatory budgeting, a process that carves out $500,000 from the city’s multi-million dollar annual budget and allows residents 14 years and older to vote directly on how the money is spent.

How Seattle Is Dismantling a NIMBY Power Structure (Next City)
At a time when rents are soaring and development is more contentious than ever before, a little-known city agency is rethinking its role in neighborhood planning.

K-12 Education

The Power of One: New Research Shows Black Students See Big Benefits From a Single Black Teacher (The 74)
To determine how exposure to a black teacher impacts black students, the researchers — including Lindsay, Seth Gershenson of American University, Cassandra Hart of the University of California Davis, and Nicholas Papageorge of Johns Hopkins University — used an extensive data set from the early 2000s in North Carolina.
They examine whether students attended a school and had a class with a black teacher in third, fourth, or fifth grade, and then link that to whether students dropped out of high school and if they said they intended to go to college.

Who Needs Charters When You Have Public Schools Like These? (The New York Times)
The truth is that school systems improve not through flash and dazzle but by linking talented teachers, a challenging curriculum and engaged students. This is the not-so-secret-sauce of Union Public Schools district in the eastern part of Tulsa, Okla.: Start out with an academically solid foundation, then look for ways to keep getting better.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

6 Reasons You Won't Graduate on Time (The New York Times)
We asked educators to identify the biggest obstacles to a timely graduation. They talked about students who aim for a four-year finish but fail to take the right courses in the right order. Other students conclude that graduating in four years isn’t so important, and cut back on classes to make more time for play. Here are the six roadblocks most cited, and ways to tackle the problem.

States Want More Career and Technical Training, But Struggle to Find Teachers (Stateline)
Nationally, career and technical education (CTE) isn’t the area with the worst teacher shortage — that’s special education. But two-thirds of states are currently reporting a shortage of CTE teachers in at least one specialty, according to a Stateline analysis of federal data. Many states, such as Minnesota and South Dakota, have had a shortage of CTE teachers for a decade. Some states, such as Maine, Maryland and New York, have had a shortage for almost 20 years.

To Ease The Student Debt Crisis, Hold Colleges Responsible (FiveThirtyEight)
College, like any investment, involves risk — and that risk doesn’t pay off for everyone. Roughly three out of every five individuals nationally are not making any progress paying down the principal balance of their student loans three years after they leave school (the numbers improve a bit in later years, but are still strikingly high). And because student loans are usually not dischargeable in bankruptcy, this particular form of debt can follow people for the rest of their lives, even resulting in the garnishment of Social Security checks.

Policy Memo: The Power of Career- and Employer-Focused Training and Education (MDRC)

Health Care

Blood test: $522 or $19? MRI: $750 or $495? Tell us what health care is costing you (Nola.com)
"Cracking the Code: The real cost of health care," a joint project that NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News launched on April 5 to help consumers navigate the increasingly murky waters of modern day health care pricing, and to explore what providers, insurers and regulators could do to improve the system.

Fight over a state healthcare transparency bill goes mostly uncovered (Columbia Journalism Review)
In Ohio, 3rd Rail Politics—a blog that pledges to show “the side of politics other publications ignore”—recently detailed the political hardball that has blocked the implementation and enforcement of a patient protection law.

Research Brief: Consumer-Centric Healthcare: Rhetoric vs. Reality (Health Care Value Hub)
From patient-centered care to consumer-directed health plans, changes in the delivery, financing, and organization of healthcare and health coverage are increasingly touted as consumer- or patient-centered. But does today’s system accurately reflect consumers’ true needs and preferences?

Will 2017 Be the Year for Major Healthcare Price Transparency Reform? (The SSI Group)
Primary goals of healthcare reform include the core principles of reducing healthcare spending and providing cost-effective, high-quality care. Healthcare pricing transparency is a key piece to this puzzle, and it comes in the form of estimation tools that allow consumers to compare prices for healthcare services among multiple providers.


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