Engaging Ideas - 5/26/2017

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: Advice on getting a difficult conversation back on track. Why it’s so hard to know whether school choice is working. The assault on colleges and the American Dream. A bipartisan proposal for payment reform in health care.


Civic Resilience Beyond the Beltway (New America)
James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic, described in human terms the local resilience that he has witnessed in his travels and research for his American Futures project. What he saw was a sense that people all across the country feel that their city is doing better than the rest of America—that despite the forces of globalization, digitization, growing inequality, and civic disconnection that contribute to a brittle relationship at the national level, their place is still coming together to solve problems. The unifying factor across the cities he has visited is the sense of agency people feel in the face of a changing world. Fallows’ observations weren’t a one-off, though.

Bipartisanship? It may be possible thanks to this little-known group (The Hill)
The work of a little-known and geeky-sounding federal commission may hold the key to more effective policymaking and a renewed culture of bipartisanship in a badly divided Congress.

Fed-Up Republicans, Dems Form New Centrist Party in Utah (Newsmax)
Utah Republicans and Democrats disgusted with the "extremism" of the two major political parties have launched a centrist alternative called the United Utah Party.

What Tom MacArthur learned after getting roughed up at a town hall (Washington Examiner)
For five hours, MacArthur fielded questions (and lectures) from a mostly hostile crowd angry with him for supporting a bill that would partially repeal Obamacare.


Employees look to employers for financial stability (Employee Benefit News)
As the American dream of financial security continues to slip out of reach for many U.S. workers, employers — seen as trusted partners by employees — will need to step up to restore faith in retirement readiness.

The Unfreeing of American Workers (New York Times)
Paul Krugman writes: America is an open society, in which everyone is free to make his or her own choices about where to work and how to live. Everyone, that is, except the 30 million workers now covered by noncompete agreements, who may find themselves all but unemployable if they quit their current jobs; the 52 million Americans with pre-existing conditions who will be effectively unable to buy individual health insurance, and hence stuck with their current employers, if the Freedom Caucus gets its way; and the millions of Americans burdened down by heavy student and other debt.


8 Ways to Get a Difficult Conversation Back on Track (Harvard Business Review)
Despite our best intentions, conversations can frequently veer into difficult territory, producing frustration, resentment, and wasted time and effort. Take David, one of my coaching clients. Recently appointed to a business school leadership role, he was eager to advance his strategic agenda. Doing so required building his team members’ commitment to and sense of ownership over the proposed changes.

UTSA researcher examines how city governments use Facebook to engage citizens (UTSA Today)
Social media can help boost citizens' voluntary participation and involvement in local government, according to Chris Reddick, chair of the Department of Public Administration at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA).

K-12 Education

Why Did The Top Student Aid Official Under Betsy DeVos Resign? (NPR)
Conscience or incompetence? Two competing narratives — along partisan lines — have emerged to explain the sudden departure of the head of the Federal Student Aid Office.

Research Groups Plan Advocacy Path (Education Week)
The White House budget proposal for fiscal 2018 would keep spending roughly the same for most of the Education Department's research arm, the Institute for Education Sciences, but it would deliver cuts to several major education and child development research areas in the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.

We Need More STEM Teachers; Higher Ed. Can Help (Education Week)
Four recommendations for sending more STEM majors into teaching. The first: Conversations about teaching—between STEM majors (who are not enrolled in teaching-prep programs) and their professors—can change the status quo. In other words, those in higher education are in a position to make a difference, just by encouraging this dialogue. And yet, there is evidence that many university and college professors, particularly in the STEM fields, do not discuss the option of middle and high school teaching with their students.

The Little-Known Statistician Who Taught Us to Measure Teachers (The Upshot)
William Sanders’s data-driven method of evaluating the effectiveness of teachers was a once-revolutionary idea that has gained wide acceptance.

Why It's So Hard To Know Whether School Choice Is Working (NPR)
Students are never randomly assigned to a school. A school's population is always affected by local demographics. With schools of choice, by definition, parents and students are making a decision to attend that school, so their enrollment is even less random. It's hard to know how schools of choice — charter or private — are performing. Researchers say that's precisely because they are schools of choice. But here's what we do know.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

The Assault on Colleges — and the American Dream (New York Times)
Over the last several years most states have cut their spending on higher education, some drastically. Many public universities have responded by enrolling fewer poor and middle-class students — and replacing them with affluent students who can afford the tuition. The situation is particularly demoralizing because it’s happening even as politicians from both parties spend more time trumpeting their supposedly deep concern for the American dream.

Study Examines Health Care Access, Quality, Ranks Nations; U.S. Scores Low Given Expenditures, Study Author Says (New York Times)
Over the last 25 years, China, Ethiopia, the Maldive Islands, Peru, South Korea, and Turkey had the greatest improvements in "deaths avoidable through health care at their economic level," a complex but intriguing new measure of global mortality described last week in the Lancet. By that standard, the United States improved slightly over the same period, 1990 to 2015. But the American ranking is still so low that it’s "an embarrassment, especially considering the U.S. spends $9,000 per person on health care annually," said the report’s chief author, Dr. Christopher J. L. Murray, director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

An Affordable Pathway to a Bachelor's Degree (Inside Higher Ed)
Despite the frequent loss of credits, transferring from a community college to a university is less expensive than starting at a four-year institution, a new study finds. “The bottom line is if you complete, it’s cheaper to go to the community college,” said Clive Belfield, a professor of economics at Queens College of the City University of New York system, who co-authored the paper. “Students lose a lot of credits, maybe 10 to 15 credits, and that’s a whole semester, but it doesn't change the calculation.”

Health Care

A Bipartisan Way To Improve Medical Care (New Yorker)
A straightforward change would save money and improve health. So why isn’t Congress talking about it?

Measuring Value Based On What Matters To Patients: A New Value Assessment Framework (Health Affairs Blog)
As health care spending continues to grow and as we appropriately drive the health care system toward a payment system that rewards value instead of volume, it is imperative that we promote conversations on how to define value. To do this, it is critical that we first answer the question: value to whom?

We should research our health care at least as well as our cars (Baltimore Sun)
As consumers, we spend more time researching television, vacation and vehicle purchases than making health care spending decisions.


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