ON THE AGENDA | JUNE 17TH, 2016 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 6/17

A collection of recent stories and reports that sparked consideration on ways to make progress on divisive issues.

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


Why the gun control debate gets more intractable every time there's a mass shooting (Vox)

The psychology of why terrorist attacks divide us further instead of bringing us together.

Enhancing citizen participation in city management (Huffington Post)

In Mexico, MarŪa Fernanda Carvallo discusses participatory budgeting, which emerged in 2010. Although the participatory budget is a counterweight to the public administration, it is still in the process of strengthening its role. The challenge lies in the overwhelming participation of people with political ties that influence the neighborhood committee. Furthermore, in an ideal model, the public consultation and application of projects would have to take a backseat to the analysis of common needs through community development mechanisms, which later can culminate in a public vote.

3 Ways to Stay Calm When Conversations Get Intense (Harvard Business Review)

Watch for the tipping point. Focus on something physical to regain perspective. Get to empathy and create bridges. Empathy is not about agreement. Nor is it the same as giving in, being passive, or allowing the other person to mistreat you. Recognize as you make more room for emotion that you are actually helping to discharge it. By allowing the other person to vent, you also gain access to other important facts, assumptions, and constraints at play Ė all critical information for bridging the gap between you and the other person.

K-12 Education

Digital Learning Games Break Into the Mainstream (EdWeek)

The number of teachers in the United States using games in their classrooms has doubled over the past six years, a new nationwide survey shows. The 2015 Speak Up survey findings are the latest in a series of reports released each year by the Irvine, Calif.-based nonprofit organization. The latest report draws from an online questionnaire completed by more than 500,000 students, teachers, other educators, and parents.

Boston Solicits Public for High School Redesign Ideas (EdWeek)

More than 2,000 parents, educators, residents, and students have offered their views on how to reshape the city's high schools.

Louisiana Pushing Industry Externships for Teachers This Summer (EdWeek)

Districts in Louisiana are paying teachers to swap their classrooms for factory floors and office cubicles this summer.

Higher Education

Report: Innovate and Evaluate: Expanding the Research Base for Competency-Based Education (American Enterprise Institute)

Clearly, the benefits of expanding access to CBE could be substantial. But, what does existing research suggest about the likely effect of reforms to promote CBE? In this paper, we analyze 380 studies of postsecondary CBE and prior-learning assessment listed in the Department of Educationís Education Resources Information Center database. We reviewed each studyís methodology (i.e., quantitative or qualitative) and topic (i.e., program design, student characteristics, student outcomes, and policy environment). We found that existing research leaves important questions unanswered. What types of students enroll in CBE? How do students fare in CBE programs, and do particular groups do better than others? Are CBE graduates more attractive to potential employers? Our analysis uncovered more than twice as many qualitative studies (228 articles) as quantitative ones (102).

Why Republicans and Democrats should come together on Pell Grant reforms (American Enterprise Institute)

To be clear, conclusive studies of Pellís effect on educational outcomes have proven elusive, in part because the feds have never called for the type of rigorous evaluation that has become commonplace in social policy. Grant aid seems to affect enrollment, but we have only limited evidence that Pell shapes persistence and success. Yet some recent research, from a private scholarship program in Wisconsin and a state grant in Florida, suggests that additional grant aid can increase the likelihood that poor students finish a degree. In Florida, for instance, eligibility for the Florida Student Access Grant increased degree completion among those just below the eligibility cut-off by 22 percent.

How Community Colleges Use Job-Market Data to Develop New Programs (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

In Floyd County, Ky., which had an unemployment rate of 10.5 percent in April 2016, Big Sandy Community and Technical College recently started a new associate-degree program in broadband technology, the first of its kind in the state, with the hope that its graduates will land high-demand jobs in the region.

Why Are More Poor Kids Going to College in the U.K.? (The Atlantic)

The United Kingdom has been far more successful than the U.S. in sending low-income students to higher education.

Health Care

Why consumers will expect price transparency (Health Data Management)

A recent JAMA study of employer-provided healthcare price transparency completely upends the widespread belief that consumer insight into cost will help reduce our nationís healthcare bill. Instead, the study found, employers failed to save any money at all by directing employees to an insurer-provided price calculator. Whatís more, some employees may have actually chosen higher cost options by correlating them with higher quality of care. Whether this single study disproves a long-held theory, it merits pointing out that hospitals and health systems have a very different interest in providing price transparency directly to patients. Unlike employers, whose primary interest is in keeping costs down, providers see price transparency as a means to collect faster payment from patients who are better prepared to make financial decisions by knowing their true out-of-pocket cost in advance of service. This is a critical strategy to mitigate the bad debt thatís accelerating with the rise in high-deductible insurance plans.

Identification Of Four Unique Spending Patterns Among Older Adults In The Last Year Of Life Challenges Standard Assumptions (Health Affairs)

The growing efforts to reduce costly inpatient and intensive services just in the last few months of life may have less effect on overall costs than commonly perceived, researchers report. Instead, the study suggests that a patient's spending patterns are established well before death - and strategies that focus on older adults with multiple chronic conditions earlier in life, rather than those with poor immediate prognosis, could have the largest effect on national health spending.

California Voters Are Becoming More Concerned About Healthcare Costs Than About Whether They Have Insurance (Los Angeles Times)

Six years after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, the health reform law has gained acceptance from a majority of California voters, but the cost of getting healthcare remains a major concern, eclipsing worries about having insurance, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. The widespread worry about costs indicates a potential shift in the debate over healthcare, at least in this heavily Democratic state.


A Mayor's Real Job (Governing)

Running a city is mostly about building community -- and that's never easy.

Why Affordable Housing Is Hard to Build

There are lots of ideas out there. None of them are working very well.


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