ON THE AGENDA | JUNE 3RD, 2016 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 6/3

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.


Is civic technology the killer app for democracy? (TechCrunch)
The civic disconnect between information convenience and failing public systems is a considerable challenge. Big data might be a huge boost to our economy, but will it help us build a better nation? Hackathons are terrific community-building events, but we can’t code ourselves out of our failing infrastructure. To build the killer civic app, we need to find an ethical framework that connects technology to political leadership, to power.

Participatory Budgeting Reaches Historically Disenfranchised Neighbors (Next City)
“Does anybody know why this process is so important?” asked Councilmember Mark Levine. “The neighbors know best,” replied one constituent, seconded by many nodding heads and murmurs of approval.


Why early career researchers should care about public engagement (Times Higher Education)
Many researchers don’t want to do public engagement. Few consider it part of their core mission, many consider it a waste of their time. As for higher education institutions, they send out a mixed message: yes, please do it, but do it in your own time. The problem is that public engagement is perceived as taking valuable time away from research, which is already compressed by teaching and administration. It also requires a considerable amount of preparation and even training to deliver effectively. In much the same way that interdisciplinary research projects open hitherto unimagined avenues for research, generalist conversations at public events can provide new perspectives and shift your perception of a subject. Talking at literary festivals, appearing in the media and writing blog posts forces you to express your ideas with added clarity. You learn that making a valid point or providing astute criticism does not imply using convoluted sentence structures and deliberately obtuse vocabulary.

K-12 Education

U.S. Graduation Rate Rises, But Critical Gaps Remain (EdWeek)
A record-setting 82 percent of the class of 2014 graduated on time, the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education show, but American Indian, black, and Latino students continue to trail their white peers.

What Do Teachers Actually Think About New Teacher Evaluations? (New America)
What do teachers actually think about their evaluation processes? Anna Duncan and Kaylan Connally look at two recent studies that give us an idea of where teachers’ opinions currently stand.

Bill Aims to Ease Teacher Mobility Across States (EdWeek)
The proposal, introduced May 26 by Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., would set up an application process for teachers in participating states to move to another without having to meet additional coursework or other requirements. Participating states would have to administer at least one content test before a teacher could begin in the classroom, plus one general pedagogy and one performance-based test within a year after the teacher begins to teach. The proposal would allow the U.S. Secretary of Education to award grants to "an eligible entity" to set up this process, but that's the extent of the feds' involvement. One wrinkle: Even when states use the same tests, they often set very different passing or "cutoff" scores—sometimes at very low levels. So the bill says that states' tests would have to be "identified as sufficiently rigorous" by a third-party organization like the Council of Chief State School Officers. The proposal is modeled on the recommendations from
a 2014 report from centrist think-tank Third Way.

Higher Education

The One Question Most Americans Get Wrong About College Graduates (The Upshot)
What do you think the unemployment rate is for 25-to-34-year-olds who graduated from a four-year college? (Hint: for those with only a high school degree, it’s 7.8 percent.)

Report: Workforce Readiness Survey (McGraw-Hill Education)
Community college students generally feel just as prepared for careers and satisfied with their higher education experiences as their peers at 4-year colleges.

This Professor Enrolled as an Undercover Student (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
Mr. Cross, 35, described what motivated him, how he occasionally got busted when students recognized him in class, and the lessons he took to heart: “I’ve been in so many meetings where we as professors gripe about students and their excuses. There’s always going to be some who are slacking, but the vast majority aren’t deciding between watching a Game of Thrones marathon and turning in a research paper. More likely, they’re choosing whether to take their mom to a doctor’s appointment, go to a kid’s play, or do this paper. Sometimes schoolwork gets the short end of the stick.”

Do community college certificates help employees earn more money? (Shorenstein Center)
This study, published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, suggests that the financial benefits of community college certificates vary among states and industries.

Health Care

Making Transparency Work: why we need new efforts to make data usable (Ashish Jha)
Health care "transparency" hasn't worked, and Ashish Jha says the reason's simple: We're doing it wrong. Three ways for CMS to do it better.

Commentary: Consumer reviews offer insights into public health and patient satisfaction, says Yelp CEO (Modern Healthcare)
Consumers already use review platforms to gather information and share their experiences; it's time for health professionals and government agencies to get on board.

Unpaid, stressed, and confused: patients are the health care system's free labor (Vox)
What I didn't understand was the burden patients face in managing the health care: a massive web of doctors, insurers, pharmacies, and other siloed actors that seem intent on not talking with one another. That unenviable task gets left to the patient, the secret glue that holds the system together. For me, this feels like a part-time job where the pay is lousy, the hours inconvenient, and the stakes incredibly high. It's up to me to ferry medical records between different providers, to track down a pharmacy that can fill my prescription, and to talk to my insurance when a treatment gets denied to find out why.


There’s A Profoundly Simple Explanation For San Francisco’s Housing Crisis (Huffington Post)
Eric Fischer looked at thousands of old apartment listings to try to understand how the Bay Area’s rents got so high. “Today’s outrageous prices are exactly in line with the 6.6 percent trend that began 60 years ago,” Fischer wrote on his blog, Experimental Geography.


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