ON THE AGENDA | JULY 29TH, 2016 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 7/29

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.


However divided you think our politics are, this chart shows that it’s actually way worse (Wonkblog)
A new study tracks an "explosion" of polarized speech in the past 20 years.

Public Policy and the Blame Game (Governing)
Instead of working to solve problems like underfunded pensions, too often we spend our time and energy pointing fingers.

Public Opinion

The great irony about the issue upending U.S. politics (Wonkblog)
Opposition to TPP is the most prominent symbol of anti-free trade sentiment that seems to have upended the 2016 presidential campaign. Yet most Americans actually agree that free trade is a good thing — and support it.


Study: Raising the minimum wage did little for workers’ earnings in Seattle (Wonkblog)
The data on Seattle will be frustrating to both sides of the debate.


Event combines 'Pokemon Go' with civic engagement (Ellwood City Ledger)
Chakayla Hyland has been playing the mobile device-based game, along with her two children and some of her friends, just like millions of other people. She decided to use the game to rally the community to another activity: a neighborhood cleanup. She hopes they'll pick up any litter they find, especially at gyms and stops.

K-12 Education

How civic education can save America (Flypaper)
Robert Pondiscio of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute writes: Our opportunity—perhaps obligation is the better word—is to think long and hard once more about the civic mission of schools and restore a vision of schooling organized around an embrace of the civic ideals enshrined in the Constitution. A surprising and counterintuitive step in this process may be reclaiming and rehabilitating the “melting pot” metaphor as a central narrative of schooling. There is good evidence to think that the key to creating conditions that sincerely welcome and celebrate diversity may lie in focusing the attention of our children on what makes us one country and one people.

Wraparound services still worth it even after accounting for all costs (Brookings)
Organizations like City Connects seek to comprehensively address students’ needs tied to hunger, homelessness, traumatic experiences, or lack of access to medical care or enrichment opportunities. An analysis of City Connects found that the program is cost effective—whether or not complementary services are considered—yielding a return on investment of $11 for every $1 invested prior to including the costs of the community-based services and a return of $3 to $1 when the costs of comprehensive services are taken into account.

U.S. Schools Need More Teachers to Be 'Ambassadors,' Report Says (EdWeek)
According to a Gallup Business Journal two-part series released last week that analyzed existing Gallup data, U.S. school districts need more "brand ambassadors," or people who love their children's schools and go out of their way to promote and advocate for the district. But only 18 percent of parents are fully engaged in their child's school—and only 20 percent of teachers who are also parents would advocate for their child's school (which they may teach at as well—the Gallup story didn't specify). The numbers—which are "startlingly low," according to Gallup—could be affecting districts' ability to attract the best teachers.

N.J. Program Fast-Tracks New Physics Teachers (EdWeek)
The effort by the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning, which taps teachers of other subjects, produces more physics teachers a year than any preservice program in the country.

Higher Education

5 Ways Mayors Can Build Their Communities’ Workforces (Governing)
By making the most of their influence over postsecondary education, they can help narrow the skills gap.

Report: How High Schools and Colleges and Can Team Up to Use Data and Increase Student Success (Jobs for the Future)
This report is part of a series that encourages high schools and higher education to share responsibility for improving college completion rates by co-designing, co-delivering, and co-validating supportive experiences for all 12th-grade students through the first year of college, especially those who so often struggle in this period.

Are Public University Subsidies a Handout for the Wealthy? (Inside Higher Ed)
A new report says the wealthy do not disproportionately benefit from public subsidies, but some wonder whether low-income students get enough. The research, being released under the Brookings Institution’s series of Evidence Speaks reports, finds appropriations from state and local governments used to offset educational costs at public institutions are smaller for students from higher-income families than for those with lower incomes.

CBE Interest High in Higher Ed; Complexity Holds Back Activation (EdSurge)
The primary motivator for their interest is delivering access to "non-traditional" learners, followed by a desire to improve completion rates and address workforce needs. Those are a few of the findings in a new CBE report based on survey results from 251 American institutions, including responses from "CBE advocates, skeptics and everyone in-between," as the report's authors wrote. "Deconstructing CBE: An Assessment of Institutional Activity, Goals and Challenges in Higher Education" was written by researchers from Eduventures and heavily supported by Ellucian and the American Council on Education.

Health Care

JAMA Forum: The Partisan Divide on Health Care (The Journal of the American Medical Association)
A useful analysis from the JAMA Forum on the partisan divide in this year's election on health care.

ACA marketplaces still need work on price transparency (Benefits Pro)
A new study that examines a number of state-run ACA marketplaces finds that attempts to provide the type of apples-to-apples comparison envisioned in the landmark health law are still falling far short.

Price transparency eludes consumers in 43 states (Modern Healthcare)
Just seven states achieved a passing grade for making usable healthcare price information available to consumers.

The Payment Reform Landscape: A Road Map For States To Bring Their Transparency ‘A’ Game (Health Affairs)
It is accepted truth in some academic and policy circles that pursuing real price transparency is a fool’s errand, that making health care prices clear to consumers may only be trivially useful or even counterproductive. However, a body of literature—some of which is referenced in our Fourth Annual Report Card on State Price Transparency Laws—suggests otherwise. In fact, consumers will make informed choices in health care, much as they do in other areas, when presented with the right information. And equally important, the public availability of real cost and quality information can affect the market, promoting competition that can lower costs and improve quality.

Many Well-Known Hospitals Fail To Score 5 Stars In Medicare’s New Ratings (Kaiser Health News)
The federal government released its first overall hospital quality rating on Wednesday, slapping average or below average scores on many of the nation’s best-known hospitals while awarding top scores to dozens of unheralded ones. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rated 3,617 hospitals on a one- to five-star scale, angering the hospital industry, which has been pressing the Obama administration and Congress to block the ratings. Hospitals argue the ratings will make places that treat the toughest cases look bad, but Medicare has held firm, saying that consumers need a simple way to objectively gauge quality. Medicare does factor in the health of patients when comparing hospitals, though not as much as some hospitals would like.


The basic reason why there just isn’t enough decent housing for the poor (Wonkblog)
At the very bottom of the housing market, where families live on a fraction of what the typical American household makes, the math simply doesn't add up. The market can serve up old homes, mobile homes, homes that are cheap because they're rundown. But the private market can't, on any meaningful scale, create new affordable housing for the very low-income from scratch. Such properties, as developers put it, don't pencil out. The costs of building them outstrip what the people who may live in them could afford to pay in rent. And this is broadly true in expensive coastal cities and cheaper Midwestern ones alike.


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