Engaging Ideas - 8/24/2017

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: A study finds that grade inflation is greater in affluent public schools. How growing up in a violent neighborhood affects economic prospects later in life. And a look at the ever-blurring line between acceptable and ostracized views.


Trump’s demand to build border wall could upend sensitive negotiations on Capitol Hill (Washington Post)
During a campaign rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night, Trump leveled his latest threat about blocking new government funding if it doesn’t include the $1.6 billion he wants to partially construct a new wall along the Mexico border. Government operations are only funded through Sept. 30, which is the end of the federal fiscal year. If Congress and the White House don’t agree on new funding levels by then, there will be a partial government shutdown. It will close national parks, suspend many government operations and send hundreds of thousands of federal workers — many of them in the Washington area — home without pay on “furlough.”

The Showdown Over How We Define Fringe Views in America (New York Times)
Today in the United States, sweeping majorities of the public say they support fair housing laws and the ideal of integrated schools. Nine in 10 say they would back a black candidate for president from their own party, and the same say they approve of marriage between blacks and whites. That last issue has undergone one of the greatest transformations in polling over the last 50 years. In 1960, just 4 percent of Americans approved.


Violent Crime's Toll on Economic Mobility (CityLab)
A new study shows just how much growing up in a violent neighborhood can harm an individual’s economic prospects later in life.

Can a Decades-Old Immigration Proposal Pass Under Trump? (The Atlantic)
When President Trump publicly backed a bill to curb legal immigration, he placed a decades-old idea—that until now had been largely sidelined—back into the mainstream. Earlier this month, Trump threw his weight behind a modified version of the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act, a measure first introduced by Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue in February that would cut legal immigration to the United States by 50 percent over a decade. “Finally, the reforms in the RAISE Act will help ensure that newcomers to our wonderful country will be assimilated, will succeed, and will achieve the American Dream,” Trump said in an announcement from the White House.


New study deepens nation’s school turnaround mystery, finding little success in Rhode Island (Chalkbeat)
The country’s smallest state tried to accomplish a big task in 2012: improve its struggling schools without firing principals or making other dramatic changes. Instead, Rhode Island gave schools the option to do things like add common planning time for teachers, institute culturally appropriate instruction for students, and expand outreach to families.

City Will Move Sidelined Teachers From Limbo to Classrooms (New York Times)
For a dozen years, hundreds of New York City teachers have been paid despite not having permanent jobs, sidelined in most cases because of disciplinary problems, bad teaching records or because they had worked in poorly performing schools that were closed or where enrollment declined.

Grade Inflation Is Greater in Wealthier Schools, Study Says (Education Week)
Students in suburban public schools and private schools have benefited from grade inflation more than their less-affluent counterparts in urban schools, according to new research. The College Board examined the grade point averages of students who took the SAT between 1998 and 2016. They compared those GPAs for students at private and suburban schools—settings that tend to have larger shares of affluent students—and at urban public schools, which typically enroll more low-income students.

Higher Education

Religious University and 2-Year College (Inside Higher Ed)
A handful of religious institutions across the country are establishing or expanding two-year degree programs to provide a gateway to low-income students or an alternative for students looking for a nonsecular education as they pursue an associate degree. Private two-year colleges are rare, with just about 200 in the country. Even rarer are private universities that offer associate degree programs.

Challenging the ‘Productivity Paradox’ (Inside Higher Ed)
Now, a recent study in The Journal of Higher Education has found that investments in technology do indeed appear to lead to increases in productivity for institutions -- but not for all institutions in the same way.


Not-for-profit providers' rising expenses, dwindling revenue could spur mergers (Modern Healthcare)
Not-for-profit providers saw their annual expenses eclipse annual revenue growth in 2016, which will narrow margins and could spur merger-and-acquisition activity. After several years of cost containment among not-for-profit providers, annual expense growth of 7.2% outpaced annual revenue gains of 6%.

The Right Way to Reform Health Care (Foreign Affairs)
Perhaps no U.S. law has been more passionately opposed by Republicans than the Affordable Care Act. For the past eight years, they have repeatedly pledged to abolish Obamacare, with the House of Representatives voting more than 50 times to repeal it. U.S. President Donald Trump took office promising to do just that. In May, after months of heated negotiations, including two failures to corral votes within their own party, House Republicans managed—barely—to pass their first real replacement, the American Health Care Act.


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