ON THE AGENDA | SEPTEMBER 23RD, 2016 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 9/23

A collection of recent stories and reports to make you think about how to make progress on divisive issues.

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: Only 4 percent of Americans have a positive image of both presidential candidates and a set of guidelines for improving the debates. Lots of new research about teachers, including how their relationship to principals impacts retention. An essay on the rising cost of college and news on higher ed funding in Kentucky. Kaiser Family Foundation's Drew Altman says the rising cost of deductibles might be the most pressing question in health care.


Candidates can't campaign as dividers and govern as unifiers (The Hill)
There are many ways to characterize this year’s presidential campaign — “polite” or “respectful” don’t come to mind. And it seems that voters are growing weary of the bad manners, the acrimony. A Gallup poll released in July found that one in four Americans have an unfavorable opinion of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. But perhaps more indicative of national disgust was the contrasting statistic: Only 4 percent held positive images of both candidates. Lack of civility on the campaign trail has implications — for individuals and for the nation as a whole.

A Simple Plan to Fix the Presidential Debates (The Atlantic)
The National Institute of Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona has just come out with guidelines for debaters, the debate audience and, importantly, the moderators, that need to be heeded. Most of the guidelines are simple and obvious: Debaters should be respectful of others, answer the questions asked, and stand against incivility; audience members should be respectful, not create disturbances, and listen to those speaking. (Public Agenda has signed on as a supporter of these rules.)

There is no media (Columbia Journalism Review)
It seems perfectly plausible that just one-third of Americans trust “the media.” Liberals and conservatives alike have criticized “the media” over the course of this campaign, while presidential candidates have made “the media” a familiar target in stump speeches and fundraising emails. And herein lies the caveat journalists should consider before they wet the bed over Gallup’s latest data: There is no media. There is only my media and your media.


Census Bureau retreats from report showing stagnant rural incomes (Wonkblog)
The unusual decision by Census Bureau staff came after questions emerged about some data published last week.

The United States of Anxiety (WNYC)
Hosted by The Nation’s Kai Wright, the seven-part series examines the anger, fear and uncertainty of American voters. Set on Long Island and featuring reporting by Arun Venugopal and other WNYC reporters, the show wrestles with issues of race and class, politics and economics. WNYC will also air hour-long special call-in shows coupling the podcast with conversation and live reactions from listeners. On-air specials, hosted by WNYC’s Jami Floyd, begin at 7pm and will run weekly on Thursdays.

A Nation Engaged: Is This Still A Land Of Economic Opportunity? (NPR)
NPR's series, A Nation Engaged, takes a deeper look at economic opportunity in 21st century America. Is the middle class still shrinking, and what can political leaders do to help?

Public Opinion/ Polling

We Gave Four Good Pollsters the Same Raw Data. They Had Four Different Results. (The Upshot)
Polling results rely as much on the judgments of pollsters as on the science of survey methodology. Two good pollsters, both looking at the same underlying data, could come up with two very different results. How so? Because pollsters make a series of decisions when designing their survey, from determining likely voters to adjusting their respondents to match the demographics of the electorate. These decisions are hard. They usually take place behind the scenes, and they can make a huge difference.

K-12 Education

Mindset in the Classroom: A Study of K-12 Teachers (EdWeek)
A report from the Education Week Research Center examines teachers' understanding of "growth mindset"—the belief that intelligence can be developed through effort—as well as key misconceptions that could undermine its effectiveness when put into practice with students.

Study Highlights Importance of Principals in Teacher-Retention Efforts (EdWeek)
Susan Burkhauser, institutional research associate at Loyola Marymount University, outlines her study in a paper titled "How Much Do School Principals Matter When It Comes to Teacher Working Conditions?," published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Principals, she says, can influence a teacher's perception of the job by changing actual conditions—by offering more academic and moral support, more opportunities to develop teaching skills and advance their careers, more say in school policy, and the like. What's new about Burkhauser's study is that it suggests that a teacher's perception of working conditions is closely related to his or her perception of the principal.

Teacher Voice (Quaglia Institute)
More than three quarters of teachers say they actively seek out student opinions and ideas, but less than half of students feel teachers are willing to learn from them, the Quaglia Institute for School Voice and Aspirations finds in a new report.

Harvard Education School Dean Jim Ryan Talks School Funding, Vergara and Ed Research (The 74)
In an in-depth interview last month with The 74’s Matt Barnum, legal scholar and Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean Jim Ryan made a case for the importance of education schools, praised the latest research from Harvard’s education experts, and discussed both the role of courts in driving education policy and the relationship between teacher tenure and school funding lawsuits.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

A Nation Engaged: The State of New York's Higher Education (WNYC)
How can we create economic opportunity for more more people in the New York region? Ensuring workers have the skills and training employers are looking for is crucial in creating more opportunities. Ann Kirschner, special advisor to the chancellor of the City University of New York, has examined this very issue. One thing she suggests is that higher education can do more. "Let's look at ways to make higher education more responsive to what the economic opportunities are for Americans," she said.

Kentucky governor can't slash public university budget unless there's a shortfall, state supreme court rules (The Washington Post)
In a 5-to-2 ruling, the high court said Bevin overstepped his bounds by issuing an executive order imposing a $41 million, or 4.5 percent, spending cut across Kentucky’s nine colleges and universities in the past three months of the fiscal year. Although the governor restored funding to Kentucky State University and amended cuts to the other schools, the universities were still shorted roughly $18 million.

Fancy Dorms Aren't the Main Reason Tuition Is Skyrocketing (FiveThirtyEight)
It is clear that state budget cuts dwarf administrative bloat as a cause for rising tuitions. If funding had held steady, universities could have built new buildings, hired more administrators and tended to other priorities while still keeping tuition hikes in check. With huge budget cuts, big tuition increases were inevitable.

Health Care

What insurers are doing to fix their rap for awful customer service (Modern Healthcare)
A poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found people ranked health insurance companies almost as unfavorably as pharmaceutical companies and oil conglomerates, due in no small part to insurers' reputation for poor customer service.

Ensuring transparency in health care provider performance (Johns Hopkins Medicine in Science Daily)
Patients deserve valid and transparent measures of quality in health care, but a lack of standards and auditing for these measures can misinform consumers rather than guide their health care choices, say researchers.

The Missing Debate Over Rising Health-Care Deductibles (The Wall Street Journal)
At firms with fewer than 200 employees, the average deductible is now $2,000. That's one reason why Kaiser Family Foundation's Drew Altman says the rising cost of deductibles might be the most pressing question in health care.


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