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

Engaging Ideas - 1/29

A weekly collection of stories, reports and news to spark consideration on ways to make progress on divisive issues.

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


Letter to the Editor: Spin in American Politics, for Better and Worse (The New York Times)

Will Friedman writes in response to “Why Spin is Good for Democracy,” by David Greenberg (Op-Ed, Jan. 15):

It had to happen. Someone is spinning spin by seeking to convince us that the predictable pronouncements of political hacks-for-hire are good for democracy. The obvious inauthenticity of focus-group-tested spin commentary does more to turn people off to politics than to engage them.

Voting rates and satisfaction with the political process have not been rising in America along with the spin machine’s prevalence. In fact, we’ve seen the opposite.

To the extent spin creates “a yearning for a more authentic politics” and leads to political innovations and commitments that increase voting and civic engagement, spin will have served a useful democratic purpose. To the extent it is allowed to masquerade as a true battle of ideas and solutions, it does not.

Politics Is a Competing View of Reality “Spin” (The Leonard Lopate Show)

A treasured part of American political history. Politics has always been the realm of half-truths, messaging, and branding. But are voters seeking a spin-free candidate in 2016? And is there even such a thing? In Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency, presidential historian David Greenberg traces the history of highly crafted press conferences, image making and narrative creation in American political news and media.

Don't Wait. Participate. (The Huffington Post)

Larry Schooler writes: "For too long, government has made unrealistic demands of citizens when it comes to their participation. Initially, whole segments of the population could not vote or faced significant obstacles to registration--still an issue in some states. Meanwhile, the only choice many citizens had was to speak for no more than three minutes at a podium--often on live television, after hours of waiting, minutes before a vote. At one city council meeting in Texas, a speaker at a public hearing asked (in a nearly empty chamber at 11 o'clock at night), "Will there be an opportunity to weigh in on this issue? "I believe you're doing so now," replied the mayor. "With any power?" she asked, to applause from fellow citizens and befuddlement from her elected officials."

Tech Titans Fix Democracy in Single White House Dinner (Civicist)

Polling and the Election

Our Insane Addiction to Polls (The New York Times)

Voter surveys are contradictory and unreliable, and may well warp election outcomes. But we’re awash in them as never before. Frank Bruni writes: "I’d say that we’re in a period of polling bloat, but bloat is too wan a word. Where polling and the media’s attention to it are concerned, we’re gorging ourselves into a state of morbid obesity."

Political Polling Isn’t Dead Just Yet (The Washington Post)

SSRS EVP and Chief Methodologist, David Dutwin writes, “the simple truth is that the death of probability based, scientifically rigorous and highly precise polling has been greatly exaggerated. Public opinion polling is doing just fine. Polls serve a critical role in democracy and, contrary to polling’s noisy critics, continue to provide highly accurate estimates of public sentiment.” The article also states, “recent research into Pew Research Center, ABC-Washington Post and CBS-New York Times telephone polling finds little growth in inaccuracies in polls over the past 20 years, despite response rates having dropped from the 30 percent range to the single digits.”

Here's Why Voters Are So Anxious This Election (NPR)

One of the functions of elections is to hold up a mirror to society and to reflect what voters are feeling and what they want through the electoral process. This year voters are anxious, frightened and angry — for a lot of good reasons.

Restoring Opportunity

What a State Can Do to Build Its Middle Class (Governing)

Alaska's efforts to protect and boost wages are comprehensive, and they're paying off.

Policy Brief Spotlights America's Dramatic Racial Wealth Gap (The Annie E. Casey Foundation)

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s new policy brief, "Investing in Tomorrow: Helping Families Build Savings and Assets," examines the persistently wide gap in savings and assets between white families and families of color. It also outlines practical federal policy changes that could help reverse this trend and enable low-income families to build savings and assets so that they can weather financial crises, move toward self-sufficiency and ultimately change the course of their children’s lives.

Do Americans Believe Hard Work Still Matters? (The Atlantic)

Yes, but they're more skeptical about whether going to college helps them achieve their goals.

K-12 Education

National Network Seeks to Get More H.S. Students Interested in Teaching (EdWeek)

Educators Rising currently has some 11,000 members, including both student-participants and the teachers and administrators who lead the program at their schools. The network is operating in some 850 high schools and has partnerships with 11 states and two regions, in Boston and New York City. Forty-nine percent of the 10,000 student members are racial and ethnic minorities—a rate that far outpaces the 17-percent minority makeup of the current U.S. teaching profession.

Professional Learning Environments in Top Performing Systems: Policies That Drive Achievement and Equity (Center on International Benchmarking)

The National Center on Education and the Economy’s (NCEE) Center on International Education Benchmarking has released two major reports on professional learning environments in top performing systems and the implications for school leaders, policymakers and the education profession in the United States. One is on teacher professional learning in high-performing systems and the other is on developing Shanghai's teachers.

Ed Funders Need to Think Bigger About Systemic Change. Here Are Some Ideas (Inside Philanthropy)

Philanthropy’s quest to improve K-12 education feels stuck in a rut. David Callahan writes about a few strategies, including reforming funding, challenging school and residential segregation, and offsetting poverty effects with stable housing, involved parents.

Higher Education

Mired in Mediocrity (Inside Higher Ed)

At a time when colleges and universities face unprecedented challenges, boards are not adding the value that is crucial to institutional success, write Cathy Trower and Peter Eckel.

The Rise of Competency-Based Education (Inside Higher Ed)

IHE's latest print-on-demand compilation of articles. This compilation is free and you may download a copy here. And you may sign up here for a free webinar on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at 2 p.m. Eastern about the themes of the booklet.

Forging Ahead On Apprenticeships (Community College Daily)

Eric Seleznow, deputy assistant secretary for employment and training at the U.S. Labor Department (DOL), encouraged community college representatives at the American Association of Community Colleges’ Workforce Development Institute to continue exploring potential relationships with local and regional employers in developing registered apprenticeships, adding that they have been “undervalued and underused” in the U.S.

Why 'Nudges' to Help Students Succeed Are Catching On (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

There’s enough behavioral work being done in education that Mr. Castleman, an assistant professor of education and public policy at the University of Virginia, wrote a book,The 160-Character Solution, summarizing it and suggesting how it might be applied. Ms. Page, an assistant professor of education at the University of Pittsburgh, co-wrote a recent paper summarizing college-access research that includes a section on behavioral approaches. And ideas42, a nonprofit organization working on behavioral interventions, has more than a dozen higher-education projects in the works.

Health Care

HHS on target to move 30% of Medicare payments to quality, value by year's end (Healthcare Dive)

At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Switzerland, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said the agency will meet their goal of moving 30% of fee-for-service Medicare payments to value-based payments by the end of 2016. Last year, when HHS announced their approach to move away from fee-for-services payments, they also set the goal of tying 50% of Medicare payments to alternative payment models by the end of 2018, according to a press release. Currently, at least 20% of payments are made through these models.

Hospitals prepare to see stars in April (Modern Healthcare)

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has shared the methodology behind its five-star hospital quality ratings to be published this April on Medicare's Hospital Compare website. The American Hospital Association gives the methodology a low score.

Despite Kvetching, Most Consumers Satisfied With Health Plans: Poll (Kaiser Health News)

Bashing insurance companies may be a popular pastime, but a poll released Thursday found most people were satisfied with their choices of doctors and even thought the cost of their health coverage was reasonable. The Kaiser Family Foundation poll revealed that 71 percent of insured adults younger than 65 considered the health care services they receive to be either “excellent” or “good” values.

Insurance Costs Dominate Public Worries About Healthcare, Survey Finds (The Los Angeles Times)

Though President Obama's Affordable Care Act continues to animate political debate in Washington and on the campaign trail, Americans are more concerned with basic healthcare issues such as the cost of their health insurance, a new national poll shows. The health law ranked eighth among issues voters identified as most likely to be extremely important to their vote for president this year, with 23% identifying the 2010 legislation, commonly called Obamacare.


Comment on this article.

Recent Blogs


Public Agenda knows what it takes to fuel progress on critical issues.
We need your support to keep things moving!

Join the Community


Take Action