Public Agenda Alert -- Thursday, May 15, 2014
This Week's Headlines
Competency-Based Education: Meeting the Needs of Modern Students
Facing Our Choices on Climate Change
PA in the News
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Supporting Collaboration to Help Meet the Needs of Modern Students

Susan, a single mother of two, has been a drug counselor for 8 years. While Susan has certification, she does not have a bachelor's degree. Due to recent rule changes, she must attain this degree in order to keep her job.


Although she has years of experience and significant continuing education credits, none of these translate into credit towards a degree. With little time to spare in her long days, Susan can't enroll full time in traditional college coursework. 


Susan is far from an anomaly. There are many other stories like hers from students and young professionals across the country.  For these individuals, our traditional higher education model - in which learning is measured by the time a student spends in class - is not working. Our country's higher education system must function more effectively for people like Susan, and we're helping it do so.


In late April, Public Agenda helped facilitate the launch of the Competency-Based Education Network, or C-BEN, an initiative funded by Lumina Foundation.


C-BEN is a group of institutions working to share learning and address common challenges as they design and develop competency-based degree programs and related delivery models. (Competency-based education, in short, measures learning by students' ability to demonstrate competency on different measures, rather than the time they spend in a class. Read more here.)


During the C-BEN launch, the initial cohort of colleges involved in this initiative met over 2 days in Arizona to kick off an initial round of research and development. These 18 institutions and 2 statewide higher education systems will work on cross-institutional teams to explore topics like program design, communicating about competency-based education, and business processes and systems.


Following this first 90-day research cycle, the institutions will reconvene to share what they've learned and prepare for the next round of research. Additional working sessions have been scheduled for July in Washington, D.C., and October in Nashville, Tenn.


We are excited to help these schools connect and experiment in unprecedented ways.  As Alison Kadlec, who is leading Public Agenda's work on this initiative, put it: "This network is an opportunity for higher education institutions to collaborate in ways they never have before on challenges they all share." 

Facing Our Choices on Climate Change

A slew of reports over the past few weeks have held dire warnings regarding climate change: from news that we're already feeling the effects across the country, to melting in the Antarctic that now seems unstoppable, to threats to national security.


It's easy to feel powerless when it comes to environmental and energy policy, even without alarming visions of an apocalyptic future. After all, just because we know that something is a problem, it doesn't mean the answers are easy.


When it comes to environmental and energy policies, there are many avenues for action, and each has its drawbacks. For example:


If you support renewable energy, did you know?

Our aging energy grid isn't ready to convert renewable energy sources to electricity. We also don't yet have the technology necessary to produce renewable energy in quantities sufficient to supply the electricity we need. The cost - and time - necessary for meeting both of these needs will be substantial. 


If you believe the private sector can lead the way on solutions, did you know?

More and more business leaders are themselves saying they can't make the long-term, costly changes to bring about greater conservation and cleaner energy without government regulation and leadership. 


If you're an advocate for energy efficiency and conservation, did you know?

All the individual conservation efforts in the world unfortunately won't be enough to reduce emissions more than marginally. 


It's clear we have to approach this problem from a number of angles. Doing so will require creative thinking, a clear-headed understanding of costs and benefits, and an openness to collaboration.


Our resources can help you get a head start. These resources include:


Energy: A Citizens' Solutions Guide

In this discussion guide, learn important energy facts, including what's good and bad about existing energy sources, and explore practical solutions to energy policy.


Facing the Challenges of Climate Change: A Guide for Citizen Thought and Action

Think and talk through three different approaches to addressing climate change.


The Energy Learning Curve: Coming from different starting points, the public sees similar solutions

This research report describes 10 major energy proposals that Americans were able to find common ground on. However, the public may not yet be prepared for the trade-offs and challenges needed to make these proposals a reality (the above discussion guides can help with that challenge).


We hope you find these resources helpful. Don't forget to share them with friends, family and colleagues. Talk to your legislators about what you think your community should do - and let us know your ideas as well, via Twitter or Facebook.

PA in the News

Recent press coverage of Public Agenda's work.
(Next City)
Participatory budgeting - a way for communities to deliberate and choose how to spend public funds - has gained the attention of the White House. President Will Friedman attended a discussion about the new model and how to improve the process.

Common Core propaganda fails: Well-financed education "reformers" fight common sense


The pro- and anti-Common Core camps are getting louder and growing even more divided, which has caused many to look at why the percent of people opposed to the standards nearly doubled between 2012 and 2013.  

Cited blog: Beyond the Polls


A Move Toward Competency-Based Education

(American Association of Community Colleges)

As they are often looked to as the main providers of a skilled workforce to an area, hands-on learning is embedded into the community college culture. The AACC wrote this blog post to review developments in competency-based education and Public Agenda's work with the 18 colleges and two statewide higher education systems part of the Competency-Based Education Network, or C-BEN. 

(PR News, SF Gate)
Cited study: Case Study of Austin Peay State University, "Seven Practices of Enlightened Leadership in Higher Education"
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