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07.21 Engaging Ideas - 7/21/2017

Friday, July 21st, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA


Despite Political Differences, Two High School Teachers Find Common Ground (KQED News)
Two teachers — Brandon Johnson and Ysidro Valenzuela — talk about the intersection of politics and education.

At end of NRA protest march, a bit of common ground (Washington Post)
Men sported National Rifle Association hats and signs declaring “free speech is under attack” and “no jihad against our freedoms.” Then, for a few minutes at least, the median became common ground. Paul Jutte, who attended the Women’s March with his girlfriend, crossed Pennsylvania Avenue to join the counterprotesters.

The End of the Grand Bargain (National Review)
The spirit of bipartisan compromise, never strong in recent years, has vanished completely on Capitol Hill.



There's a large group of Americans missing out on the American dream (Business Insider)
While education continues to be an important determinant of whether one can climb the economic ladder, sizable differences in economic outcomes across race and ethnicity remain even after controlling for educational attainment.

Which countries are the most (and least) committed to reducing inequality? (The Guardian)
The UK’s lack of investment in education and low tax rates put it 17th in a new Oxfam inequality index – which ranks Sweden top out of 152 countries, and Nigeria bottom


In Parts Of Connecticut, Interest In Running For Local Office On The Decline (Hartford Courant)
As Republicans and Democrats hold local caucuses to select candidates for the November municipal elections, some cities and towns report a surge of interest in response to the election of Donald Trump as president. But others say the nasty nature of national politics, and Connecticut's budget woes, are turning people off.

Why Civic Engagement Matters (National Civic League)
Where there is inclusive civic engagement, in which everyone has a place at the table to define, direct and implement public services and amenities, there is greater civic pride and responsibility, which then lead to sustained community wellbeing.

K-12 Education

Principals Are Loath to Give Teachers Bad Ratings (Education Week)
Principals continue to rate nearly all teachers as “effective,” despite states’ efforts in recent years to make evaluations tougher, two new studies show.

High-stakes testing may push struggling teachers to younger grades, hurting students (Chalkbeat)
Kindergarten, first grade, and second grade are often free of the high-stakes testing common in later grades — but those years are still high-stakes for students’ learning and development. That means it’s a big problem when schools encourage their least effective teachers to work with their youngest students. And a new study says that the pressure of school accountability systems may be encouraging exactly that.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

New rankings measuring the outcome of college (Sante Fe New Mexican)
What parents and students really want to know is how to differentiate the outcomes of the thousands of other colleges that are not among the top schools in the U.S. News rankings. A spate of new rankings and other studies have emerged in recent years attempting to answer that question by looking more closely at the employment and earnings record of college graduates and weighing that against the cost of attending college and chances of graduating on time.

The Trouble With Trade School (New York Times)
Across the political spectrum, just about everyone seems to be in favor of expanding vocational education. The idea makes a lot of sense, too. But I’m worried that the idea of vocational education has become so popular — backed by Presidents Trump and Obama — that its advocates have not thought through the potential downsides.

Health Care

As academic hospitals lower mortality rates, should insurers reconsider excluding them? (San Francisco Chronicle)
A comprehensive new study has found that major teaching hospitals in the United States outperformed non-teaching hospitals in the most important of all health care outcomes: reducing mortality rates. Using a traditional measure of surgical quality, the study analyzed mortality rates for 21 million Medicare patients who were hospitalized with one of the 15 most common medical diagnoses or who underwent one of the six most common surgical procedures.

Mirror, Mirror 2017:International Comparison Reflects Flaws and Opportunities for Better U.S. Health Care (Commonwealth Fund)
Poor access to primary care has contributed to inadequate prevention and management of chronic diseases, delayed diagnoses, incomplete adherence to treatments, wasteful overuse of drugs and technologies, and coordination and safety problems.


07.20 How Does Public Engagement Need to Evolve?

Thursday, July 20th, 2017 | MATT LEIGHNINGER


On all kinds of issues, people want more choices, more information and more of a say. Whether the topic is how schools should work, what should be in the local budget or what Congress should do about health care, citizens want their voices to be heard. “We are in the midst of a profound global Great Push Back against concentrated, monopolized, hoarded power,” writes Eric Liu.

When they’re given productive, well-structured ways to participate, citizens have a lot to contribute: they can not only provide reasonable input and interesting ideas to public officials and staff, they can also devote their own time, energy and skills to solving public problems.

Most official opportunities for public engagement are not productive or well-structured, however. The main official avenues are the same ones we’ve had for over fifty years: writing to your elected officials, signing a petition or taking the time to attend a long, laborious public meeting in which you may have three minutes at the microphone to make your statement. As Jane Jacobs famously remarked, “There is no hearing at public hearings.”

The irresistible force of citizen pressure has met the immovable object of official engagement: the result is a great deal of heat. In this crucible, all kinds of leaders – from public officials and staff to community organizers and civic technologists – have invented new processes, platforms, tools and apps for engagement. Many of these innovations work well, but even when they are brilliantly successful, they are usually deployed as isolated projects or temporary workarounds to avoid the worst bottlenecks of conventional engagement. They are rarely sustained or incorporated into the official systems of democratic governance.

Then there are the less successful attempts to give citizens more say. With Brexit, for example, a government allowed citizens to vote on an issue without providing ample opportunities for people to learn the key facts, deliberate with one another and weigh the trade-offs inherent in the decision.

So for public officials wondering what do about the citizen pressure they face in the Great Push Back, there is one obvious answer: engage the public more productively, on a more regular basis and in ways that augment the tired official venues rather than working around them.

But what else needs to happen? How can public engagement change in order to meet the challenges and conditions of 2017?

There are a number of promising directions for new innovations:

  • Making engagement more social and versatile so that it is more common, convenient and fun
  • Finding new ways to ‘scale up’ engagement so that people can be heard on state and federal issues, not just local ones
  • Giving engagement opportunities more authority so that people are clear on how their voices will be heard and confident that it will make a difference
  • Helping public institutions collaborate in their efforts to support engagement so that it becomes more efficient, systemic and sustained
  • Finding better ways to measure the perceptions, processes, and outcomes of engagement, so that people know how to continually improve it

In the next few weeks I’ll explore each of these directions for innovation in greater depth. Meanwhile, there is still time to register for our Public Engagement Strategy workshop taking place in New York City on July 31 and Aug 1. I hope to see you there!

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07.14 Engaging Ideas - 7/14/2017

Friday, July 14th, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA


A Bipartisan Congress That Works? Veterans Committees Show How It’s Done (New York Times)
Magnanimous hearings. Bipartisan votes. Substantial legislation on its way to becoming law. This is Congress? Something strange is happening in the staid hearing rooms of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees here this summer, though few have taken notice.

AP-NORC Poll: Three-quarters in US say they lack influence (Associated Press)
Three-quarters of Americans agree that people like themselves have too little influence in Washington, rare unanimity across political, economic, racial and geographical lines and including both those who approve and disapprove of President Donald Trump, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Why The Trend Around Politics And Cocktails Is Exploding (Huffington Post)
Healthcare sit-ins on Capitol Hill. Alleged Russian interaction previous to the presidential election. Previous generations may have been taught that conversation about such topics as religion or politics while socializing were definitely taboo, but it seems that the new trend toward frank discussion and exchange around all things statecraft is not only smashing all previous etiquette norms but also shows no signs of slowing down.


How Income Inequality Makes Economic Downturns Worse (CityLab)
Urban counties in the United States were more likely to enter the Great Recession earlier when they had a larger gap between the rich and the poor.

The huge gap between America's rich and superrich exposes a fundamental misunderstanding about inequality (Business Insider)
While America's enormous gap between rich and poor and the sorry state of its middle class are well-documented, a less prominent trend tells an equally important story about the American economy: the divide between the well-off and the stratospherically rich.

Why Can’t Americans Get a Raise? (Slate)
Companies have forgotten how to compensate workers fairly—and workers have forgotten what they deserve.


Turning down the temperature on town halls (Christian Science Monitor)
Town halls are a crucial tool in creating connections between citizens and their lawmakers. But how do you mix civility with passion? There are ways.

This Might Be the Best Idea for Turning Out More Voters in U.S. Elections (New York Magazine)
Presidential election years bring out more voters, of course, but even the 2016 national election — featuring a reality TV star and the first woman to win a major-party nomination — drew only slightly more than half of voting-age Americans to the polls. So what changed? A professor of political science at Columbia University thinks part of the problem is that voting isn’t as fun as it once was.

K-12 Education

To Improve Professional Learning for Teachers, We Can’t Forget Principals (New America)
Roxanne Garza discusses a recent report from the Aspen Institute regarding how state and district leaders can support teachers by adapting to new standards.

How Universal College Admission Tests Help Low-Income Students (The Upshot)

The two standard college admission tests — the SAT and the ACT — could be administered universally and free of charge to students. That would reduce the administrative barriers to applying to college, help identify talented disadvantaged children, and increase the likelihood they will attend a college that matches their skills.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

Deep Partisan Divide on Higher Education (Inside Higher Ed)
In dramatic shift, more than half of Republicans now say colleges have a negative impact on the U.S., with wealthier, older and more educated Republicans being least positive.

Find Out If Your Job Will Be Automated (Bloomberg)
Wondering how vulnerable your job might be? Type your occupation into the chart to see what the researchers think is the probability of your job being automated.

Health Care

How 3 patient groups view healthcare quality: 6 things to know (Becker's Hospital Review)
The nonpartisan Public Agenda conducted a study to gauge how three groups — people recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, people who recently had a joint replacement and women who recently gave birth — view healthcare quality and value.

Health Plans That Nudge Patients to Do the Right Thing (New York Times)
As health care costs rise, Americans are increasingly on the hook to pay more for their care. This trend is more than just annoying — asking consumers to pay more for everything deters many from getting the care they need. What would happen if, instead, health plans offered more generous coverage of high-value care, but less generous coverage of those services that provide little or no health benefit?


07.14 A Public Voice on Health Care Quality

Friday, July 14th, 2017 | ANTONIO DIEP

If today’s ongoing health care debate on Capitol Hill has taught us anything, it’s that health care is a complex and divisive issue. While that debate has focused largely on finding ways to provide Americans with health insurance, one has to wonder: What is health care without quality?

Experts measure health care quality in many ways, and the amounts of money that hospitals are paid by insurers are beginning to be based on quality. But what do people like you and me have to say about quality? What do people think make for high-quality doctors or hospitals? Do people know that doctors or that hospitals can vary in the quality of care they provide?

To answer these and other questions, Public Agenda, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has released new research about how patients view and experience health care quality. We specifically explored the perspectives of people in three health care situations—people recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, people who recently had joint replacement surgery, and women who recently gave birth.

We learned that a majority of people think that both interpersonal and clinical qualities of doctors and hospitals are important for high-quality health care. Yet people still rated certain qualities differently.

The most common interpersonal quality that people across these three groups say is very important for high-quality care is that a doctor make time for patients’ questions and concerns. But we found that people rate the importance of clinical qualities differently depending on their health needs. For instance, 83 percent of people who recently had joint replacement surgery rate the clinical qualities of doctors as very important, while only 43 percent of women who recently gave birth and 41 percent of people who were recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes rate clinical qualities of doctors as very important. Regarding interpersonal qualities, one recent mother from our New York City focus group said her doctor “was really personable” and “available,” which was especially important to her since she was giving birth for the first time. But a woman in Florida who recently had a joint replacement said, “I think you really need to do your homework and get a doctor that really knows what he’s doing.” This suggests that people’s priorities vary depending on the type of care they need.

Although experts know that quality can vary significantly, we found that across the three groups, awareness of quality variation is limited. This was especially the case for clinical qualities, with fewer people being aware that those formally measured qualities vary across doctors or hospitals.

Any conversation about health care quality should not just focus on providing people with information to make better choices, but also on improving health care quality across the board. Low-quality care can have serious medical consequences and can be financially ruinous for patients and their families. It can be costly to employers and insurers, including Medicare and Medicaid. This makes it all the more important to know what qualities matter to people who need care, so that leaders can continue focusing on improving the quality of care for everyone.

For more insights into what qualities matter in diabetes care, joint replacement surgery and maternity care, check out our report, “Qualities that Matter.”


07.13 Exploring the Hidden Common Ground Among Americans

Thursday, July 13th, 2017 | WILL FRIEDMAN, PH.D.

Part of our monthly "Progress Report" newsletter. To receive the latest email updates from Public Agenda, click here.

This May, I told you about two intertwined themes that Public Agenda has been focusing on lately: Renewing Democracy and Reinventing Opportunity. We launched the Yankelovich Center for Public Judgment in 2015 with the former in mind. More specifically, to understand the public's role in an effective and just democracy, including how people come to judgment on critical problems and the conditions that make public judgment more or less likely.

As part of this work, we seek to study the things that separate and the things that unite Americans. Because the former tends to get the most attention, we're excited to announce the kickoff of our new Hidden Common Ground initiative, which will explore the hypothesis that there are many problems and, importantly, solutions that the public agrees on, despite the political gridlock and media noise to the contrary. To that end, we will soon collaborate with our friends at the Kettering Foundation to launch the inaugural Hidden Common Ground research project that will test and potentially challenge the increasingly dominant narrative of a deeply, even hopelessly, divided America--a narrative that we fear could become self-fulfilling to the detriment of democracy. I look forward to sharing more updates with you as we embark on that journey.

Meanwhile, our Public Engagement team is helping local leaders create better conditions for identifying common ground and supporting public judgment in order to better address local problems. Today and tomorrow, they are hosting a Public Engagement Strategy workshop in New York City designed to help leaders in their efforts to engage the people they serve.

Please be in touch if you'd like to hear about upcoming public engagement workshops and trainings.


07.07 Engaging Ideas - 7/7/2017

Friday, July 7th, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA


What Does 'Community' Mean? (CityLab)
The word’s evolution makes a nice metaphor for the rise of American individualism—and the decline of trust in American institutions.

Americans Focused on Health Law Process as Much as Outcomes (Gallup)
As the Senate continues to work on changing the nation's healthcare system, Americans may be as focused on how their elected representatives are going about the process as they are on the legislation itself.

Putting Citizenship Back in Congress (The New York Times)
On Jan. 24, the House of Representatives passed the READ Act, which establishes a framework for American leadership on access to basic education in some of the world’s poorest countries. During the 2015-2016 Congressional session, the Reach Act, intended to improve the effectiveness of U.S.A.I.D.’s work on maternal and child health in the developing world, received endorsements from more than half of the House and a third of the Senate. Neither of these initiatives has received much attention. Indeed, they are part of a story that is virtually absent from today’s national narrative: how ordinary people can still influence the government through persuasive moral arguments and tenacity.

To Test Your Fake News Judgment, Play This Game (Wyoming Public Radio)
The journalist who thought up this game says she saw the need before "fake news" was even in the vernacular. Voilà,
Factitious. Give it a shot.


Opinion: Work and Reward: The Great Disconnect (The New York Times)
Working hard and getting ahead used to go hand in hand. But that was a long time ago, before decades of stagnating incomes and rising inequality took their toll.

Study says climate change could increase North vs. South economic inequality (Geek Wire)

America’s economic inequality could widen if global temperatures rise due to climate change, but there’s a silver lining for the Pacific Northwest: It would fall on the favorable end of the spectrum.


From 'Not in My Backyard' to 'Yes in My Backyard' (The Atlantic)
Out of a desire for more-equitable housing policy, some city dwellers have started allying with developers instead of opposing them.

New Ohio State institute to provide training to public officials (Columbus Dispatch)
The school at Ohio State University named for John Glenn will be home to a new institute aimed at helping elected officials better understand their positions and the importance of civil discourse in public service.

K-12 Education

Teachers Trained Through Fast-Track Program No Better or Worse Than Their Peers (Education Week)
TNTP, formerly The New Teacher Project, has trained and placed about 35,000 teachers in urban areas over nearly two decades. Like Teach for America, which operates similarly, the Teaching Fellows program has faced pushback for placing inexperienced educators in front of some of the nation's neediest students.

Six ways prioritizing social and emotional learning can increase graduation rates for students of color, lower suspensions (Hechinger Report)
Antwan Wilson, the new chancellor of DC public schools, writes: When Oakland Unified Public Schools, where I was previously superintendent, helped educators prioritize social and emotional learning (SEL), we saw dramatic increases in graduation rates for students of color, and a nearly 50 percent decline in suspensions.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

What will it cost? What will you earn? Website offers prospectus on every degree program in Kansas (Lawrence-Journal World)
The Kansas Board of Regents this week launched an expansion of its website,, to include information on degree programs at the state's 26 two-year institutions. Regents spokeswoman Breeze Richardson said the site also has more comprehensive wage and salary information because the system now receives data from both the Kansas and Missouri labor departments.

When It Comes to Skills and Talent, Size Matters (CityLab)
What lies behind this new and increasingly unequal geography? A new study on NBER on “The Comparative Advantage of Cities” by economists at Columbia University and the University of Chicago takes a deep dive into this issue. The study looks closely at the distribution of talent and skill across the U.S. metros. It focuses on two measures of skill—one based on level of education and the other based on the occupation and kind of work people do.

Health Care

Scaling Career Pathways For Entry-Level Health Care Workers (Health Affairs)
On the Health Affairs blog today, from the Advisory Board Company and the Hope Street Group: the Health Career Pathways Task Force recently released its first comprehensive report, “Paving Health Career Pathways to the Middle Class.” The report details the initial findings and practical recommendations for creating these career pathways.

How Not To Lower Healthcare Costs (Forbes)
Citing recent estimates that nearly one-third of clinical laboratory tests are unnecessary for patients, University of Pennsylvania researchers posed a question with huge cost-savings potential: What would happen if doctors were able to look at the price of these tests before ordering them?

Medicaid Worsens Your Health? That’s a Classic Misinterpretation of Research (The Upshot)
Some have mistaken correlation for causation in trying to defend G.O.P. health care approaches.

The U.S. medical system is broken. We should be listening to doctors about how to fix it (Los Angeles Times)
Dr. Robert Pearl has spent his life in medicine — most recently 18 years as executive director and CEO of Kaiser Permanente’s medical group in California, and president and CEO of its mid-Atlantic group. But it was the death of his father, and a simple medical miscommunication, that prompted him to look long and hard at an American medical system that doesn’t always deliver bang for its billions of bucks.


07.06 Meaningful Community Engagement is Like Exercise: Difficult, Emotional and Gratifying

Thursday, July 6th, 2017 | NICOLE CABRAL

Last week while at a public meeting in a small town in northwestern Vermont, I witnessed a community sing-along break out. Parents, teachers, school board members, local elected officials and other community groups had gathered to discuss a set of legislative reforms affecting their school, forcing it to merge with a larger district nearby. The spontaneity of this moment showed how, even when faced with an emotional process of coordinating a big change in the community, people will come together to share their perspectives and seek understanding of others’ views in civil ways.

This is not meant to paint an effective engagement process as a giant kumbaya moment. It is often a long and difficult process. But meaningful engagement can produce smarter policies, public trust, encourage volunteerism and build stronger networks in communities. It instills bonds that are hard to do in conventional public meetings that only give participants 2 minutes at a microphone. .

Public engagement is difficult and often emotional, and that’s why it's so important to do it deliberately because of the feelings involved and what's at stake.

This is true for both citizens and public officials. My colleague Matt Leighninger worked for many years with the Democratic Governance Panel of the National League of Cities, which gave him a sense of how local officials experience public engagement. “I thought we would mainly be developing tools and conducting research,” Matt says. “But at first, it was more like group therapy: these mayors and city councilmembers had come into office thinking that they’d been elected to make decisions on behalf of residents, but those same residents were yelling at them as soon as the first controversial decision came along. Officials often wonder why residents treat them so badly, and why they don’t have the trust of the community. Learning how to engage the public much more intensively is not just a matter of tactics and techniques -- it is an emotional transition for officials, to a way of working they didn’t expect but which, in the long run, can be even more gratifying.”

Creating a space for productive interaction is part of developing connections that result in workable solutions. Especially in Vermont, we were able to get farther with participants. Typically, people at our workshops spend their time understanding the weaknesses in their systems of engagement, but many of them don’t get to the point where they can develop solutions. This time, they left with better answers and some concrete next steps.

At our public engagement workshops, we work with leaders who want to develop or refine their strategy. We’re inviting anyone in New York City this summer to join us. See details of this upcoming strategy workshop we’re hosting with the Participatory Budgeting Project here.

At a workshop we held in Edmonton, Alberta, Bev Zubot of the Federation of Community Leagues said, “What I’m really learning is a perspective from the city employees and some of their challenges, and really getting an understanding that they want to have meaningful engagement with citizens. But they too are facing a lot of roadblocks, and it’s going to take a lot of effort to change the culture in this city, but it’s going to come in time because I think there is a real will there.”

Matt talks about the importance of public engagement in the video below, which was taken during the Edmonton workshop. Edmonton City Council is undergoing a special initiative to review and improve the City’s public engagement with citizens.

What do sustainable systems of public engagement look like to you?


06.30 Engaging Ideas - 6/30/2017

Friday, June 30th, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA


A Call to Revive America's Political Center (Real Clear Politics)
Before our savagely polarized country rips itself apart with violent language and violent deeds, it’s time for the nation’s adult leaders to rally and fortify the political center.

Working Toward the Same Ends for Different Reasons (The Atlantic)
A better understanding of moral reasoning could help Americans cooperate on improving the country even amid deep disagreements.

America needs a national dialogue to heal our political battle wounds (The Hill)
The horrible and indiscriminate attack on a group of House Republican members of Congress at their early morning baseball practice for a charity baseball game may prove to be a watershed moment in our country: the day Democrats and Republicans realized they had to change the direction of American politics to take our democracy off the downward spiral it was on.


It's Time To Measure Inequality (Forbes)
Amazingly, no one can point to a clear measurement of inequality that puts flesh and blood on the statistics. Yet most Americans know about it intimately. They live it. They don’t need government statistics. They face it every day

Could You Help Rewire Income Disparity? (NPR)
The growth of income disparity across the world has now become so well-documented that even some rich people see it as a danger to society. But the scale of the problem makes it seem like there's not much ordinary, not-so-rich folks can do about it in their ordinary, not-so-rich lives. If new research from network science is right, though, there may be something easy and simple almost anyone can do to help bring more economic equality into the world.


A civic minded conversation (Daily Journal)
How can we engage teenagers in the civic process? How can government leaders connect with young people in the classroom? And what, exactly, is fake news? These were some of the questions a panel of civic leaders discussed at Kankakee Community College as part of the 2017 Illinois Civics Academy for Teachers, a regional conference for teachers looking for innovative ways to implement the Illinois civic education requirements.

K-12 Education

Students' Sense of Belonging Starts With Teachers (Education Week)
Educators believe students need to feel welcome at school to be successful, but some say they struggle to address barriers to belonging.

Study: Chicago Students Outperform Kids in Rest of Illinois (WBEZ)
A new study from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Center for Urban Education Leadership finds that Chicago students on average outperform similarly situated students outside the city. The findings are big news for Chicago Public Schools, a district which was called the "worst in the nation" 30 years ago by former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett. But the reasons for Chicago's improvement as compared to the rest of the state are complicated. For instance, the study found a major shift in low-income students from Chicago to suburban and downstate areas. According to WBEZ's coverage of the study, "While most low-income children in the state were at one time enrolled in Chicago schools, two-thirds now live outside the city — and that number is growing."

From Frenzied to Focused: How School Staffing Models Can Support Principals as Instructional Leaders (New America)
A new report from Melissa Tooley explores approaches to school staffing by examining three public school districts which employ promising, yet varied, “new school leadership” (NSL) models. Each is designed to bolster principals’ ability to focus on instructional leadership.

Out of High School, Into Real Life (The New York Times)
This graduation season, The New York Times talked with seniors across the country who are not headed to college about their plans, hopes and dreams.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

Report: Early Millennials: The Sophomore Class of 2002 a Decade Later (National Center for Education Statistics)
Many members of the sophomore class of 2002 had made the transition to postsecondary education (84 percent). As of 2012, about one-half of cohort members had earned a postsecondary certificate or degree. One-third of all cohort members had earned a bachelor’s or higher degree by 2012.

Report: Aligning Aid with Enrollment: Interim Findings on Aid Like A Paycheck (MDRC)
Most colleges distribute financial aid refund amounts to students in one or two lump sums during the term. Aid Like A Paycheck is a study of an alternative approach, in which financial aid refunds are disbursed biweekly, with the goal of helping students stretch their financial aid (including federal Pell Grants, state aid, and loans) to cover expenses throughout the term. MDRC is conducting a mixed-methods study of biweekly disbursements at two community colleges in the metropolitan area of Houston, Texas. The study includes qualitative research on the program’s implementation and a randomized controlled trial to rigorously estimate the impacts of the policy on students’ academic and financial outcomes.

Looking Under the Hood (New America)
In the latest post in a blog series about inequalities in higher education, Kelly Rosinger discusses how colleges might mitigate educational inequity and promote upward mobility.

Health Care

Health-Reform Principles That Can Cross Party Lines (Wall Street Journal)
Experts don’t always agree—but eight found common ground despite other differences. They write: "While we have differing perspectives about the level and structure of Medicaid funding, we all believe that carefully developed state testing can be a primary engine for reforming Medicaid and providing care to low-income families. The improved use of waivers, for example, can help states develop fiscally sound and affordable coverage options for their most vulnerable citizens."

What's a better forum for making health policy: Congress or reality TV? (Iowa City Press-Citizen)
When asked last week to present a “brave idea” about health policy, University of Iowa Provost Sue Curry decided to cross the line from straight analysis into satire. “Let’s have a reality TV show — ‘Write that Bill!’ — to craft health legislation: emphasis on health and not just on insurance and sick care,” she said.

Exploring Quality Measures Under Value-Based Purchasing Models (RevCycle Intelligence)
At Xtelligent Media’s Value-Based Care Summit, an industry expert addressed the key components of quality measures for value-based purchasing success.


06.23 Engaging Ideas - 6/23/2017

Friday, June 23rd, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA


Want To Heal Political And Social Divisions? Here Are Some Ideas (Colorado Public Radio)
Here are some other efforts underway in Colorado and across the country that try to build bridges.

In Search of the American Center (The New York Times)
Ross Doubthat writes: I am not usually fond of the “this one chart explains everything” genre of political analysis, but every rule has exceptions, and I’m going to make one for a chart that accompanies a new survey on the 2016 election. It helps explain why Donald Trump won the presidency and why his administration is such a policy train wreck, why Democrats keep losing even though the country seems to be getting more liberal, and why populist surges are likely to be with us for a while — a trifecta of rather important explanations.

'You Have to Live With One Another' (The Atlantic)
A human-rights lawyer advises the left on how to seek advancement in a democracy.


70% of Americans Identify as Middle Class Despite a Prolonged Decline in Middle-Income Households in the US (Northwestern Mutual Study)
Northwestern Mutual Study Reveals People Define the Middle Class by Lifestyle and Perspectives as well as Income and Assets


Johns Hopkins receives $150 million pledge to establish forum for civil discussion (Baltimore Sun)
The Johns Hopkins University will establish a forum for the civil discussion of divisive issues with a $150 million gift from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

Shaping space for civic life: Can better design help engage citizens? (Curbed)
A new report looking at design and civic engagement shows the small things really do matter.

How the Mayor Preps for a Town Hall Meeting (WNYC News)
At any given town hall—he held his 27th on Wednesday—Mayor de Blasio can face questions about everything from hyperlocal traffic patterns to why it's worth living in this expensive city at all. WNYC recently sat in as the mayor and his team prepped for a town hall in Queens, then went to the event to see if all that prep helped him actually connect with his constituents.

K-12 Education

New study reveals cities where low-income students are doing best (Hechinger Report)
When it comes to educating students from urban low-income families, according to a new study, one state leads the pack. And it’s one you might not expect. Texas cities were top performers.

Quality matters in early childhood education (Heckman Equation)
Complementing their recent cost-benefit analysis of the ABC/CARE Program, Professor Heckman and his team look at the differences in outcomes based on gender in their paper, Gender Differences in the Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program. As with most early childhood studies, they find that quality early childhood education benefits low-income children, but they also find significant differences by gender. Although all children benefit most from high quality care, girls show some improvement in lower quality care and boys are actually harmed by it.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

Hitting Re-start for Stopped-out Students (Inside Higher Ed)
Part of a University of North Carolina system, the Part-Way Home program was launched in September 2016 after discussions about how to better serve stopped-out students. UNC universities created individual programs dedicated to re-enroll those students, with names often drawing on football imagery: the End Zone program at North Carolina Central University, Finish Line at Western Carolina University -- and the list goes on.

Students' Rising Expectations Pose Challenge to Online Programs (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
The report on the survey, "Online College Students: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences," found that nearly half of students met in classes of eight weeks’ duration or less. Under Education Department guidelines, which are designed to ensure students don’t collect more in federal aid than they are entitled to, that should translate into students’ spending at least 16 hours a week per course in class and on their out-of-class assignments.

Colleges Face More Pressure on Student Outcomes, but Success Isn’t Always Easy to Measure (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
The successes of students like Ms. Harvin haven't translated into plaudits for Williamsburg Tech, which has a graduation rate of just 9 percent on the Education Department’s College Scorecard. Dual-enrollment students haven’t been counted toward the federal calculation of the college’s graduation rate. On average, just 6 percent of the nearly 700 students who enroll at the college are the "first-time, full-time" students who have been counted under federal graduation rates.

'What Are the Pathways?' Listening to Black Men on Campus (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
A sociologist at the University of Louisville describes what colleges need to do to graduate more black males.

Health Care

Middle Class, Not Poor, Could Suffer if Trump Ends Health Payments (The New York Times)
Americans who earn too much to qualify for premium assistance could face double-digit rate increases if the government stops making cost-sharing payments.

Community health centers should make the move toward value-based care (Fierce Healthcare)
“A switch to value-based care among CHCs could promote higher-quality, more efficient and more patient-centric care,” the authors wrote. “Because of the vulnerability of patients served by CHCs, however, this shift must be done thoughtfully, while honoring the original intention of the prospective payment system—to protect safety net clinics from the volatility of Medicaid rates.”

Value-Based Care Alone Won’t Reduce Health Spending and Improve Patient Outcomes (Harvard Business Review)
Despite spending twice what other developed nations spend on a per capita basis for health care, the United States has a longstanding trend of having lower life expectancy, greater prevalence of chronic disease, and overall poorer health outcomes.


06.16 Engaging Ideas - 6/16/2017

Friday, June 16th, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA


How We Became Bitter Political Enemies (The Upshot)
It wasn’t long after a gunman opened fire on members of a Republican congressional baseball team on Wednesday that the emotional calls for unity began.

Congressman Banks: lawmakers need to restore ‘civil discourse’ (WANE TV)
“Gunman had strong political opinions we’re learning more about,” said Banks of Indiana's 3rd District. “There’s so much we can learn from it. Aside from that we need to work to restore a proper level of civil discourse.”


These Charts Show Just How Small the U.S. Middle Class Is, Compared to Europe's (Time)
If you have the nagging sense that income inequality is getting worse in the United States, some new data from Pew Research shows you're not imagining things.

Fixing America's infrastructure is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a better workforce (Los Angeles Times)
There’s a growing mismatch between workers and jobs that’s threatening the American Dream for millions of families. A combined infrastructure-training initiative offers the president an opportunity for a badly needed reset: a chance to reach across the aisle.


Mayor McFarlane Backs Off of Citizen Engagement Overhaul (Indyweek)
Droves of supporters of Raleigh's citizen advisory committees descended upon last Tuesday night's city council session to speak out in opposition to a new community engagement board created by the council.

Can direct democracy reenergize West's disillusioned voters? (Christian Science Monitor)
Innovative activists across Europe and the US are launching experiments to involve people more actively in political life, though with some mixed results. “In the 21st century, citizens are more educated, have the internet, and are not afraid of authority,” says Matt Leighninger, who works for the New York-based nonprofit Public Agenda. “They want to be heard and to contribute.”

K-12 Education

How Teachers' Stress Affects Students: A Research Roundup (Education Week)
“Relationships really matter for learning; there’s a lot of evidence around that,” said Robert Whitaker, a professor of public health and pediatrics at Temple University.

Data Dive: Technology Flooding Into Classrooms (Education Week)
Students have access to more ed tech than ever, but teachers remain untrained and students aren't using tech creatively.

How diplomas based on skill acquisition, not credits earned, could change education (Hechinger Report)
By 2021, students graduating from Maine high schools must show they have mastered specific skills to earn a high school diploma. Maine is the first state to pass such a law, though the idea of valuing skills over credits is increasingly popular around the country.

A school district is building a DIY broadband network (Hechinger Report)
Internet will be beamed into student homes in Albemarle County, Virginia on frequencies set aside for schools decades ago -- but mostly sold off to business since then.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

Report: Promises and Pitfalls of Online Education (Brookings Institution)
In their current design, online courses are difficult, especially for the students who are least prepared. These students’ learning and persistence outcomes are worse when they take online courses than they would have been had these same students taken in-person courses.

Report: What Do Students Think of Guided Pathways? (Community College Research Center)
This brief examines data from 48 interviews with first-year students at City Colleges of Chicago (CCC)—a large urban community college system with seven campuses that since 2010 has been implementing guided pathways—to understand students’ reactions to CCC’s ambitious, system-wide reform. A large majority of the students were enthusiastic about program maps and educational planning—hallmarks of the guided pathways approach—yet a few students had negative reactions to these very same elements of the reform. And nearly half the students reported that they experienced problems with activities such as registration and course planning while new systems and practices were being deployed by the college, pointing to substantial implementation challenges.

With Innovation, Colleges Fill the Skills Gap (The New York Times)
The Manpower Group, a human resources consulting firm, says the gap, which is often defined as the difference in job skills required and the actual skills possessed by employees, is a chasm. Of the more than 42,000 employers the firm surveyed last year, 40 percent said they were having difficulties filling roles, the highest level since 2007..

Health Care

Four solutions to value-based care challenges (Managed Healthcare Executive)
Progress has been made over the past year toward value-based care, but obstacles still persist, according to a new study.

Hospitals Are Dramatically Overpaying for Their Technology (Harvard Business Review)
For years, hospitals have invested in sophisticated devices and IT systems that, on their own, can be awe-inspiring. Yet these technologies rarely share data, let alone leverage it to support better clinical care. How did we get here? First, the number of devices that work well with others is small. Manufacturers have been slow to embrace interoperability, which would allow health care technologies to share data with one another.

There’s No Magical Savings in Showing Prices to Doctors (New York Times)
Physicians are often unaware of the cost of a test, drug or scan that they order for their patients. If they were better informed, would they make different choices? Evidence shows that while this idea might make sense in theory, it doesn’t seem to bear out in practice.


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