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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.


06.09 Engaging Ideas - 6/9/2017

Friday, June 9th, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA


Comey Testimony a Prism for Viewing American Politics (New York Times)
For some, the proceedings were seen through the prism of the partisan divide. For others, they were less about Democrats and Republicans than about a dystopian sense that American governance has veered off the rails.

We’re Not in a Civil War, but We Are Drifting Toward Divorce (National Review)
At an increasing rate, Americans separate themselves into culturally and ideologically homogeneous enclaves.

Frank Denton: Is stress taking a toll on democracy? (The Florida Times-Union)
Between the presidential campaign last summer and January, the overall average stress levels of Americans intensified from 4.8 to 5.1 on a scale of 1-10 — the first significant increase in the 10 years of the APA Stress in America survey.


It’s not just the money; it’s the instability (Boston Globe)
Everyone’s seen the charts that document yawning income inequalities in the United States. The picture around wealth inequality is worse. But a large and growing number of Americans suffer because of a third gap — between those who enjoy financial stability and those who don’t.

The American dream? Top 20% pulling away from the rest, study finds (The Guardian)
Economics professor Richard Reeves says the upper middle are ‘opportunity hoarding’ – and pulling up the drawbridge behind them.

What happens if you replace every social program with a universal basic income (Vox)
As two big new reports on the impact of basic income show, “how would we fund it” is a massively important question.

Using Mapping to Understand Gentrification, Prevent Displacement (Government Technology)
A number of cities have found mapping to be a powerful tool for observing gentrification trends, allowing them to intervene before low-income residents are seriously affected.


For the People: Improving Governments with Technology (Harvard Political Review)
Civic tech is a somewhat nebulous concept. Most people define it only in terms of technology and government.

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.

K-12 Education

Lots of people are excited about career and technical education. But new international research points to a potential downside (Chalkbeat)
Trump’s budget actually cuts CTE funding, but, at least in theory, there’s wide support across the ideological spectrum for helping more students learn career-specific skills in high school. Yet new international research points to a significant downside of such programs.

New study shows school reform efforts didn't pay off in Michigan (Michigan Radio)
A school reform plan implemented in Michigan in 2012 didn't actually improve schools. That’s according to a new working paper published this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

First-Gen Faculty (Inside Higher Ed)
University of California plan forges connections between students and professors who were the first in their families to attend a four-year institution.

College grads face next hurdle: Paying back student loans (Washington Post)
After all their hard work, the college class of 2017 is finally enjoying the real world and all its “perks,” including having to pay back their student loans.

The High Price of Not Completing College in Four Years (Wall Street Journal)
How can you save over $20,000 on college costs? Graduate on time. At four-year schools, only about 40% of full-time students graduate on time, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Education.

IBM is Partnering With More Community Colleges to Train Tech Workers (Fortune)
IBM announced Wednesday that it is expanding its partnerships with community colleges in an effort to train more workers for what the company describes as "new collar jobs"—skilled positions in fast growing tech fields that don't necessarily require a traditional four-year degree.

Health Care

Worried sick about your health care? You’re not alone (Bankrate)
While politicians battle over whether to dump Obamacare in favor of a “Trumpcare” replacement, the country is in the grips of a bad case of health care insecurity.

Is value-based care making a difference? (Healthcare Dive)
Early results on value-based payment initiatives show mixed results, but that may improve with time.

Teaching Hospitals Cost More, but Could Save Your Life (New York Times)
Perhaps not evident to many patients, there are two kinds of hospitals — teaching and nonteaching — and a raging debate about which is better.


06.02 Engaging Ideas - 6/2/2017

Friday, June 2nd, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA


How Twitter Is Being Gamed to Feed Misinformation (The New York Times)
Twitter’s design also promotes a slavish devotion to metrics: Every tweet comes with a counter of Likes and Retweets, and users come to internalize these metrics as proxies for real-world popularity. Yet these metrics can be gamed. Because a single Twitter user can create lots of accounts and run them all in a coordinated way, Twitter lets relatively small groups masquerade as far larger ones. If Facebook’s primary danger is its dissemination of fake stories, then Twitter’s is a ginning up of fake people.

We, the people, must demand civility from our politicians (The Hill)
We all know that the bitter, vicious turn politics has taken isn’t going to change until we demand it. Reasoned discussion, which can occasionally lead to raised voices, is part of living in a democracy. But we must hold the people seeking our votes to the highest of standards and make them act like the leaders they claim to be or refuse them the job they seek by not giving them our votes.

Election blind dates: John Whittingdale and Jess Phillips (BBC)
An experiment in the UK: What happens when two strong-minded individuals from opposite sides of the political debate sit down for dinner?


Can Talking to a Stranger Change Your Life? (NBC News)
A new project connects strangers from all over the world in one-on-one video conversations about their lives and perspectives.

What If Politicians Studied the Social Fabric Like Economists Studied GDP? (The Atlantic)
One of Washington’s most conservative legislators on an age of polarization, inequality, and fragmentation.

K-12 Education

The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education (Spencer Foundation)
In their book, Diana Hess and Paula McAvoy argue that schools are, and ought to be, political sites — places that engage students in deliberations about questions that ask, "How should we live together?"

Education Today (RealClearEducation Newsletter)
As a new and highly consequential case moves toward the Supreme Court, teachers' unions are bracing for some dramatic changes. Mike Antonucci of The 74 examines how teachers' unions are preparing to lose thousands of members. And if you want to get into the weeds of ESSA, Matthew Di Carlo takes a deep dive into how states can improve accountability measurements in their ESSA implementation plans.

Our Schools Have an Equity Problem. What Should We Do About It? (Education Week)
Just as our federal education laws have changed and evolved, so too have our nation's demographics. It is significant that the federal role is downsized just as economic inequality is at its highest and mobility from poverty is at its lowest since the ESEA was enacted.

A Bipartisan Approach to School Funding Boosts Equity (Education Week)
When Nevada's Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, was re-elected in 2014, the GOP won majorities in both houses of the legislature for the first time in 85 years. In 2015, the governor bucked party orthodoxy and crossed the political divide to broaden the tax base and fund his education initiatives. These initiatives include boosting early education and attending to the state's depleted teacher ranks. As a result, funding for specific pre-K-12 programs will more than double, to $1.3 billion, during his eight-year tenure, which ends in 2019.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

On Second Thought: U.S. Adults Reflect on Their Education Decisions (Gallup-Strada Education Network)
This report -- the first of a three-year series that will explore individuals' perceptions of their education paths -- provides initial insights and sets a foundation to help students most effectively and efficiently achieve their economic and personal goals. This first look focuses on three key questions asked of U.S. adults who previously enrolled in or completed postsecondary education or training.

The Case for Community College (Time)
Without a particular career in mind, Anderson enrolled at Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI) in Watertown, S.D., a relatively inexpensive two-year college 30 minutes from his home. There, his classrooms were hangar-size spaces filled with wind turbines, solar panels, ethanol distillers and miniature hydroelectric dams. It seemed more like his dad's garage, where Anderson would spend hours tinkering with his 1971 Chevrolet pickup truck, than a place to learn math. But trigonometry began making sense when you used it to fit together piping systems. Basic computer code seemed worth learning when you could program an assembly-line robot.

Mass. Gov and Boston Mayor Announce Tuition-Free College Pilot Program (AP)
In an era of increased political polarization, here's a noteworthy story out of Massachusetts: Republican Governor Charlie Baker and Marty Walsh, the Democratic Mayor of Boston, have joined together to launch a tuition-free college program for low-income students in Boston. The Boston Bridge program will commence for 2017 high school graduates. To qualify, students must meet the federal Pell Grant income standards and then enroll full time at Bunker Hill Community College, Roxbury Community College or Mass Bay Community College. According to the AP, "The students will be required to complete their associates’ degrees within two and a half years before transferring to state public colleges or state universities."

College Access Index Shows Shrinking Levels of Economic Diversity (NPR)
NPR's Robert Siegel speaks with New York Times columnist David Leonhardt about how this year's college access index shows that economic diversity is shrinking at American colleges.

Health Care

Few Clinicians Accurately Estimate Costs of Emergency Care (American Journal of Managed Care)
Healthcare professionals working in the emergency department may be unaware of the costs of the care they deliver, according to a new study that asked clinicians to guess the cost of 3 hypothetical visits.


06.01 Student Voices: Leaving College, Concerns About Going Back and What to Look for in the Future

Thursday, June 1st, 2017 | Megan Rose Donovan

As college graduates are congratulated and "Pomp and Circumstance" ushers them into the work world, we notice that some faces are missing from the class. Who is not donning a cap and gown this spring? Many more students than you think, and they don't fit a particular mold. Those inside the so-called traditional mold of an 18 year-old who is financially dependent on their parents and attending college full time account for as few as 16% of college students today.

Adults looking to attend college account for about a third of first-time college students in the U.S. This new traditional student doesn't live in an on-campus dorm, attend classes in person 5 days a week and graduate in 4 years. Many are older and juggle families, jobs and school, among other responsibilities. They have a long and winding road ahead before they can step on stage, shake the dean's hand and collect a diploma.

We spoke with new traditional students to understand why they left college, what concerns they have about returning, and what they're now looking for in a school. These one-minute illustrative videos below were shot as part of a larger project to better understand the needs and aspirations of new traditional students with support from The Kresge Foundation.

Why I Left College

“I wanted to get my associates, and then my bachelor’s, and, you know, then go get my masters. I even wanted to get my Ph.D. My dad wanted me to help him with his business so I ended up basically slowly taking two classes per semester, one class twice a week, and then eventually I just stopped.”

– Jennifer, 31

My Concerns About Returning to College

“I am very scared of going back to college because I am a single mother. You know, I still have to work. But my biggest fear is starting it and all of a sudden, something else happens.”

– Lashanti, 32

“What I worry about is being able to succeed and fully finish it, and also, learn.”

– Christopher, 53

What I Look For in a School

“I want to know how soon did they obtain the job, where did they obtain the job, did they choose to drop out of the job market? I think the statistics really need to be a little more detailed.”

– Samuel, 39

Helping these adult prospective students be successful requires the coordination and collaboration of higher education institutions, policymakers, businesses and the broader community. We’re working on this issue so that clear and defined pathways exist from high school onto college and the workforce. Use our community engagement resources and discussion starters, particularly the “Success is What Counts” guide to effective community engagement practices, to better understand these issues in higher education and help enact reform that can lead to greater student success.


05.26 Engaging Ideas - 5/26/2017

Friday, May 26th, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA


Civic Resilience Beyond the Beltway (New America)
James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic, described in human terms the local resilience that he has witnessed in his travels and research for his American Futures project. What he saw was a sense that people all across the country feel that their city is doing better than the rest of America—that despite the forces of globalization, digitization, growing inequality, and civic disconnection that contribute to a brittle relationship at the national level, their place is still coming together to solve problems. The unifying factor across the cities he has visited is the sense of agency people feel in the face of a changing world. Fallows’ observations weren’t a one-off, though.

Bipartisanship? It may be possible thanks to this little-known group (The Hill)
The work of a little-known and geeky-sounding federal commission may hold the key to more effective policymaking and a renewed culture of bipartisanship in a badly divided Congress.

Fed-Up Republicans, Dems Form New Centrist Party in Utah (Newsmax)
Utah Republicans and Democrats disgusted with the "extremism" of the two major political parties have launched a centrist alternative called the United Utah Party.

What Tom MacArthur learned after getting roughed up at a town hall (Washington Examiner)
For five hours, MacArthur fielded questions (and lectures) from a mostly hostile crowd angry with him for supporting a bill that would partially repeal Obamacare.


Employees look to employers for financial stability (Employee Benefit News)
As the American dream of financial security continues to slip out of reach for many U.S. workers, employers — seen as trusted partners by employees — will need to step up to restore faith in retirement readiness.

The Unfreeing of American Workers (New York Times)
Paul Krugman writes: America is an open society, in which everyone is free to make his or her own choices about where to work and how to live. Everyone, that is, except the 30 million workers now covered by noncompete agreements, who may find themselves all but unemployable if they quit their current jobs; the 52 million Americans with pre-existing conditions who will be effectively unable to buy individual health insurance, and hence stuck with their current employers, if the Freedom Caucus gets its way; and the millions of Americans burdened down by heavy student and other debt.


8 Ways to Get a Difficult Conversation Back on Track (Harvard Business Review)
Despite our best intentions, conversations can frequently veer into difficult territory, producing frustration, resentment, and wasted time and effort. Take David, one of my coaching clients. Recently appointed to a business school leadership role, he was eager to advance his strategic agenda. Doing so required building his team members’ commitment to and sense of ownership over the proposed changes.

UTSA researcher examines how city governments use Facebook to engage citizens (UTSA Today)
Social media can help boost citizens' voluntary participation and involvement in local government, according to Chris Reddick, chair of the Department of Public Administration at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA).

K-12 Education

Why Did The Top Student Aid Official Under Betsy DeVos Resign? (NPR)
Conscience or incompetence? Two competing narratives — along partisan lines — have emerged to explain the sudden departure of the head of the Federal Student Aid Office.

Research Groups Plan Advocacy Path (Education Week)
The White House budget proposal for fiscal 2018 would keep spending roughly the same for most of the Education Department's research arm, the Institute for Education Sciences, but it would deliver cuts to several major education and child development research areas in the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.

We Need More STEM Teachers; Higher Ed. Can Help (Education Week)
Four recommendations for sending more STEM majors into teaching. The first: Conversations about teaching—between STEM majors (who are not enrolled in teaching-prep programs) and their professors—can change the status quo. In other words, those in higher education are in a position to make a difference, just by encouraging this dialogue. And yet, there is evidence that many university and college professors, particularly in the STEM fields, do not discuss the option of middle and high school teaching with their students.

The Little-Known Statistician Who Taught Us to Measure Teachers (The Upshot)
William Sanders’s data-driven method of evaluating the effectiveness of teachers was a once-revolutionary idea that has gained wide acceptance.

Why It's So Hard To Know Whether School Choice Is Working (NPR)
Students are never randomly assigned to a school. A school's population is always affected by local demographics. With schools of choice, by definition, parents and students are making a decision to attend that school, so their enrollment is even less random. It's hard to know how schools of choice — charter or private — are performing. Researchers say that's precisely because they are schools of choice. But here's what we do know.

Higher Education & Workforce Development

The Assault on Colleges — and the American Dream (New York Times)
Over the last several years most states have cut their spending on higher education, some drastically. Many public universities have responded by enrolling fewer poor and middle-class students — and replacing them with affluent students who can afford the tuition. The situation is particularly demoralizing because it’s happening even as politicians from both parties spend more time trumpeting their supposedly deep concern for the American dream.

Study Examines Health Care Access, Quality, Ranks Nations; U.S. Scores Low Given Expenditures, Study Author Says (New York Times)
Over the last 25 years, China, Ethiopia, the Maldive Islands, Peru, South Korea, and Turkey had the greatest improvements in "deaths avoidable through health care at their economic level," a complex but intriguing new measure of global mortality described last week in the Lancet. By that standard, the United States improved slightly over the same period, 1990 to 2015. But the American ranking is still so low that it’s "an embarrassment, especially considering the U.S. spends $9,000 per person on health care annually," said the report’s chief author, Dr. Christopher J. L. Murray, director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

An Affordable Pathway to a Bachelor's Degree (Inside Higher Ed)
Despite the frequent loss of credits, transferring from a community college to a university is less expensive than starting at a four-year institution, a new study finds. “The bottom line is if you complete, it’s cheaper to go to the community college,” said Clive Belfield, a professor of economics at Queens College of the City University of New York system, who co-authored the paper. “Students lose a lot of credits, maybe 10 to 15 credits, and that’s a whole semester, but it doesn't change the calculation.”

Health Care

A Bipartisan Way To Improve Medical Care (New Yorker)
A straightforward change would save money and improve health. So why isn’t Congress talking about it?

Measuring Value Based On What Matters To Patients: A New Value Assessment Framework (Health Affairs Blog)
As health care spending continues to grow and as we appropriately drive the health care system toward a payment system that rewards value instead of volume, it is imperative that we promote conversations on how to define value. To do this, it is critical that we first answer the question: value to whom?

We should research our health care at least as well as our cars (Baltimore Sun)
As consumers, we spend more time researching television, vacation and vehicle purchases than making health care spending decisions.


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