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10.18 Your Way to Take Part in the Presidential Debate: #TextTalk2016

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016 | Megan Rose Donovan



Even the most optimistic among us are likely feeling disengaged and fatigued during this election season. Tomorrow night, during the final Trump-Clinton debate, we invite you to join a virtual event to discuss the issues that matter most.

Those in the U.S. and all over the world can take part in the event called #TextTalk2016, a group discussion with real-time, text-enabled polling questions and discussion prompts. #TextTalk2016 is an alternative opportunity to talk politics and values with friends and family and without debate-style provocation. It is made possible through Baruch College, which is hosting a on-campus event for the debate.

Anyone can participate in #TextTalk2016. All you need are a few friends, family members or colleagues and a cell phone. Interested? Meet wherever you want at any time on October 19th and text “BEGIN” to 89800. You can join during your lunch break at work or over the dinner table with your family.

Each member of the group will receive polling questions, prompts and discussion suggestions via text message. Results from the polling questions will be tabulated almost instantly for everyone to see and react to.

#TextTalk2016 intends to encourage dialogue that is personally meaningful, that stimulates thinking about actions you want to take, and that is part of a much larger conversation on the present and future of the country.


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10.14 Engaging Ideas - 10/14

Friday, October 14th, 2016 | Public Agenda





Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: How one young man is distorting polling averages, and how to become a savvy consumer of polling data. The Education Department releases final teacher prep regulations, plus some research on the profession. And a quick history of the politics around universal childcare.


Engagement

Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner on Citizen Scientists and the Lessons of Flint (Milbank Quarterly)
Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner explain the story of Flint as a classic case of the dual legacies of public health, one rooted in advocacy and aligned with community residents and activists, and the other protecting the interests of state bureaucracies using their own image as scientists. Out of that conflict a movement grew that forced the wider public health community to acknowledge the depths of the problem and the failure of the state to protect its people.


Public Opinion/ Polling

How One 19-Year-Old Illinois Man Is Distorting National Polling Averages (The Upshot)
He is sure he is going to vote for Donald J. Trump. And he has been held up as proof by conservatives — including outlets like Breitbart News and The New York Post — that Mr. Trump is excelling among black voters. He has even played a modest role in shifting entire polling aggregates, like the Real Clear Politics average, toward Mr. Trump.

The Savvy Person’s Guide to Reading the Latest Polls (The Upshot)
There are many factors to consider. Which ones are important?


K-12 Education

Trust Is Missing From School-Improvement Efforts (EdWeek)
Distrust among school leaders and educators can depress teacher retention and harm students, writes Dara Barlin.

Public opinion about improving achievement among poor, minority students (Harvard Shorenstein Center)
A study in Educational Researcher explores Americans' opinions about differences in test scores between poor and wealthy students and white and minority students.


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10.12 Faculty Engagement in College Program Redesign: Lessons from the Field

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016 | ALISON KADLEC, PH.D.



I first met Gretchen Robertson, a Basic Education for Adults (BEdA) faculty member from Skagit Community College at an event hosted by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The event was a Pathways Institute, part of AACC’s Pathways Project, which supports colleges committed to rethinking how they serve and support students.

Gretchen approached me following a presentation I delivered which stressed the importance of engaging frontline faculty and staff in any serious change effort, and doing so early, often and authentically.

Gretchen asked what advice I had for a college that may not have attended as carefully as it should from the outset to deep and authentic engagement of faculty and staff, and as a result, was now experiencing hostile pushback from those whose commitment would be necessary for real progress. It’s a question I get a lot, and I gave Gretchen my standard answer: publicly own where you’ve failed to meaningfully engage, and move forward with a real and visible commitment to doing better to create the conditions for faculty and staff to become true co-owners of the hard work of change. Expect it to be hard, but don’t be deterred by that.

A few months after this initial meeting, I ran into Gretchen at another Pathways Institute. This time I was moderating a session with faculty from colleges implementing guided pathways, which AACC defines as “coherent and easy-to-follow college-level programs of study that are aligned with requirements for success in employment and at the next stage of education.”

During the session, a faculty member became visibly distressed by the conversation as she realized that, for her college to do this work seriously, it may result in some of her courses not being taught as often or perhaps at all.

As the conversation unfolded, and became increasingly heated, Gretchen raised her hand and intervened. It’s impossible to capture here exactly how that conversation unfolded, but I was struck by how constructive and empathetic Gretchen was as she explained how she thinks about this work and why.

Following that session, I asked Gretchen if she’d be willing to talk with me more about her experience of being a faculty member engaged in an ambitious change process. The following edited interview captures the highlights of our ongoing conversation.


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10.07 Engaging Ideas - 10/7

Friday, October 7th, 2016 | Public Agenda





Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: What talking to strangers can do to combat xenophobia and what happens to the Education Department with an administration change. How mayors and faculty in higher education shape community and dialogue to change policy and outcomes. And a new survey that outlines how health plans will need to improve price transparency to guarantee consumer satisfaction.


Democracy

Washington’s ‘governing elite’ think Americans are morons (Wonkblog)
A new book argues that Washington bureaucrats have contempt for the Americans they play a big role in governing.

The Hardened Divide in American Politics (The American Prospect)
When did hyper-partisanship begin? Pre-election polling data point to the mid-1990s.


Engagement

To Combat Xenophobia, Do Talk to Strangers (Observer)
Hundreds of sociological studies over the course of decades about an idea called the “contact hypothesis” have shown with an immense range of nuances that overall, positive experiences with people different than you lead to greater understanding and tolerance for the entire group. Recently, researchers revisited these studies and focused on the previously disregarded effects of negative experiences. They found that the weight of a negative interaction is profoundly heavier than a positive one. To increase tolerance in our society as a whole, we need to create an overwhelming density of positive experiences. This election cycle has given us much to overcome.


Opportunity

Report: A Window of Opportunity II(The Opportunity Agenda)
A Window of Opportunity II, which revisits some of the key questions explored in our 2014 report. A Window of Opportunity II also examines new related variables, including public perception of the fairness of the economy, attitudes towards people suffering from homelessness, and public attitudes towards taxation and spending.

Striking new research on inequality: ‘Whatever you thought, it’s worse’ (Wonkblog)
America’s economic ladder is more broken than anyone realized.


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10.06 What's Free College Got To Do With Completion?

Thursday, October 6th, 2016 | Erin Knepler



Originally published on InsideSources.Com (August 28, 2016)


The idea of free college has been gaining a lot of attention this presidential election cycle, with both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns integrating the concept into their platforms. Just over a year ago, in 2015, President Obama proposed making two years of community college free through the “America’s College Promise” program. Some states have already implemented free community college, including Tennessee, Oregon and Minnesota.

These programs are a remarkable step toward making college more affordable and accessible. But affordability and accessibility do not equal completion. If our goal is providing the opportunity for all individuals, regardless of age, race or class, to receive a world-class education and training for life and career, we need better pathways to help students complete. Otherwise, free college is somewhat moot.

According to data from the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics, 28 percent of students seeking an associate’s degree from a community college graduate within three years. Even at four-year schools, completion rates are lackluster. Students seeking a bachelor’s degree have a graduation rate of 58 percent at public institutions, 65 percent at private nonprofit institutions and 27 percent at private for-profit institutions. This data is alarming. What good is free college if up to nearly three-quarters of students never finish?

In research from Public Agenda, students have spoken of several factors that inhibit their success, including full-time employment, dependent children, weak academic preparation and college affordability. Other research indicates that many college practices inhibit a student’s chance for success. Students’ academic pathways may be confusing, they may receive inadequate guidance or they have difficulty transferring from a community college to a four-year school. Diminishing these barriers can dramatically increase completion.

For example, schools can work to create environments that are more engaging for students. Research from the Association of American Colleges and Universities indicates that students who are academically and socially engaged during college are more likely to graduate. A student is academically engaged when he or she interacts with faculty and finds learning meaningful. Social engagement refers to participation in campus activities and multiple connections with other students.

Many students have challenging schedules and responsibilities outside school that make enhanced engagement more difficult, so it’s important for schools to choose deliberate approaches to meet students where they are.

The way schools design and structure courses can also create barriers for students, especially when courses lack clear outcomes or student support. In particular, redesigning “gateway” courses — those foundational courses nearly all students take in their first year — can reduce drop-outs, failures and withdrawal rates. Research from the Pell Institute indicates that students who return for their second year of college have a higher chance of graduating. If a student is successful the first time taking a course instead of needing to repeat a course, they will be able to move toward their certificate or degree faster and at a lower cost.

Transferring from a community college to a four-year school also trips up many students. While it’s true that a four-year degree isn’t and should not be the only pathway to a better life and career, in recent research from the Community College Research Center, the Aspen Institute and the National Student Clearinghouse, 80 percent of students enrolling in a community college say they plan to get a bachelor’s degree or higher. Yet many students find it frustrating or impossible to transfer between two- and four-year institutions, often losing credits, time and money in the process. States and institutions need to create better transfer procedures and identify a general education core that is accepted by all institutions.

Finally, it’s important to note that all of the free community college programs currently enacted are limited to recent high school graduates, even as more and more individuals are returning to school later in life to earn a college certificate or degree. This trend will likely increase, given that estimates suggest that nearly 70 percent of all jobs will require some kind of post-secondary training, certificate or degree by 2020.

Free college is a giant step toward improving access, and it’s an easy rallying cry. But free college will not inherently lead to more college graduates with well-paying and stable jobs. Higher education leaders and experts need to think beyond “free college” and help colleges and universities create a stronger completion culture. While the solutions above are not as amenable to sound bites, these are the real solutions that will help more students complete a meaningful degree.

Comment

10.06 Elevating Public Views to Rebuild Faith in Higher Education

Thursday, October 6th, 2016 | Allison Rizzolo



Experts, including presidential candidates, overwhelmingly assert the importance of education beyond high school. Yet research we released last month suggests these exchanges are not reaching the public. Just 42 percent of Americans say a college education is necessary for success in the workforce.

This month, we seek to elevate the public's voice on the problems and solutions facing higher education, through new findings released today. We hope these findings will help policymakers, experts, and college and university leaders better understand how they can rebuild the public's faith in higher education as a path to a better life.

In a pair of surveys funded by The Kresge Foundation, Public Agenda asked over 1,000 American adults about prominent problems and reforms facing higher education.

What are the problems?

  • 68% of Americans say cuts in state funding for public colleges is a problem. But they're just as likely to say colleges that are wasteful in how they spend their money is a problem.
  • Americans are also concerned about high schools that fail to prepare students for college-level work. However, they are less likely to view student persistence as a problem.


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10.04 Deepening Public Participation: Summary and Resources

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016 | MATT LEIGHNINGER



Thanks for sticking with us throughout our series on deepening public participation! Whether dealing with an immediate challenge or building long-term infrastructure, participation skills are a valuable asset for anyone’s proverbial toolkit. In case you missed a post, we identified ten key talents (each with a set of specific skills) for public participation:

We also discussed the importance of logistical and project management skills, and identified several free, online, commonly-used platforms and tools that can help with such tasks.


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09.30 Engaging Ideas - 9/30

Friday, September 30th, 2016 | Public Agenda





Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: The reason for skepticism about online polls and which institutions both Republicans and Democrats view favorably. A radio spot on what’s missing in the presidential debates. Plus, a detailed look at the Detroit public school system and an example of how civic engagement spread across six college campuses.


Democracy

Many Americans know nothing about their government. Here’s a bold way schools can fix that. (The Washington Post)
I am not original in saying that constitutional democracies require citizens who understand the ethos of democracy and are willing to do the hard work to improve it. Alexis de Tocqueville (yes, I am citing Tocqueville) noted that democracy is not self-perpetuating but needs to be fostered by succeeding generations. With the U.S. government now larger and more complex than ever, it takes deeper understanding to keep trying to shape it into one that works for all people, not just some of them.

From universities to churches, Republicans and Democrats differ in views of major institutions (Pew Research Center)
The public continues to express negative views of the news media. Fully 70% say the news media have a negative effect on the way things are going in the country, while just 22% say the media have a positive effect. Overall, only two of the six institutions included in the survey – churches and religious institutions (57%) and colleges and universities (57%) – are viewed positively by majorities of the public.


Engagement

How Civic Engagement Spread across Six College Campuses (Kettering Foundation)
“There is a public purpose to education that goes back to the founding of public schools. It helps make our democracy work better. Too often, our notion of democracy is voting and going home, and waiting for leaders to fix our problem. But that isn’t democracy. Democracy should be working with leaders, working across differences, parties, fixing things in our community. To do that we have to talk to people, figure out where they are coming from, craft solutions that don’t divide people.


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09.29 To Keep Our Teachers in the Classroom, They Need More Support and More Of A Say

Thursday, September 29th, 2016 | Ryan MacDonald



Paul Barnwell started his teaching career in one of Kentucky’s most troubled and underperforming schools. As a 22-year-old with no teaching experience, he felt unable to deal with the culture shock of managing a classroom or with pressure from the administration to solve issues on his own. He quit at Christmas and wrote, “the odds of me thriving and staying at my first school were miniscule, as were my students’ chances of actually learning.”

In recent years, the threat of a teacher shortage has loomed large over the education reform debate. And while there is no doubt that certain areas are affected by teacher shortages, primarily low-income and rural areas, there seems to be deeper problem at work—teacher retention.

Teachers are leaving the profession at an alarming rate. Ten percent of teachers will leave before even finishing their first year in the classroom. Statistics show that low-income schools deal with much higher rates of turnover than affluent ones. According to Richard Ingersoll, a professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s education school, 15 percent of teachers leave the profession every year and 40 percent of graduates with an undergraduate degree in education never use it.

So, if we have a large number of teachers either not entering the classroom or leaving shortly after they get there, what is going wrong? How do we keep effective teachers in classroom where they are needed?


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09.27 Evaluating Participation

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016 | MATT LEIGHNINGER and Tina Nabatchi



Key Talents for Better Public Participation, Part 15

Evaluation – the process of collecting, analyzing, and using information to understand how a program operates and/or the outcomes and impacts it has – is important for many reasons.

First, evaluation can help improve program implementation and management, for example by identifying what works, what does not and where improvements can be made.

Second, evaluation can help verify and strengthen accountability structures, for example by helping to keep the program within the scope of a project or decision statement, ensuring that money and resources are being used appropriately and efficiently and monitoring quality control.

Within the context of public participation, evaluation may be necessary to help determine whether the participation opportunity is complying with relevant laws, rules and mandates, and whether it is adhering to and upholding objectives and values such as diverse representation, fairness and participant understanding about how their contributions will be used. In turn, this can increase the perceived legitimacy and importance of public participation.

Finally, more and better evaluation can improve the study and practice of public participation. It can even challenge the notion that official, conventional participation processes are static, predetermined and impossible to change. If you ask a participant to rate the school board meeting or public hearing she attended, it may plant the seed in her mind that the process is not immutable and can in fact be improved. While critical, evaluating public participation can be challenging:

  1. Public participation is inherently complex and value-laden. There are no widely held criteria for judging its success and failure, and evaluating across all possible areas of interest is impractical.
  2. Evaluation results are likely to be important and of interest to a number of audiences, but various audiences may value different criteria and information.
  3. Evaluation can be a daunting task. The technical issues involved can be intimidating, as can be the idea of assessing one’s peers, colleagues and own professional work.
  4. Time, money, personnel and other valuable resources are often in short supply.


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