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11.03 Engaging Ideas - 11/3/2017

Friday, November 3rd, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA




Democracy

The political divide in the United States, animated (Washington Post)
According to Pew’s data, 95 percent of Republicans are more conservative than the median Democrat and 97 percent of Democrats are more liberal than the median Republican.

Obama summit kicks off, reaffirms ‘the power of the people’ (Chicago Sun Times)
Drawing civic leaders from around the world, the Obama Foundation on Tuesday kicked off its two-day summit with a performance from students at the People’s School of Music and “social spaces” that invited people to reflect on their personal aspirations.

If estate tax is repealed, charitable giving will take a major hit (Denver Post)
The estate tax is not a burden. Instead, it does what the tax code is intended to do, which is incentivize behavior that benefits us all.


Opportunity/Inequality

How wealth inequality has changed in the U.S. since the Great Recession, by race, ethnicity and income (Pew Research)
The Great Recession of 2007-2009 triggered a sharp, prolonged decline in the wealth of American families, and an already large wealth gap between white households and black and Hispanic households widened further in its immediate aftermath. But the racial and ethnic wealth gap has evolved differently for families at different income levels, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances.

Invest In Cities To Narrow The Inequality Gap (Forbes)
As with the U.K.'s decision to leave the E.U., the rise of Donald Trump and the rest of it, there is no shortage of commentaries on the growing problems in cities around the world. What there is much less of is realistic proposals for dealing with the issues that have given rise to these phenomena.

America’s affordable-housing stock dropped by 60 percent from 2010 to 2016 (Washington Post)
The number of apartments deemed affordable for very low-income families across the United States fell by more than 60 percent between 2010 and 2016, according to a new report by Freddie Mac.


Engagement

Boston Launches New Crowdsourcing Model for 311 (Government Technology)
Boston has launched a new crowdsourcing effort to gather data for its 311 interface, deploying a machine-learning model that takes a description of the user’s issue and then suggests case types that are most likely to fit what they need.

Report: Civic Tech Struggles with Sustainable Funding Despite Gains (Government Tech)
A recent increase in public desire to strengthen democracy has not yet translated into more funding for civic tech, but the authors of a new report see it as a reason for hope.

New York City's Tech Engagement Program Designed to Think, Act, Locally and Globally (Government Technology)
NYCx, a reorganizing of New York City's technology programs, is designed to bring technologists and residents together to solve tech problems with answers that could be adaptable worldwide.


K-12

GOP Tax Bill Would Boost School Choice, May Squeeze K-12 Revenue (Education Week)
The Republicans' much-anticipated legislation to change the federal tax system includes a victory for school choice advocates: It would allow families to use up to $10,000 in savings from 529 college savings plans for K-12 expenses, including private school tuition.

A Snapshot of Students’ Online Coursetaking: Foreign Languages On the Rise (EdWeek Market Brief)
The biggest increase in any single category of online course-taking was in foreign language study, which rose from 6 percent of course enrollments in 2014-15 to nearly 12 percent in the most recent year.

A capstone project before graduation? New York debates new ways to earn a diploma (Chalkbeat)
As New York continues to rethink what students must do to graduate high school, state policymakers floated their latest idea Monday: Let some students complete a “capstone project” on their path to a diploma.


Higher Ed/Workforce

The Surprising Revolt at the Most Liberal College in the Country (the Atlantic)
Activists are disrupting lectures to protest "white supremacy," but many students are taking steps to stop them.

Understanding Why Some Colleges Create Economic Mobility (Inside Higher Ed)
New coalition of colleges, researchers and higher ed groups aims to understand why and how some institutions excel at enrolling and graduating underprivileged students (and others don’t).

A College Certificate May Not Be a Clear Pathway to a Job (NBC News)
Certificates have become a hot commodity in the higher-education world in recent years, promoted by colleges and by Washington as an important new pathway to a career for people who don’t fit into a four-year degree program. They are the fastest-growing kind of post-high-school credential, with nearly a million a year now being conferred.


Health Care

Patient-led advisory councils tackling bigger matters (Modern Health Care)
Before a nurse hands off a patient to an incoming nurse at any of LifePoint Health's 72 hospitals, the two have an in-depth conversation with the patient and family members at the bedside. The systemwide protocol is an opportunity for inpatients to ask questions about their care and to ensure they are up to speed on their current health status.

Shop Around: Subsidies May Offset Your 2018 Health Insurance Price Hike (NPR)
Open enrollment for 2018 starts Wednesday, and new numbers released by the Trump Administration show that the average cost of a benchmark policy will be about 27 percent higher next year. But that's just the headline. The details suggest there's good news for lots of people who are willing to shop around a bit for insurance.

Fears of Amazon moving into prescription drug sales are already disrupting health care (Washington Post)
The possible megamerger between pharmacy giant CVS Health and health insurer Aetna would be the biggest deal of the year if it goes through. It would also create a combined company less vulnerable to disruption by Amazon, the online retail giant that has been eyeing the pharmacy business.

Comment

11.03 Student Success: A Mix of Teacher Collaboration and Parent Engagement

Friday, November 3rd, 2017 | REBECCA SILLIMAN



For years, policymakers, educators and researchers have examined ways to create stronger student success outcomes in K-12 education. Many research studies have found that teacher collaboration can positively influence student success. Earlier this year, Public Agenda, with support from the Spencer Foundation, released Teacher Collaboration In Perspective: A Guide to Research, part of the Teacher Collaboration In Perspective project. While teachers in most schools across the United States work in isolation, they can and should be able to collaborate in order to learn from each other and share ideas. Some findings cited in the Guide to Research about the potential impacts of teacher collaboration on student success include:

  • Schools that are more collaborative have been shown to have a stronger student academic outcome than schools that are less collaborative.
  • When it comes to specific approaches to fostering collaboration, studies have found different degrees of effectiveness in improving student achievement.
  • Strong social connections among teachers may benefit students.
  • Collaborative approaches to using student test score data might improve the effectiveness of data-informed school improvement.
  • While there is little doubt that there are benefits to increasing teacher collaboration, it is necessary to remember that teacher collaboration is not the only factor, nor are teachers the only audience that need to work together, to help students succeed. Including or engaging parents in their child’s education can also be a driving factor to student success.

    However, like my colleagues found out about teacher collaboration, the degree to which parents can be included or engaged in their child’s education varies. In a 2015 study conducted by Gallop, they define the difference between parent involvement and parent engagement, stating that “parents can be involved in their child’s education in many ways, including reading to their child, setting expectations for their child’s success and participating in school activities and conferences.” However, engaged parents are slightly different in that they also “experience a strong feeling of pride for the school and serve as the school’s advocate when discussing it with friends and neighbors.” Gallop also argues that parent engagement can have a greater impact on student success than parent involvement. Unfortunately, in Gallop’s nationally representative survey conducted with 3,356 parents, only 20 percent were fully engaged in the school.

    In a past blog, Public Agenda’s Matt Leighninger discussed ways to cultivate parent engagement, indicating, like Gallop, that there are different levels of how parents are engaged. He also states that when parents understand and are confident about their roles in their children’s education and feel welcomed by educators, they are more likely to be involved. While parent-teacher conferences and other conventional meetings are forms of parent involvement, there are other tactics, such as parent workshops, after-school programs and student-centered learning plans which contain similar characteristics of high quality engagement. However, more research is needed to examine if these other methods of engagement will in fact lead to deeper parent engagement.

    Overall, it is important to remember that when examining student success outcomes, it is necessary to look not only to teachers, but to everyone who is and should be involved in a child’s education. It is also vital to continue to investigate how these groups interact with each other to ensure that they are all working to create improved student success outcomes.

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10.27 Engaging Ideas - 10/27/2017

Friday, October 27th, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA




Democracy

2-Party System? Americans Might Be Ready For 8 (NPR)
There seem to be roughly at least four stripes of politics today. A new political typology out Tuesday from the Pew Research Center, based on surveys of more than 5,000 adults conducted over the summer, goes even deeper. It finds eight distinct categories of political ideology (nine if you include "bystanders," those not engaged with politics).

Twitter announces new ‘transparency center’ for ads (Tech Crunch)
Twitter is responding to political scrutiny over the role it may have played in spreading Russian misinformation, and to a bipartisan Congressional bill proposing new regulations for online ads, with some new initiatives of its own.

Liberals and Conservatives Uniting Against Partisan Status Quo (IVN)
Our political system is failing because our government has become little more than a perpetual banquet for selfish interests that feed themselves first, and worry about the health of the nation later, if at all. This is the situation in which we now find ourselves, and it must be reversed.


Opportunity/Inequality

Is $100,000 middle class in America? (Chicago Tribune)
The majority of Americans - 62 percent - identify as "middle class," according to a Gallup poll conducted in June. It's the highest percent of people feeling that way since 2003. But a lot of Americans are like Osegueda: They feel middle class, but they aren't sure what it means.

Why the Solutions to Economic Mobility Are Local (CityLab)
In 1940, 92 percent of kids in America could grow up to do better than their parents, economically-speaking. Today, that’s just 50 percent. The American Dream, in other words, comes down to a coin toss. This issue, it turns out, really comes down to the neighborhood inequalities.

Designing a More Inclusive City (New York City)
In the 1990s, San Francisco removed all of the benches from Civic Center Plaza. In 2001, all remaining seating in nearby United Nations Plaza was removed in the middle of the night. Over the years, public seating has been removed from virtually the entire city. While this anti-homelessness strategy has given way a little with the emergence of the city’s many parklets, it’s still in full effect.


Engagement

Technology Is Key to Local Citizen Engagement (Government Technology)
The mayors of Austin, Texas, Louisville, Ky., and Raleigh, N.C., hope their successful resident engagement projects will serve as guides for other major cities across the country.

Van Bramer Hosts First Ever Participatory Budgeting Events For Homeless New Yorkers (Queens Gazette)
City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer hosted New York City’s first ever participatory budgeting events for homeless New Yorkers on October 13. At these two events, Majority Leader Van Bramer sought the input of homeless individuals sheltered in his district on how to improve the community they call home.

Public Engagement Is a Two-Way Street (Inside Higher Ed)
Claiming that academics are failing to engage with the general public is intellectual laziness at best and anti-intellectual posturing at worst, argues Adam Kotsko.


K-12

Are New York’s Charter Schools Safer than Its Public Schools? (Capital Research Center)
The findings by Max Eden and the Manhattan Institute compare responses from teachers and students at similar-level charter schools and public schools in New York City. They reveal something shocking trend: middle school charters are reportedly safer than their public counterparts.

‘This levels the playing field’: How New York City is trying to get more high school students to apply to college (Chalkbeat)
The program, called “College Access for All,” is meant to address the gap between students whose families already understand the application process and can help give them a leg up, and those who might be first-generation college students or who might not apply at all. This year, the education department expanded the program to include roughly 274 of the city’s high schools, or more than half of the total.

Gates Foundation to move away from teacher evals, shifting attention to ‘networks’ of public schools (Chalkbeat)
The idea is to fund “networks” that help public schools improve by scrutinizing student achievement data and getting schools to share their best ideas, he said. Of the $1.7 billion the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will spend on U.S. education over the next five years, more than 60 percent will go to these networks — dwarfing the amount to be spent on charter schools, about 15 percent.


Higher Ed/Workforce

New Report: Degree Inflation Hurting Bottom Line of U.S. Firms, Closing Off Economic Opportunity for Millions of Americans (Harvard Business School)
Businesses can open a new talent pipeline for middle-skills positions and help middle-class Americans find jobs by rethinking the four-year degree requirements for positions that didn’t previously require them.

U.S. Education Needs to Move Past Its 'Fixation on the Bachelor's Degree,' Study Says (Education Week)
American educators and policymakers must "move beyond our current fixation on the bachelor's degree," and embrace the promise of associate and certificate programs, a new paper argues, noting that many jobs with good pay don't require bachelor's degrees.

Professors Challenge Part of ‘U.S. News’ Formula (Inside Higher Ed)
Faculty members on and off the tenure track are circulating a petition seeking to change the way U.S. News & World Report measures "faculty resources," an important part of the formula used to rank colleges.


Health Care

State enhances website that lets Mainers compare medical costs by provider (Press Herald)
New quality-of-care indicators and updated prices are added to CompareMaine.org to help consumers be informed health care purchasers.

Many Cancer Patients Skimp on Treatment Due to Cost (US News & World Report)
The high cost of cancer care in the United States has led more than one-quarter of patients to cut back on some part of their treatment, a new survey reveals.

Hospital quality varies widely across the country, Healthgrades analysis finds (Fierce Healthcare)
Organizations rated highly by the firm Healthgrades fare better on mortality and complication rates for several common conditions, according to a new analysis, and quality varies widely across the country. The group's annual Report to the Nation (PDF) examined the quality performance of close to 4,500 short-term acute care hospitals across the country.

Comment

10.20 Engaging Ideas - 10/20/2017

Friday, October 20th, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA




Democracy

Corruption Of Government Officials Ranked Americans' Top Fear Of 2017 (Forbes)
With Halloween just around corner, a recent survey shows what really keeps Americans awake at night. The Chapman University Survey of American Fears polled 1,207 U.S. adults on their level of fear across 80 different categories ranging from crime to personal anxieties and natural disasters.

America The Beautiful, But Divided (Forbes)
For nearly a year the world has worked to adapt to recent changes, both real and perceived, in U.S. foreign policy. But as the globe responds to the new priorities of its only superpower, Americans themselves remain divided over how best to engage with their surroundings.

Van Jones: Both Republicans and Democrats are crazy (Salon)
The CNN political commentator holds both parties responsible for today’s political climate — but he has solutions


Opportunity/Inequality

Why Is 'Affordable' Housing So Expensive to Build? (CityLab)
As costs keep rising, it’s becoming harder and harder for governments to subsidize projects like they’ve done in the past.

Americans aren’t convinced good times will last long if you look at how they spend (Market Watch)
Are Americans still anxious about their financial future even after eight years of a growing economy? Their hesitation to spend on certain “extras” such as going out to eat, visiting Disney World or buying a club membership suggests lingering angst.


Engagement

Philadelphia Kicks Off Smart City Planning Workshop (Government Technology)
Philadelphia hosted a SmartCityPHL Readiness Workshop to hear from city leaders, businesses, civic organizations and other groups for feedback as the city develops a smart city strategic plan.

Merced County Participatory Budgeting Process Hits Snag, Plows Ahead (Civic Hall)
The first-ever participatory budgeting process at the county level has not gone off without a hitch, but it is still going on.

App could foster public engagement in Butte's 'environmental story'(Montana Standard)
Butte-Silver Bow hopes to develop a mobile app that gives residents more information about Superfund sites and lets them pose their own questions and comments to government officials and experts in the field.


K-12

Does Paying Kids to Do Well in School Actually Work? (Education Week)
Adults have long used rewards—or let’s face it, bribes— to prod children into doing what they want. But it wasn’t until the last decade that economists started looking earnestly at how educators could leverage incentives, such as gift cards, scholarship money, and in some cases cold hard cash, to motivate students to go to school and perform better on tests.

School District Leaders Say Early Education Needed, But Underfunded (Education Week)
More than three-quarters of American public school superintendents say that early-childhood care and education means "a great deal" to a child's future success—but that they work in states that are investing too little in it.

As Demand for Digital Materials Rises, States Adjust Policies (Ed Week Market Brief)
As schools increasingly forego print for digital materials, states have been forced to revamp how they select and purchase an ever-shifting array of classroom resources.


Higher Ed/Workforce

Operations and Performance of the Virginia Community College System (Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission)
Majority of community college students did not earn a community college credential or bachelor’s degree.

The College Chasm (Harvard Magazine)
Although America's Research Universities are the envy of the world, our system of baccalaureate education inspires as much hand-wringing as pride. Concerns about the unevenness of undergraduate education have grown with evidence of falling college completion rates and disappointing results in international comparisons of learning.

Education in the Age of Outrage (New York Times)
...it is with some trepidation that I admit that the current political climate in academia confuses me. The more I read about trigger warnings, safe spaces and petitions to retract scholarly articles, the more my head spins. On top of that confusion, I harbor a fear of expressing views that will offend other progressives, scholars and teachers who may also be fighting oppression.


Health Care

New website will let Maryland consumers compare hospital rates for the first time (Baltimore Sun)
A new website —
wearthecost.org — being launched Thursday by the Maryland Health Care Commission will help consumers compare these types of costs among hospitals and bring more transparency to hospital pricing practices.

Extending Federal Funding for CHIP: What is at Stake? (Kaiser Family Foundation)
This fact sheet provides an overview of the status of action to extend federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

We Have to Ration Health Care (Slate)
Medicare for all would be a much better plan if it acknowledged that simple reality.

Comment

10.13 Engaging Ideas - 10/13/2017

Friday, October 13th, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA




Democracy

Opposing political parties find common ground at civil dialogue event (ASU Now)
Former U.S. Sens. Jon Kyl and Tom Daschle tell crowd at ASU why they think America has become politically polarized

Is the American Idea Doomed? (The Atlantic)
America no longer serves as a model for the world as it once did; its influence is receding. At home, critics on the left reject the notion that the U.S. has a special role to play; on the right, nationalists push to define American identity around culture, not principles. Is the American idea obsolete?


Opportunity/Inequality

In recent decades, the clustering of rich and poor neighborhoods in America has continued, expanding inequality. (LSE USAPP)
Many recent discussions on American cities and neighborhoods have focused on how they are changing, either through gentrification or economic change. In new research, Elizabeth Delmelle finds that gentrification is only one small part of the story of America’s neighborhoods since 1980.

Boston taps into data to find sources of economic inequality (GCN)
Many cities use data to measure the effectiveness of programs and policies, but Boston plans to use its newly created Economic Mobility Lab to study entire systems of programs that are meant to help people move up the economic ladder, find gaps that need to be filled and deploy programs that address those identified gaps.


Engagement

Is It Time to Scale College Towns: Reimagining Public Engagement through Agile Design (Inside Higher Ed)
When living in a college town, you begin your pursuits with a goal of seeking greater understanding, not with the goal of confirming a current set of beliefs. Fundamental to the dynamic university communities that anchor these unique college towns is compassion. Compassion, it turns out, is essential to discovery and discovery is at the center of a vibrant and healthy society. It’s time to invest time and treasure in the compassionate public square for the information age.


K-12

A school choice quandary: parents care more about who attends a school than about its quality, in NYC study (Chalkbeat)
“Among schools with similar student populations, parents do not rank more effective schools more favorably,” write researchers Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Parag Pathak, Jonathan Schellenberg, and Christopher Walters. “Our findings imply that parents’ choices tend to penalize schools that enroll low achievers rather than schools that offer poor instruction.”

Building the Workforce: Apprenticeship Program Offers College Credit, Paychecks, and Diplomas (Education Week)
Colorado student apprentices this year are earning diplomas, paychecks, and college credit while helping the state build its future workforce.


Higher Ed/Workforce

Which public colleges have the top graduation rates for students in financial need? (Washington Post)
Among 100 major public universities across the country — state flagships and other prominent schools — only 11 report a six-year graduation rate of at least 80 percent for students with enough financial need to qualify for federal Pell Grants.

Who Counts as a Black Student? (Inside Higher Education)
Cornell protest revives debate on whether first-generation immigrants from Africa and Caribbean make up disproportionate share of black students at top colleges, and what -- if anything -- should be done as a result.


Health Care

Trump to Scrap Critical Health Care Subsidies, Hitting Obamacare Again (New York Times)
President Trump will scrap subsidies to health insurance companies that help pay out-of-pocket costs of low-income people, the White House said late Thursday.

California governor signs drug pricing transparency bill into law (Healthcare Finance)
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a sweeping drug price bill that will force drugmakers to publicly justify big price hikes.

Comment

10.06 Engaging Ideas - 10/6/2017

Friday, October 6th, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA




Democracy

Most Campaign Outreach Has Zero Effect on Voters (The Atlantic)
A new paper finds that direct mail, door-to-door canvassing, and television ads almost never change people’s minds. What does this mean for American democracy?

The Social Experiment Facebook Should Run (The Atlantic)
What would happen if the platform matched you with people who share your interests but live outside your political bubble?

Recentering American Politics (Slate, The Gist)
For the past 25 years, Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard and Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution have been debating the meaning of presidential elections. But in 2016, they found themselves agreeing much more frequently on issues such as immigration, the tech industry, and tax reform. These men, on opposite sides of center, decided to develop a plan to recenter American politics. Galston and Kristol’s new project is the New Center.


Opportunity/Inequality

De Blasio Expands Affordable Housing, but Results Aren’t Always Visible (New York Times)
For much of his first term in office, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, has made affordable housing a centerpiece of his agenda — highlighting it in his State of the City addresses and calling it the No. 1 issue on the minds of New Yorkers. In July, he heralded a numeric accomplishment: 77,651 units financed so far. Not everyone is impressed by the numbers.

Bad Job: Why corporate America is so much more awful than it used to be. (Slate)
There is no shortage of theories about why modern American life is beset with a stagnant middle class and a lack of good jobs. Indeed, this reality served as one of the backdrops of the last presidential campaign, in which Donald Trump blamed bad trade deals and a hollowed-out manufacturing sector for all the things that ail us economically. In his new book, The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America, Rick Wartzman offers a different primary culprit: corporate culture.

Middle class gets richer, but the wealthy do even better, making inequality worse, Fed says (Los Angeles Times)
Most American families grew richer between 2013 and 2016, but the wealthiest households pulled even further ahead, worsening the nation's massive disparities in wealth and income.


Engagement

How Public Engagement Needs to Involve, Part 4 (Public Agenda)
We can give citizen voices more authority by blending two forms of engagement: deliberative democracy, in which people discuss issues and direct democracy, in which they make public decisions at the ballot box, but usually don’t discuss the issues first.

A government office to get you involved (New York Daily News)
From what I see, New Yorkers are ready to get involved. They are tired of the status quo, outraged by injustice and eager to be part of the solution. But often, they are not sure where to go. That’s why I have just introduced legislation to create a New York City Office of Civic Engagement.

Social Media As A Vital Engagement Platform For Government Outreach (Forbes)
Social media has evolved into the preferred method to reach and engage with the masses, culminating in exponential amplification. Individuals, businesses and celebrities have harnessed its power, yet the government has been slow to maximize social media as an outreach tool. Why has the government been slow to adopt?


K-12

Growing Number of States Embrace Career Education (Education Week)
After years of focusing intensely on college readiness, states are turning their attention to students' futures as workers, enacting a flurry of laws and policies designed to bolster career education and preparation.

Millennials, especially of color, are disrupting charter school debate (The Hill)
Polling data suggests a disproportionate opposition to charters among African-American voters of all ages, polling data also shows growing levels of support for charters, as well as other innovations in education policy, among Millennials, who have largely rejected stale fault-lines and an uncritical embrace of legacy practices.

Trump Taps School Choice Champion Jim Blew to Serve in Key Ed. Dept. Policy Post (Education Week)
Jim Blew, the director of Student Success California, an education advocacy group, has gotten the official White House nod to lead the office of planning, evaluation, and policy analysis at the U.S. Department of Education.


Higher-Ed/Workforce

The Hidden Reason Behind College Dropouts (US World & News Reports)
A recent qualitative study by Public Agenda reveals deep frustration among transfer students, who often blame themselves for failing to navigate the movement from one institution to another.

Cuomo's Free College Plan Leaves Many Working Class Students Behind (Gothamist)
At first glance, the Excelsior program described in the press release seems simple and generous: full tuition relief for individuals or families making up to $125,000 per year, by 2019. Yet experts tell Gothamist that Excelsior has an inordinate amount of restrictions that immediately disqualify many students, and leave accepted students at risk of losing the scholarship down the road.

Empty Cabinet: Education Department Has Highest Top Staff Vacancy Rate, at 80% (The 74)
The Education Department’s vacancy rate stands at 80 percent, compared with 50 percent across the executive branch as a whole. The 74 calculated the vacancy rates for the 20 agencies whose members are part of the president’s Cabinet, based on data published by the Partnership for Public Service and The Washington Post as of Sept. 27.


Health Care

Healthcare executives: Improving the patient experience is key to a healthy bottom line (Becker's Hospital Review)
Hospital and health system reimbursement is more closely tied to patient satisfaction than ever before, and the link between patient satisfaction and revenue is expected to strengthen in years to come.

Lapse In Federal Funding Imperils Children's Health Coverage (NPR)
Congress finally seems ready to take action on the Children's Health Insurance Program (
CHIP) after funding lapsed Sept. 30.

Florida hospitals fight transparency rule (Orlando Sentinel)
Florida hospitals are battling a pair of proposed transparency rules requiring hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers to provide information to patients about potential treatment costs.

Comment

10.03 How Public Engagement Needs to Evolve, Part 4

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017 | MATT LEIGHNINGER



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How can public engagement evolve to meet the challenges and conditions of 2017? My previous post explored ways to “scale up” engagement to involve much larger numbers of people in state and federal issues. This time, I’ll address the need to give engagement opportunities more authority, so that people are clear on how their voices will be heard and confident that it will make a difference.

We can give citizen voices more authority by blending two forms of engagement: deliberative democracy, in which people discuss issues, but usually do not make public decisions directly, and direct democracy, in which they make public decisions at the ballot box, but usually don’t discuss the issues first. Deliberative democracy gives people a voice; direct democracy gives them a vote.

Deliberative democracy has produced many instances in which the informed, common-ground recommendations of participants did not seem to affect policy or lead to other kinds of problem solving. These kinds of experiences can leave citizens frustrated and may deepen popular mistrust of government. Similarly, examples of direct democracy have occurred in which voters seemed to make uninformed, ill-considered decisions that might harm not only the common good, but their own interests. The most notorious recent example is the United Kingdom’s (UK) vote to exit the European Union. Known as Brexit, the results of the referendum may have profound and long-lasting ill effects on the UK economy. Immediately after the vote, websites explaining its potential consequences received huge numbers of hits and many citizens expressed remorse at having voted “yes” on the initiative.

The rapid expansion of participatory budgeting (PB) in America shows the power of combining the two forms. The steering committee meetings and neighborhood assemblies that occur at the beginning of the PB cycle, the delegate meetings that take place during the proposal development phase and the idea expos held before the final vote can be (but are not always) deliberative; the vote on the proposed ideas at the end of the cycle exemplifies direct democracy. People come out for PB because they feel they will have some authority over how public money will be spent; the process helps ensure that the decisions they make are well-informed and well-considered.

So one way to aid the development of public engagement is simply to expand and improve the practice of PB. (Our friends at the Participatory Budgeting Project are leading the way on that front, supported by Public Agenda’s work to coordinate and summarize the research on PB in North America.)

Another way is to embed direct democracy opportunities into other kinds of engagement. If leaders want to engage citizens in addressing an important issue, is there a specific policy decision on that issue that they are willing to put to a public vote? This could take the form of a ballot initiative or referendum, but it could also be an unofficial, non-binding vote that gives officials a sense of where the community stands. Unofficial votes can still carry a great deal of political weight, as long as voter turnout is high and diverse. After all, most PB votes do not officially bind a city councilmember to adopting the community’s preferred allocation of funding. In almost every case, councilmembers uphold the results of the vote because they agreed to do that in the first place and because they are satisfied with the soundness of the process.

A third way is to organize public deliberation around initiatives and referenda that have already been placed on the ballot. This is the approach of the Oregon Citizens Initiative Review, which convenes a citizens’ panel and an array of other engagement opportunities to help people learn about and make decisions on how they will vote.

As governments struggle to gain the trust of an increasingly educated and skeptical public, more of them may begin offering citizens a greater degree of power and authority over public decisions. PB will probably continue to spread and so may other kinds of processes that give people a direct vote on policy questions. Despite examples like the Brexit vote, these variations on direct democracy could proliferate simply because they give officials a seemingly straightforward way to give the people what they want.

But as the Brexit vote has illustrated, direct democracy doesn’t necessarily lead to smarter, more broadly-supported policy decisions. Incorporating public deliberation in various ways may be critical not only for strengthening policymaking, but also for maximizing public satisfaction with these new forms of participation. Direct democracy assumes citizens can be effective public decision makers, and deliberative democracy assumes they can be effective learners, advisors and volunteers. Those assumptions seem compatible with one another, and in fact, they support and may even require one another.

Comment

10.03 Any Progress Is Better Than None

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017 | WILL FRIEDMAN, PH.D.



Once again, we sit bowed in tragic disbelief at the senseless slaughter that our fellow Americans regularly visit upon one another. Once again, against the hard wall of partisan dysfunction we hurl soft platitudes and hope things will change.

Yes, there are passionate, valid disagreements and real interests at stake. True, there are no magic answers, every one imaginable will be imperfect. But even incremental progress can save a teen’s life who, just before the bullets riddled her body, was taking in her first concert and feeling the world open before her.

At Public Agenda, our business is to understand, inform, engage and represent the public, among whom there is considerable common ground across partisan lines - obscured though it is by the posturing of politicians and interest groups - for common sense measures that would make it harder for dangerous people to get guns and easier for the mentally ill to receive treatment.

Enacting these points of agreement won't be easy, nor will it solve the entire problem. But with bold leadership, public support can become public will and lead to change. Rather than sit idle while things deteriorate, we should take the pragmatic steps in front of us and then figure things out from there.

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09.29 Engaging Ideas - 9/29/2017

Friday, September 29th, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA




Democracy

Fury fuels the modern political climate in US (The Hill)
There have been plenty of times in the nation’s 240-year history in which an evolving economy has produced anxiety. But this time was different.

American Democracy Is Drowning in Money (New York Times)
The tide of money swelling around the American political system continues to rise. In 2016, candidates running for federal office spent a record $6.4 billion on their campaigns, while lobbyists spent $3.15 billion to influence the government in Washington. Both sums are twice that of 2000 levels.

Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America (Harvard Business School)
Too many people are laboring under a misimpression that our political problems are inevitable, or the result of a weakening of the parties, or due to the parties’ ideological incoherence, or because of an increasingly polarized American public. Those who focus on these reasons are looking in the wrong places.


Opportunity/Inequality

American Dream, American Myth: The Decline Of Upward Mobility (KUNC)
For some Americans, it’s become more unlikely that they will out-earn their parents the way their parents out-earned the previous generation. Multiple studies show that while moving up is still possible, it’s either becoming more difficult or it’s harder in the United States than in other countries.

When Prosperity Leads to Disaffection (Foreign Affairs)
The conundrum of broad disaffection in the face of apparent prosperity is by no means limited to American politics. Thousands of miles from Washington, we tested a related hypothesis in rural Pakistan.


Engagement

The Rise of Public-Sector Crowdfunding (Citylab)
Around the country, local governments are soliciting donations for everything from dog parks to public defenders. Is this a practical response to budget cuts or a sign that publicly funded services are in trouble?

Leading Mayors Join Cities of Service Mayors Council to Accelerate Citizen Engagement (Business Insider)
Cities of Service, a national nonprofit that helps more than 200 mayors and city leaders tap into the knowledge, creativity, and service of citizens to solve public problems and create vibrant cities, has launched the Cities of Service Mayors Council.


K12

The Evidence Base for How We Learn: Supporting Students’ Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (Aspen Institute)
Compelling research demonstrates what parents have always known—the success of young people in school and beyond is inextricably linked to healthy social and emotional development.

Wisconsin's schools seek to shorten the workforce pipeline (Wisconsin State Journal)
At Patrick Marsh Middle School in Sun Prairie last week, school counselor Tiffany Kvalheim opened a lesson about academic and career planning with a question. “Why are we talking about careers in seventh grade?” Kvalheim asked.


Higher Ed/Workforce

Colleges need to do more to help students transfer credits, GAO says (Washington Post)
Students lose nearly half of the college credits they earn transferring from one school to another, placing them at risk of exhausting federal grants and loans to repeat courses, according to a report released by the Government Accountability Office Wednesday.

The Department Of Education Cuts Off A Student Loan Watchdog (NPR)
This move leaves 44 million student loan borrowers, owing $1.4 trillion in debt, with potentially less, or at least less-coordinated, oversight of their rights.


Health Care

“The Internet hates secrets”: Clear Health Costs works with newsrooms to bring healthcare costs out of hiding (Nieman Lab)
When New Orleans’ WVUE Fox 8 News invited viewers to get in touch and share their healthcare costs, they weren’t sure what kind of response they’d receive.

Online physician ratings don't reflect quality of care (Modern Healthcare)
Although patients commonly use online physician-rating sites to help select a provider and get a sense for their quality of a care, a new study suggests those tools don't accurately demonstrate physicians' clinical performance.

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09.22 Engaging Ideas - 9/22/2017

Friday, September 22nd, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA




Democracy

Fury fuels the modern political climate in US (The Hill)
There have been plenty of times in the nation’s 240-year history in which an evolving economy has produced anxiety. But this time was different.

Facebook Knows More About Russia’s Election Meddling. Shouldn’t We? (New York Times)
Facebook says it is working to prevent a repeat. And it was hardly the only platform that Russia is presumed to have used to disrupt the political debate in America; there were others in the mix as well, particularly Twitter, which has divulged even less than Facebook has. But, in total, there’s a stunning lack of public specificity about an alleged foreign campaign to influence our domestic politics.

Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America (Harvard Business School)
Too many people are laboring under a misimpression that our political problems are inevitable, or the result of a weakening of the parties, or due to the parties’ ideological incoherence, or because of an increasingly polarized American public. Those who focus on these reasons are looking in the wrong places.


Opportunity/Inequality

American Dream, American Myth: The Decline Of Upward Mobility (KUNC)
For some Americans, it’s become more unlikely that they will out-earn their parents the way their parents out-earned the previous generation. Multiple studies show that while moving up is still possible, it’s either becoming more difficult or it’s harder in the United States than in other countries.

When Prosperity Leads to Disaffection (Foreign Affairs)
The conundrum of broad disaffection in the face of apparent prosperity is by no means limited to American politics. Thousands of miles from Washington, we tested a related hypothesis in rural Pakistan.


Engagement

The Rise of Public-Sector Crowdfunding (Citylab)
Around the country, local governments are soliciting donations for everything from dog parks to public defenders. Is this a practical response to budget cuts or a sign that publicly funded services are in trouble?

Leading Mayors Join Cities of Service Mayors Council to Accelerate Citizen Engagement (Business Insider)
Cities of Service, a national nonprofit that helps more than 200 mayors and city leaders tap into the knowledge, creativity, and service of citizens to solve public problems and create vibrant cities, has launched the Cities of Service Mayors Council.


K12

The Evidence Base for How We Learn: Supporting Students’ Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (Aspen Institute)
Compelling research demonstrates what parents have always known—the success of young people in school and beyond is inextricably linked to healthy social and emotional development.

Wisconsin's schools seek to shorten the workforce pipeline (Wisconsin State Journal)
At Patrick Marsh Middle School in Sun Prairie last week, school counselor Tiffany Kvalheim opened a lesson about academic and career planning with a question. “Why are we talking about careers in seventh grade?” Kvalheim asked.


Higher Ed/Workforce

Colleges need to do more to help students transfer credits, GAO says (Washington Post)
Students lose nearly half of the college credits they earn transferring from one school to another, placing them at risk of exhausting federal grants and loans to repeat courses, according to a report released by the Government Accountability Office Wednesday.

The Department Of Education Cuts Off A Student Loan Watchdog (NPR)
This move leaves 44 million student loan borrowers, owing $1.4 trillion in debt, with potentially less, or at least less-coordinated, oversight of their rights.


Health Care

“The Internet hates secrets”: Clear Health Costs works with newsrooms to bring healthcare costs out of hiding (Nieman Lab)
When New Orleans’ WVUE Fox 8 News invited viewers to get in touch and share their healthcare costs, they weren’t sure what kind of response they’d receive.

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