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02.02 ENGAGING IDEAS - 02/2/2018

Friday, February 2nd, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA


State of the Union 2018: Americans’ views on key issues facing the nation (Pew Research Center)
Here is a look at public opinion on important issues facing the country, drawn from the Center’s recent surveys

America Is Not a Democracy (The Atlantic)
How the United States lost the faith of its citizens—and what it can do to win them back

Here are the most politically polarizing brands in America (Mashable)
A survey from Morning Consult published Thursday identified some of the most polarizing brands in America based on party affiliation. Brands that were once seen as studiously neutral have become explosively divisive. Even chain pizza, the last bipartisan cultural good in America, has found a way to step into the political ring.


Majorities Say Government Does Too Little for Older People, the Poor and the Middle Class (Pew Research)
Majorities of Americans say the federal government does not provide enough help for older people (65%), poor people (62%) and the middle class (61%). By contrast, nearly two-thirds (64%) say the government provides too much help for wealthy people.

Just like India, America has its own caste system (Quartz)
As an India-born novelist and scholar who teaches in the US, I have come to see America’s stratified society through a different lens: caste.

Americans Haven’t Been This Poor and Indebted in Decades (New York Magazine)
Americans actually give Trump’s handling of the economy a positive approval rating — but dislike his handling of the presidency, nonetheless.


Commentary: Transparent Meeting Laws May Actually Discourage Public Participation (Door County Pulse)
It seems counterintuitive, but how and when local elected officials are allowed to communicate with one another regarding government business can often lead to decreased public participation during meetings.

City Challenges: Collaborative Governing for Public Problem Solving (Forbes)
City Councilmember Graciela Reyes was elected as one of Mexico’s first independent councillors for the Municipality of San Pedro, an affluent mid-sized community of about 150,000 outside the Mexican city of Monterrey about two hours from Texas. With the backing of the Mayor, Reyes launched the Desafíos or Challenges program on October 8, 2016 to invite the public to collaborate in the creation of better policies and services with the municipality.

Limit public speakers to 2 minutes? Citizen activists and Napa supervisors say 'no way' (Napa Valley Register)
Citizen activists want to make certain the Napa County Planning Commission hears them loud-and-clear on controversial Wine Country growth issues. They are afraid the fine print in proposed Planning Commission bylaw changes threatens to unduly limit public participation. And, while Napa County supervisors see no attempt to undermine democracy, they too have concerns.


How does limited education limit young people? (Science Daily)
A recent nationally-representative U.S. Department of Education study found that 28 percent of fall 2009 ninth-graders had not yet enrolled in a trade school or college by February 2016 -- roughly six-and-a-half years later.

The Outdated Study That Education Reformers Keep Citing (The Atlantic)
Mark Zuckerberg and others continue to tout the potential of personalized learning, pointing to decades-old research that’s been practically impossible to duplicate.

What the marketplace for classroom lessons says about the state of K-12 education (TrustED)
As school choice creates more alternatives to public schools, many public districts are adopting business-minded strategies—think marketing, branding, and customer experience. Now, it appears that teachers are following suit.

Higher Ed/Workforce

3 Million Americans Live in Higher Education Deserts (Inside Higher Education)
Roughly three million Americans live more than 25 miles from a broad-access public college and do not have the sort of high-speed internet connection necessary for online college programs, according to a new report from the Urban Institute's education policy program.

College Endowments Rose 12.2% in Fiscal 2017, Reversing Decline (Wall Street Journal)
Solid performance doesn’t end worries about long-term returns, as many schools brace for new tax

Many for-profit schools don't live up to hype, take funds for little benefit (Herald-Whig)
Remarks from U.S. Senator Dick Durbin- Every day, Illinois students are bombarded with advertising from for-profit colleges on social media, the internet and television. These advertisements promise fast enrollment, easily accessible financial aid and flexible course schedules. They often claim that their graduates go on to high-paying jobs and successful futures.

Health Care

If Amazon And Buffett Lift Veil On Health Prices, Insurers Are In Trouble (Forbes)
Jeff Bezos’ Amazon and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway are forming their own healthcare company with JPMorgan Chase to increase transparency for their employees, and that could be bad news for insurers and pharmacy benefit managers.

Bipartisan Bill Would Increase Competition Among Drug Manufacturers and Lower Drug Prices (Commonwealth Fund)
Congress is considering including bipartisan legislation that could expedite the availability of lower-priced generic drugs in its must-pass bill to fund the federal government in 2018. The legislation, called the CREATES Act, tackles one of the numerous problems driving high drug prices — brand-name drug manufacturers’ use of anticompetitive tactics to block access to generic drugs.

After Months In Limbo For Children's Health Insurance, Huge Relief Over Deal (NPR)
When parts of the federal government ground to halt this past weekend, Linda Nablo, who oversees the Children's Health Insurance Program in Virginia, had two letters drafted and ready to go out to the families of 68,000 children insured through the program, depending on what happened.


02.02 How Public Engagement Needs to Evolve, Part 6

Friday, February 2nd, 2018 | MATT LEIGHNINGER


How can public engagement evolve in order to meet the needs and goals of citizens today? My previous post explored how public institutions may collaborate in their efforts to support engagement so that it becomes more efficient, systemic and sustained. For this final installment in the series, I’ll address the need for better ways to measure the perceptions, processes and outcomes of engagement, so that people know how to continually improve it.

Measuring engagement, especially in quantifiable ways, has always been difficult. There are a number of challenges, including:

  • Difficulty in defining engagement. Many leaders understand engagement to mean the one-way dissemination of “correct” information to the community, in order to disprove “incorrect” information. Some see it as purely meaning face-to-face meetings, while others are focused mainly on online interactions.
  • Differing forms of intensity. Engagement varies in intensity, from “thick” forms that are deliberative, labor-intensive and action-oriented, to “thin” forms that are fast, easy and potentially viral. Both are valuable, but for different reasons. Counting website hits or social media impressions may overemphasize the thin forms, while counting participation in meetings may overemphasize the thick forms.
  • Just counting heads may give you the wrong impression. Counting participants in any setting may be deceptive because in places where conventional forms of engagement are the only ones being used, people tend to mostly engage when they are angry or fearful about decisions being made by government. In this sense, higher numbers of people “engaging” can be a sign that governments are failing to practice more proactive, productive forms of engagement.
  • Inexperienced engagement staff. Counting staff positions dedicated to engagement as an indicator of government’s commitment can be misleading – since engagement is often defined in limited ways, these “engagement” job positions are often devoted to traditional PR or stakeholder relations. These jobs are often given by public officials to people who were particularly active campaign volunteers, but who have only a narrow and limited background in what engagement can do for governance and problem solving, and the many forms it can take.
  • Inability to measure impact. One of the most critical measures of engagement, especially to citizens, is whether public input has some kind of meaningful influence on public policies and practices. This is a particularly difficult thing to assess; it defies quantitative measurement and is subject to many different variables.

Despite these challenges, it is possible – and, in fact, critically important – to assess public engagement, including quantitative measures of both processes and outcomes. (Leighninger and Nabatchi, “How Can We Quantify Democracy?Dispute Resolution, Fall 2015). Engagement practitioners have been able to measure how many and what kinds of people are participating. They’ve also been able to examine if people value the engagement, how the experience affects them, and whether engagement inspires and supports volunteerism, voting and other civic measures.

However, in most places, these kinds of measurement practices are done only sporadically and on a project-by-project basis. Leaders and practitioners are more likely to be focusing on the basics – how many people are participating, and the demographics of those participants – and have not begun assessing community members’ perceptions of engagement opportunities, or evaluating the impacts of engagement on volunteerism or policymaking. When measurement does occur, the findings are often not shared with the community and community members are rarely asked to help gather, analyze or act on the data.

If we can do better measuring on a more regular basis, we may connect the findings about engagement with some of the high-level indicators that are being used to track community success. These include the Civic Index that the National Civic League has maintained for over 25 years, the Civic Health Index developed by the National Conference on Citizenship a decade ago, and the Soul of the Community research produced by the Knight Foundation. There are also specific community examples like the Wellbeing Index in Santa Monica, California. While these indexes are interesting and helpful for assessing where the community stands, it’s unclear whether and how a community’s engagement level impacts the overall scores.

We probably need a family of measurement tools in order to bridge the gap between narrow evaluations and broad indicators. I’ve written about potential tools and have also been involved in creating others. One example is the Participatory Democracy Index, which is being piloted in beta by the World Forum on Democracy in Europe. The more that we can connect people who are building new tools, the more we can learn from one another and ensure that we are on the same page about fundamental questions, like how we are defining engagement. Public Agenda convened an online dialogue among people who are grappling with the measurement challenge, so that we could compare notes and see if there are common themes in our work. Later in the year, the Knight Foundation will release a white paper based on what we found.

By doing a better job of measuring engagement, we can help clear up some of the confusion about what engagement means and why it is important. Many public officials and other leaders use the rhetoric of community building, citizenship and democracy, but the language often seems to be used mainly as a window dressing, making it difficult for citizens to monitor their progress or hold public officials accountable for their rhetoric. Finding new ways to measure these interactions can be a powerful way of making engagement more meaningful and productive.


01.26 ENGAGING IDEAS - 01/26/2018

Friday, January 26th, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA


American Views: Trust, Media, and Democracy (Knight Foundation)
Not only is more information readily available, but so is more misinformation, and many consumers may not be able to easily discern the difference between the two.

Politics Is More Partisan Now, But It’s Not More Divisive (fivethirtyeight)
Here’s the thing: By some measures, the United States is more partisan than ever, but that more peaceful and unified past, that golden age of unity, was … pretty much never.


This city will give poorest $500 a month, no strings attached (MSN)
Starting this year, an experimental program called the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) will pay $500 a month to a few hundred of the city’s low-income residents, no strings attached.


City of Oshkosh launches new online public engagement tool (Oshkosh Northwestern)
Locals now have the chance to give city leaders their input and opinions on issues facing the community through a new online tool.

Boulder plans 9 new events in effort to diversify public engagement by City Council (Daily Camera)
The Boulder City Council will experiment with a series of events in the coming year called "Chats with Council," which will be organized as open-ended conversations with city leaders outside of the typical modes of citizen engagement.


As Indianapolis moves to give principals more freedom, tough choices are on the horizon (Chalkbeat)
Indianapolis’ largest district is pursuing a new vision for education that aims to shift power from the central office to building principals. But as leaders move forward with their plan, they are facing a host of questions over how — and when — to cede control.

Teacher Ed. Group Calls for More High-Quality Student Teaching (Education Week)
The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education's Clinical Practice Commission released a report today with 10 proclamations on how to better incorporate evidence-based clinical practice in teacher preparation programs.

Higher Ed/Workforce

State Spending on Higher Education Has Inched Upward. But Most Public Colleges Can’t Celebrate. (Chronicle of Higher Education)
State appropriations for higher education increased nominally over the last year, according to an annual survey. But the small rise and wide variations across the nation underscore why many public colleges still have reason to fret about their states’ economies.

Dividing Lines Take Shape in Senate (Inside Higher Ed)
As key committee strives for consensus on Higher Education Act, Republicans push for innovation and Democrats focus on protecting students from low-quality programs.

Health Care

Transparency & Tradeoffs: Clinicians Can Help Patients Be Better Healthcare Consumers (Cardiovascular Business)
Patients want healthcare cost information, but price lists alone aren’t turning them into savvy shoppers.

Changes in Health Care Use Associated with the Introduction of Hospital Global Budgets in Maryland (The Commonwealth Fund)
After reviewing the program’s first two years, Commonwealth Fund–supported researchers did not find that use of hospital or primary care services changed. The authors conclude that aligning the financial incentives of hospitals with physicians — who were excluded from the global budget model — may be needed to produce the desired results.


01.19 ENGAGING IDEAS - 01/19/2018

Friday, January 19th, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA


As Mueller Investigation Has Become Politicized, Americans Are Split On Its Fairness (NPR)
Americans are split on whether they think the Justice Department's Russia investigation is fair and are unsure of special counsel Robert Mueller, but they overwhelmingly believe he should be allowed to finish his investigation, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

Can polarisation be eroded by design? (openDemocracy)
How can society encourage more nuance and compromise when entrenched opposition is baked into consumerism and politics?


This Way Up: New Thinking About Poverty and Economic Mobility (AEI)
A conservative take on solutions that can help more Ameri­cans move up the economic ladder.

What the dip in US life expectancy is really about: inequality (Vox)
While poor Americans are dying earlier, the rich are enjoying unprecedented longevity.


Could Digital Voting Create a Society That Is Truly Governed by the People? (Futurism)
Political scholars could take a number of lessons from the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Perhaps one of the most obvious is that our voting process is not immune to meddling.

Cities of Service Organization Reports Increased Interest in Gov Tech (Government Technology)
The nonprofit group, which helps a coalition of mayors leverage the skills, knowledge and creativity of citizens in order to improve local government, is more involved in tech projects than ever before.


Children’s Health Insurance Program is on the brink. Here’s why that matters for education (Chalkbeat)
Congress passed a temporary extension of funding for of CHIP in December, though some states will run out of money shortly. The end of the program would come with obvious potential consequences, as CHIP, which covers approximately 9 million children, gives participants more access to health and dental care.

There may also be a less obvious result: Research has found that access to health insurance helps kids perform better on tests and stay in school longer.

Why Are Schools Serving Predominantly Black Students More Often Marked As ‘Failing’? (Education News)
Headline after headline proclaims the news: America’s students attend “failing” schools. Government data supports the conclusion. Parents agree. On this issue, liberals and conservatives are united in their dismay.

Higher Ed/Workforce

Decline in College Attendance for Rural Nonwhite Students (The Atlantic)
The proportion of graduates from predominantly nonwhite rural schools who pursue higher education is declining.

Competency-based education: Recent policy trends (Wiley)
This article provides an overview of recent legislation and policy activity regarding CBE. Institution examples are presented as well as policy considerations for policymakers and institutions to keep top of mind when exploring CBE programs.

Health Care

New Colorado law gives patients more transparency on medical fees (Durango Herald)
A new law that took effect this month means Colorado is joining states trying to force hospitals to reveal their fees before treatment.

Healthcare costs contributing to U.S. inflation, rise 0.3 percent (Healthcare Finance News)
Healthcare costs are fueling a rise in the rate of inflation that is expected to accelerate this year; increasing rents are also helping to drive this trend, according to Reuters.


01.16 Partisan Divide on New Tax Reform Bill Not So Black and White for Americans

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018 | VANIA ANDRE

The passage of the new tax reform bill revealed how Americans feel about the economy, inequality and what steps should be taken to create a fair system for all. On one hand, the bill is unpopular with Americans. A December 2017 Gallup poll found 56 percent of Americans disapprove of the tax reforms. On the other hand, upon a closer look at the numbers, polls show a deeper divide based on partisan lines. A whopping 70 percent of Republicans approved of the plan, while only 7 percent of Democrats were in favor of the tax reforms.

Despite the seemingly fractured reception of the bill, research from Public Agenda that examined public opinion on opportunity and inequality in the United States revealed a variety of thoughts about the U.S. tax system, which ebbed and flowed across party lines. The findings offer a more nuanced perspective about taxes that doesn’t necessarily fit with the story of deeply-divided views on reforms based on political affiliation.

The Fix We’re In, which included focus groups from across the country, found “…people believe that moderate tax increases on the rich are warranted … to raise everyone else up through needed investments in opportunity and to make sure that all Americans contribute their fair share to support the common good.”

This belief is in stark contrast to the new tax bill, which includes a corporate tax reduction from 35 percent to 21 percent. However, authors of the bill say tax cuts for corporations will benefit the economy and workers by allowing companies to hire more workers, increase salaries and make investments. The bill also lowers tax rates for middle-income Americans. Under the new provisions, tax rates are lowered between 1 to 4 percent based on the filer’s tax bracket and standard deductions are doubled, with each provision expiring by 2025.

Many Americans feel stuck in a bad economy that’s only getting worse because of an “impenetrable and disempowering political system.” Republican and Democrat participants expressed frustration with a system that provides limited opportunity for mobility because of public policies that they believe only serve the rich and their interests, instead of “regular Americans.”

“The wealthy are getting wealthier because they don’t pay taxes,” one Republican focus group participant said. “They know how to work the system.”

“I don’t think the economy is working that well for Middle-America, the common man,” another focus group participant – an Independent, said. “I think everyone’s really struggling to make ends meet.”

While the debate on who should pay more taxes and why continues on a national scale, one thing to keep in mind is that the solutions to complex issues are rarely black and white, and more often than not, will elicit a range of feelings that Americans, regardless of political affiliation, all share.

Be sure to sign up to receive updates on future research that explores hidden common ground on America’s tough issues.

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01.05 ENGAGING IDEAS - 01/05/2018

Friday, January 5th, 2018 | PUBLIC AGENDA


In 27 states, voters now can choose to vote by mail. But unlike votes cast in person, many absentee ballots wind up uncounted, for reasons ranging from invalid signatures to simply being late. Experts say the method is also vulnerable to fraud.

Senator Mitch McConnell sounded downright magnanimous in anticipation of 2018, eager to work closely with Democrats even though he had cut them out of virtually every big-ticket deliberation during 2017.


Interstate mobility nationwide has slowed during the last 30 years. But, more specifically and of greater concern, migration has stalled in the very places with the most opportunity.

Despite a long recovery and record streak of job growth, the share of Americans moving to a new location continued a steady decline in 2017, reaching a new post-World War II low, an indicator of a less mobile workforce that reflects both an aging society and economic problems facing younger workers.


Democrats credited turnout and engagement from diverse coalitions for statewide election wins this year, but chief among these reasons was the increased participation and a large shift in support from a demographic that bedeviled the party last year: millennials.

Seroka proposes creating a public engagement program that requires developers in built-up areas to communicate with neighbors through a series of required meetings, workshops and written reports.


Students who have been unable to earn their high school diplomas have long used an alternative track to finish high school: the equivalency test. Now a few states are opening additional channels to let older students complete high school.

Big new study finds that performance bonuses for teachers boost test scores (Chalkbeat)
A new study, released by the federal government, suggests that merit-based bonuses are the way to go, as they help raise student test scores without making a significant dent in teacher morale. It offers the latest evidence that programs of this sort can help schools and students, despite the common perception that they are ineffective.

Higher Ed/Workforce

As 2017 comes to a close, we’ve compiled some graphs and charts that help contextualize the year in education issues.

Health Care

Colorado hospitals must begin posting prices for most common procedures on Jan. 1 (Denver Business Journal)
Hospitals across Colorado must begin posting self-pay prices Monday for the most common procedures and treatments they offer — a potential first step in bringing more cost transparency to a sector whose pricing ambiguity has frustrated consumers and public officials alike.


12.22 Engaging Ideas - 12/22/2017

Friday, December 22nd, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA


How Battles Over Sex, Gender And Sexual Orientation 'Fractured American Politics (NPR)
Moral Combat author R. Marie Griffith says the fight for women's suffrage and legal birth control in the early 20th century helped create a political divide in the U.S. that still exists today.

Sharing the News in a Polarized Congress (Pew)
Partisan and ideological divides shape which news outlets legislators share links to on Facebook.

Don't Like American Politics? Change the Rules (USA Today)
The one thing everyone seems to agree on these days is that American politics is broken. Washington has become so polarized that legislators can’t seem to have a productive dialogue, let alone pass legislation. This may seem like a hopeless situation, but our problems are not as intractable as you may think. We’ve just been looking for solutions in the wrong places.


Bussed Out: How America Moves Its Homeless (The Guardian)
Each year, US cities give thousands of homeless people one-way bus tickets out of town. An 18-month nationwide investigation by the Guardian reveals, for the first time, what really happens at journey’s end.

Why is America More Tolerant of Inequality Than Many Rich Countries (The Economist)
Most Americans are unenthusiastic about Republicans’ efforts to reward the richest with the biggest tax cuts. In polls taken on the eve of a vote on the government's tax bill in the Senate on December 2nd only between a quarter and a third of voters supported the plan. But in general Americans seem more willing than the inhabitants of other rich countries to tolerate inequality.

How 4 Different Households Would Fare Under the GOP Tax Bill (CBS)
Here's a look at how four hypothetical households will fare. These examples are simplified, and don't include the effects on payroll taxes -- those paid on the first $118,000 of income to fund Medicare and Social Security.


Can Elected Officials Censor Their Critics on Social Media (Government Technology)
Georgia politicians are facing legal questions around whether or not they can delete comments and block users on public social media pages.

Government Leaders Report Feeling Overwhelmed by Demands of Civic Engagement (State Scoop)
New survey results show that managing the data and expectations of their communities is often more than than government officials are ready for.


Majority of Teachers Say Reforms Have Been 'Too Much' (Education Week)
The majority of teachers say they’ve faced major changes—related to what and how they teach, as well as how they’re evaluated—over the last couple of years in their schools and districts, according to a recent survey by the Education Week Research Center.

Gates Foundation Announces New $1.7B for K-12 (Education Week)
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a new investment of $1.7 billion for K-12 education over the next five years, with the bulk of the funding aimed at existing traditional public schools that show progress in improving educational outcomes, the development of new curricula, charter schools focused on students with special needs, and “research and development” for scalable models that could inform best practices.

How Does New York Set Education Policy? An Inside Look at the Mad Dash to Make Sense of a Major Diploma Change (Chalkbeat)
Monday’s vote is an extreme example of the way New York’s education decision-makers often craft potentially controversial policies behind the scenes, then reveal them to the public shortly before they’re approved — leaving little time for debate.

Higher Ed/Workforce

Debate Continues on Nursing Degrees (Inside Higher Education)
A proposed policy statement has reignited the question of whether the associate or bachelor's degree should be the entry-level requirement in the nursing profession.

Use of Free Textbooks Is Rising, But Barriers Remain (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
A growing number of professors are replacing the traditional textbook with an openly licensed one, according to a survey released on Tuesday. But their overall numbers remain small — and widespread adoption of the practice could remain out of reach unless key barriers are overcome.

Final Tax Bill Would Spare Some Higher-Ed Worries, But Could Lead to State Budget Cuts (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
The Republican-backed tax overhaul is headed for final floor votes in Congress without some of the measures that would directly target higher education. Notably, a proposed tax on tuition waivers for graduate students and other college employees is no longer in the compromise legislation. But a high-profile tax on the investment earnings of some of the largest college endowments stayed in the bill.

Health Care

Poll Says US Citizens Worry Most About Health Care (Christian Science Monitor)
A poll by The Associated Press shows that Americans on both sides of the aisle are concerned about health care and doubt the government will be able to fix it. The battle over Obamacare that ended in a draw has Americans concerned that a fix in the near future is not likely.

Looking North: Can A Single-Payer Health System Work in the U.S.? (Kaiser Health News)
"The Canadian system is not perfect. Neither is the United States’,” Cram said over coffee in Toronto’s Kensington Market. “Anyone who gives you a sound bite and says this system should be adopted by this country … I think they’re being almost disingenuous.” Still, American support for government-run, single-payer health care, once a fringe opinion, is picking up momentum.

Empowering New Yorkers with Quality Measures that Matter to Them (NYS Health)
This NYSHealth-funded report by United Hospital Fund’s Quality Institute explores the disconnect between the quality measurement field and the information patients find most meaningful to make informed health care decisions.


12.15 Engaging Ideas - 12/15/2017

Friday, December 15th, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA


Justices to Hear Second Partisan Gerrymandering Case (New York Times)
The Supreme Court added a second partisan gerrymandering case to its docket on Friday, suggesting that the justices are seriously considering whether voting maps warped by politics may sometimes cross a constitutional line.

How Place Shapes Our Politics (Citylab)
An associate professor at Harvard’s Department of Government, Enos focuses on the geographic or spatial underpinnings of politics. His new book, The Space Between Us, dives deep into how the places we live influence our politics.

Democracy vs. Opportunism (National Review)
Partisan political expediency is a bigger threat to American self-government than is any would-be tyrant. A conservative viewpoint on the state of democracy.


The U.S. Homeless Population Increased for the First Time in Years. Here’s Why (Money)
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released its annual Point in Time count Wednesday, a report that showed nearly 554,000 homeless people across the country during local tallies conducted in January. That figure is up nearly 1 percent from 2016.

What Happened to the American Boomtown? (The Upshot)
The places with the most opportunity used to attract the most new residents, in a cycle of fast-growing cities and rising prosperity. But no more.

Too Many Americans Suffer from Financial Instability. Their Employers Can Help Fix It (Harvard Business Review)
Rising inequality of income and of wealth undermines much of the narrative about opportunity in America—that it’s a country where anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. In fact, today the U.S. has a lower rate of intergenerational economic mobility than France, Germany, or even Sweden.


City managers matter in how cities engage with their citizens (LSE)
Government managers have long struggled with the challenge of civic engagement. Some argue that new communication technologies, such as social media, web portals and online interactive platforms, are the key to improving how cities engage with their citizens.

What Would You Do With A Million Dollars? Whether Participatory Budgeting Is Worth The Effort (WBEZ, Chicago)
In Chicago, every alderman, every year, gets $1.32 million dollars in what’s known as aldermanic “menu money,” to spend on certain infrastructure projects, such as streets, sidewalks, and lighting. This year, nine aldermen used participatory budgeting, according to Participatory Budgeting Chicago, a group that helps guide the process in the city. And a few other aldermen use a different system to let residents decide how to spend menu money.


Advocates of the portfolio model for improving schools say it works. Are they right? (Chalkbeat)
As with many education policies, the portfolio model is gaining adherents even while a research base is still being built. Those philanthropists, nonprofit groups, and policymakers — like Kingsland at the Arnold Foundation and Osborne, on a multi-city book tour promoting the approach — are betting big on the idea that schools should be managed more like stocks in a portfolio, where successful ones should expand and failing ones should close.

Regents Make Graduation Easier for Disabled Students (New York Times)
The New York State Board of Regents went further on Monday in its efforts to make it easier for students with disabilities to graduate from high school, essentially eliminating the requirement that they pass any Regents exams.

Are Private Schools Immoral? (The Atlantic)
A conversation with Nikole Hannah-Jones about race, education, and hypocrisy.

Higher Ed/Workforce

Colleges Expand Commitments to Recruit Underserved Students (Inside Higher Education)
A half-dozen colleges and universities—including Yale University—have expanded their commitments or made new plans to bring more low-income students onto their campuses.

The Political Divide Over Higher Education in America (Gallup)
Sixty-seven percent of Republicans in the U.S. have "some" to "very little confidence" in colleges and universities, according to a recent Gallup survey. And a 2017 Pew Research Center survey shows that 58% of Republicans say colleges and universities have a negative effect on the way things are going in the country.

FCC Votes to Kill Net Neutrality (Inside Higher Education)
The vote will be a disappointment to many higher education groups, who argued that the loss of net neutrality would be particularly detrimental to online learning. Democratic senators also voiced concern about how the rule change would impact institutions and students in rural and low-income areas.

Health Care

Prescription Drugs May Cost More With Insurance Than Without It (New York Times)
Having health insurance is supposed to save you money on your prescriptions. But increasingly, consumers are finding that isn’t the case.

Hospitals Are Merging to Face Off With Insurers (Bloomberg)
A spate of hospital deals stands to further remake the U.S. health-care landscape, pushing up prices for consumers and insurers and changing how individuals get care.

Empowering New Yorkers with Quality Measures That Matter to Them (NYS Health Foundation)
The report outlines which quality measures are publicly available, the type of quality information consumers want, and recommendations for improving information that will facilitate health care decisions and help New Yorkers become empowered health care consumers. The report identified and catalogued 462 existing quality measures, including unique data sources and promising measures; synthesized research on quality measurement and reporting; and drew from interviews with a broad range of health care experts and an advisory group.


12.08 Engaging Ideas - 12/8/2017

Friday, December 8th, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA


Political opposites put down their keyboards and meet face face (UVA Today)
Called “Converge UVA,” the program matches pairs of students with opposing political views to meet and talk about their differences in a peaceful and constructive manner that encourages understanding and humanizing of the other side.

An Identity Crisis in America’s Black Mecca (Harvard Political Review)
On December 1, 2009, a year after America elected its first black president, two candidates, one white and one black, faced off in runoff election to determine who would become Atlanta’s 60th mayor.

The future of the Democratic Party is being decided behind closed doors (The Hill)
One of the deepest divisions within the Democratic Party is playing out right now behind closed doors. The divide is not over candidates or policies but over whether the party is prepared to make its own nominating process more democratic.


The U.S. economy is creating millionaires at an astonishing pace. But what’s it doing for everyone else? (Washington Post)
The U.S. economy is minting new millionaires at an astonishing rate, according to a paper by New York University economist Edward N. Wolff. The number of households with a net worth of $1 million (measured in constant 1995 dollars, or about $1.6 million today) grew from 2.4 million households in 1983 to 9.1 million households in 2016, a growth rate of 279 percent.

Worldwide, People Divided on Whether Life Today Is Better Than in the Past (Pew)
How far do people around the globe think they and others like them have come, compared with 50 years ago? Pew Research Center put that question to nearly 43,000 people in 38 countries around the globe this past spring.

For tenants on the edge, paying the rent often takes more than half their income (Los Angeles Times)
Even before their latest rent increase, Barbie Thompson and her husband, Juan, could barely afford the Rancho Santa Margarita apartment where they raised two children.


The Corrosive Art of Empty Ritual (CityWatch)
“It was so pitiful — city planners asked us for our 'feelings.' They rushed past open space so fast I was embarrassed,” observed Patricia Bell Hearst, chair emeritus of Hillside Federation.

Building Civic Capacity in an Era of Democratic Crisis (New America)
For several years now, the institutions of American democracy have been under increasing strain. Widening economic inequality, the persistence and increased virulence of racial and ethnic tensions, and the inability of existing political institutions to manage disputes and solve problems have all contributed to a growing sense of crisis in American democracy.

Effective Engagement Combines Innovation with Public Outreach (Government Technology)
By pairing the personal with the technical, South Bend, Ind., got the most from its citizen engagement efforts.


How Effective Is Your School District? A New Measure Shows Where Students Learn the Most (New York Times)
In the Chicago Public Schools system, enrollment has been declining, the budget is seldom enough, and three in four children come from low-income homes, a profile that would seemingly consign the district to low expectations. But students here appear to be learning faster than those in almost every other school system in the country, according to new data from researchers at Stanford.

New York City’s racial achievement gaps widen as students get older, report finds (Chalkbeat)
The achievement gaps between racial groups in New York City appear as soon as students begin taking state tests and get worse over time, according to a new analysis of state test-score data.

U.S. Students Work Better in Teams, New PISA Test Finds (Education Week)
American teenagers performed above the international average in a new test of collaborative problem-solving—and "much better ... than would be expected based on their scores in science, reading, and mathematics."

Higher Ed/Workforce

Industry ‘increasingly outsourcing’ research to academia (Times Higher Education)
Businesses around the globe are outsourcing scientific research to academia as they cut back on their in-house discovery programmes, latest figures suggest.

Is Protesting a Privilege? (Chronicle of Higher Education)
Campus protests advocating for diversity occur more frequently at elite colleges, a study suggests.

Higher Education Act Proposal Primes Fight Over Future of Colleges (Wall Street Journal)
The bill, previewed earlier this week by The Wall Street Journal, would update the Higher Education Act of 1965 by overhauling student-loan programs, mandating more transparency on graduates’ earnings and jettisoning much of the existing regulatory framework on for-profit colleges.

Health Care

A Wish List For 2018 (Huffington Post)
From David Sandman- Around this time last year, I shared my wish list for 2017. Happily, two-and-a-half of my three wishes actually came true this year.

Healthcare prices hard to find online (Reuters)
Consumers who search online for prices of common medical procedures may be disappointed by what they find, a U.S. study suggests.

CVS agrees to buy Aetna in $69 billion deal that could shake up health-care industry (Washington Post)
Pharmacy giant CVS Health has agreed to buy Aetna in a $69 billion blockbuster acquisition that could rein in health care costs and transform its 9,700 pharmacy storefronts into community medical hubs for primary care and basic procedures, the companies announced Sunday afternoon.


12.07 Time to Learn

Thursday, December 7th, 2017 | MICHAEL BARBER

My older son is a second-grade student at our neighborhood elementary school in Chicago. Next year, his younger brother will turn old enough to follow him through the doors of the same old, worn-out looking, brick building. I’m actually happy about this. I’ve come to realize there are aspects to schools that are superficial, such as the color of the paint on the walls or having the newest model of machines in the computer lab. There are other things that really matter.

Focusing on what matters

A central commitment to equity and helping all kids learn are among the things that make a school a good place to be. Related to this, I would include ongoing efforts to nurture and repair -- when necessary -- a welcoming and inclusive environment where teachers, administrators, students and families cultivate trust in one another. Of course, any school that aspires to maintain the public’s confidence and be worthy of our trust will need lots of good books, space for children to play, and teachers who have both real credentials and caring ways of relating to kids. Perhaps most of all, I would include time to think, to create and to share. Our neighborhood public school doesn’t look new or fancy (because it’s neither of these), but this doesn’t prevent its leadership team and teachers from focusing on what really matters. Students need time to learn and their teachers do too.

Working together to get better

At our school, the teachers have been meeting with some frequency in inquiry groups, with each comprised of just a few staff. They are using time—a precious resource in schools—to learn together how to get better. Every month for 90 minutes, each inquiry group meets to continue its exploration of the same area of teaching and learning. One group is inquiring about project-based instruction, another group about supporting the development of students’ social and emotional competencies, and yet another about integrating the fine and performing arts across the curriculum. These are just three of the ten inquiry groups underway. During these exploration meetings, school leaders and teachers with particular expertise share their experience, knowledge, and skill with their colleagues to explore important questions and help coordinate and improve instruction across the school. This kind of collaborative effort is not the norm in most schools, not because most schools could not do it or that most teachers wouldn’t want to do it, but because we haven’t made schools places where it’s a priority for teachers to work and learn together. However, a growing body of evidence shows that in schools where teachers get together to collaborate, student achievement is higher and teacher retention is better.

Creative time-making

It isn’t always easy for the teachers at my son’s school to get together in their inquiry groups or to collaborate for other purposes. In a creative and successful attempt to make time last spring, the school administration and parents partnered to chaperone different grade-level groups of students on field trips over the course of several days. They were able to provide not only a novel learning experience for students, but also time for teachers to get together to co-design and align meaningful performance assessments with curriculum units. Professionals need time together, to do work together.

Making time regular and frequent

Considering parents can’t always be available to volunteer for entire school days and kids likely won’t be taking field trips with a lot of frequency, schools need to find regular and realistic ways for teachers to find time to collaborate. While the challenges facing schools are embedded in social and economic contexts that can make for great difficulties, schools should nonetheless be places where teachers can organize effectively to solve certain problems together that they can’t solve separately. Like other complex organizations, schools aren’t going to make much progress on the tough challenges they can address if teachers aren’t engaging in joint problem-solving work together. Like other professionals, teachers aren’t going to improve much if they are always working in isolation. Teachers need to talk with other adults about their students, their instruction, and both their needs and ideas for improvement. If we make time for teachers to work in the company of knowledgeable colleagues, they can develop their tools to enact ambitious instruction on a range of topics across subject areas. If teachers have genuine and ongoing learning opportunities, they can improve opportunities for student learning. To do this, they need time. I hope we can find ways for all schools to make more time for teachers to learn together. Without that time, I don’t see how we can make schools places where all our kids will learn from teachers who are continuing to get better at the things that really matter.

Michael Barber is a parent of a student at Ravenswood Elementary School in Chicago and an associate program officer at the Spencer Foundation.


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