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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.


12.01 Engaging Ideas - 12/1/2017

Friday, December 1st, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA


The worst of American politics is on full display right now (Washington Post)
Sexual harassment allegations are consuming Hollywood, corporate America and the U.S. political system. And in doing so, they have revealed the very worst of our partisanship, tribalism and ability to justify just about anything to ourselves.

Millennial poll: Strong majority want a third political party (NBC News)
A strong majority of millennials — 71 percent — say the Republican and Democratic parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that a third major party is needed, according to the results of a new NBC News/GenForward poll.

New space in D.C. intends to play host to bipartisan dialogue (Washington Post)
A new space opened this month on Capitol Hill, just across the street from the Senate and with a rare purpose in our fractious political times.


As Transportation Transforms, Cities Explore Equitable Mobility (Government Technology)
Transit systems should continue to think creatively as they develop new systems to attract and retain riders, according to a new report from the National League of Cities.

The Tax Overhaul Could Mean Falling Home Prices and Less Affordable Housing (WNYC)
While there isn’t a final version yet, it’s clear from the House bill and the outline from the Senate for how it plans to pay for tax cuts (that will still add $1.4 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years) that the tax overhaul will affect homeowners and renters in the New York City and New Jersey area.

Heartland strong: Road trip through Middle America reveals resilience, pragmatism, and diversity (Christian Science Monitor)
More and more, white Middle America is being repeopled with newcomers of color, bringing a workforce to agricultural jobs, a vibrancy to decaying towns, and a mix of welcome – and suspicion – from older residents.


What Does Citizen Engagement Look Like in Alaska? (Government Technology)
Deputy State Chief Information Officer Jim Steele explains how the state’s unique geography ups the ante when it comes to government-constituent interaction.

What it Takes to Build a Model Police-Community Relationship (Everyday Democracy)
A Conversation with West Palm Beach Chief of Police


School Voucher Programs Leave Parents in the Dark on Disability Rights, Feds Say (Education Week)
States are not doing enough to inform parents about the special education rights they give up when they enroll their children in private schools with publicly funded vouchers.

As national debate over discipline heats up, new study finds discrimination in student suspensions (Chalkbeat)
Black students in Louisiana are suspended for slightly longer than white students after being involved in the same fight, according to new research that adds to a roiling national debate about school discipline.

Companies invest in high schools across state to boost vocational, engineering, other high-demand work (Star Tribune)
A looming labor shortage, along with a growing urgency to address Minnesota's unyielding racial achievement gap, is prompting sweeping changes in the way businesses participate in hands-on learning.

Higher Ed/Workforce

House GOP plans to introduce bill that embraces deregulation of higher education (Think Progress)
These policies, which would be part of the Higher Education Act, last reauthorized in 2008, would get rid of student loan forgiveness programs for public service employees, place caps on borrowing for graduate students, and provide more funding to community colleges for apprenticeships and partnerships with businesses.

Net Neutrality Rollback Concerns Colleges (Inside Higher Education)
The creation of internet fast lanes could come at a high cost to higher education, experts on technology and learning warn.

Scramble for Dual-Credit Certification (Inside Higher Education)
States and institutions are still working out incentives and programs to get dual-credit instructors qualified to meet a change in accreditation standards.

Health Care

Patients, physicians and employers all have a different definition of healthcare value, survey finds (Fierce Healthcare)
Patients, physicians and employers have very different perspectives on what drives value in healthcare, according to a new survey.

On children's health coverage, congressional inaction has brought us to the 'nightmare scenario' (Los Angeles Times)
Child healthcare advocates have been warning, and warning, and warning that Congress’ delay on reauthorizing funds for the Children’s Health Insurance Program places health coverage for as many as 9 million children and pregnant women at risk. But since the funding expired Sept. 30, there has been no action by Congress.

Five health-care fights facing Congress in December (The Hill)
Here are five of the biggest health-care issues Congress will face next month.


11.22 Engaging Ideas - 11/22/2017

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA


Go Ahead, Talk About Politics at Thanksgiving (The Atlantic)
Six in 10 Americans say they dread the topic coming up, but better to embrace the challenge than try to stave off the inevitable.

Yes, the Clintons should be investigated (Washington Post)
President Trump’s critics are arguing that GOP calls for the Justice Department to investigate Hillary Clinton and Democrats’ ties to Russia are an effort to distract from the real Russia investigation, into potential Trump-Russia collusion. No, they are not.


Income inequality is bad enough, then add the race factor (The Hill)
According to our new report, there's been a rapid updraft of wealth into the top echelon of multi-billionaires. The wealthiest 400 Americans now have more wealth together than the bottom 64 percent of the population, over 200 million of us. That's bad enough. But through the lens of race, these statistics reveal another dimension of the story. Only seven of the 400 wealthiest Americans are black or Latino — the rest are almost entirely white

Millennials are set to be the most unequal generation yet (Quartz)
In an economic climate where the top 1% own half the world’s wealth, a new analysis by Credit Suisse suggests that millennials in several advanced economies are likely going to face the worst income inequality of any generation in recent memory.


Challenging Conversations: Increasing Engagement Across Political and Cultural Lines (New Hampshire Public Radio)
As we head into Thanksgiving, difficult topics are bound to come up around the dinner table. We hear about a new effort in Nashua called 1000 Conversations, which is aimed at getting people to talk outside of their own cultural groups.

Citizens, participation and economics: Emerging findings from the Citizens’ Economic Council (Open Democracy)
Ahead of this week’s Autumn Budget 2017, Reema Patel explains how the Citizens’ Economic Council programme has piloted models of engagement that seek to enable citizens, including those ‘left-behind’ citizens, to ‘take back control’ over the economic decisions that affect their lives.


Policymakers agree virtual schools should get more teachers and less money. Will they make it happen? (Chalkbeat)
National and even local charter school advocates — including those who could affect public policy — agree changes need to be made at Indiana Virtual School and online charters more broadly across the state.

New York City’s (unofficial) graduation rate hits 74 percent, preliminary figures show (Chalkbeat)
New, York City’s graduation rate hit a record 74 percent in 2017, according to preliminary figures published on the education department website this week, a slight increase over the previous year.

Higher Ed/Workforce

Women are more educated than men, but gender inequality persists, says new study (Christian Science Monitor)
Women in developed countries have surpassed men in level of education. Other gender equality measures, however, including equal pay and women in leadership roles, still lag.

Bill Would Force Students Who Don’t Graduate to Repay Pell Grants (Chronicle of Higher Education)
The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Francis Rooney, Republican of Florida, and Rep. Ralph Norman, Republican of South Carolina, would compel students to repay Pell Grants — which, unlike loans, do not require repayment — if they did not complete their program within six years. The bill would apply to all students eligible for Pell Grants, including students at community colleges.

Health Care

Families Are Facing a Child Health Care Crisis as Holiday Season Nears (The Daily Beast)
Parents have begun to fret and, in some cases, penny-pinch as Congress makes limited progress in re-authorizing CHIP.

The next step in shared decision-making: Let patients contribute to medical notes (Fierce Healthcare)
You’ve no doubt heard of OpenNotes, but is the next step OurNotes, where patients actually contribute to their doctors’ notes?


11.22 Reconciling Principle with Pragmatism

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017 | RAVI REDDI

Tune in to any news show and odds are you’ll hear about yet another intractable political issue. There may be a couple of angry quotes flashing across the screen, or perhaps, a conversation between politicians yelling for their side. The newscaster looks on, resigned to refereeing a shouting match and ends the segment so everybody can catch their breath.

As my colleague, Antonio Diep, noted in his blog post, Practical Agreement in Healthcare, experts are looking for ways to explain how our national political discourse on important policy issues went off the rails so dramatically. But at Public Agenda we had another question, what if there exists hidden common ground amongst the American public? Through our Hidden Common Ground Initiative, we set out to see what this may look like in relation to criminal justice policy.

Criminal justice is a topic of discussion that evokes passion. For many Americans, topics like criminal justice are intimately intertwined with their broader moral and ethical viewpoints. Likewise, political conversations relating to criminal justice policy can often be characterized more as debates than discussions, highlighting the difficulty of reforming policy that every American has a stake in.

Americans have diverse viewpoints on why people commit crimes, how fair the criminal justice system is and the role of prison in addressing crime. However, recent polling shows shifting opinions in how Americans view their criminal justice system and how they view individual kinds of crime, like drug offenses.

Within this context, our research shows Americans are reconsidering the balance of priorities in our criminal justice system; considering rehabilitation alongside punishment and the role of extenuating circumstances, like mental health and unemployment, in the commission of crimes. Americans, according to our research, are reconciling principle with pragmatism.

Interesting nuances relating to steadfast cultural narratives are also being better understood in our research. For example, narratives of personal responsibility offer simple explanations for why criminals commit crimes, but our research shows that such narratives are also contributing to how Americans view solutions to incarceration. For example, in one focus group, participants discussed the idea that reframing drug dealing as employment might help frame solutions like vocational training.

Our research shows that policy ideas like alternative sentencing and mandatory minimums are being considered and reconsidered in new contexts, like drug addiction and sentencing proportionality. Our conversations revealed nuanced reflections amongst Americans about the criminal justice system, who wrestled with questions like: Is prison the best way to address drug crimes relating to addiction? Do mandatory minimums mitigate the impact of judicial bias or do they exacerbate incarceration inequities?

Our research sheds new light on where Americans are finding common ground and how those conversations are taking place. When it comes to our criminal justice system, Americans are reconciling new cultural norms, the consequences of past policy decisions, and their own principles in new, accommodating and promising ways.


11.17 Engaging Ideas - 11/17/2017

Friday, November 17th, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA


Election officials move closer to placing new rules on Facebook and Google (Washington Post)
The Federal Election Commission moved a step closer to placing tighter regulations on Internet ads published on major Web platforms, marking a significant shift for an agency beset by partisan dysfunction and another sign that regulators are seeking to thwart foreign meddling in U.S. elections.

How partisan primaries weaken the political center (Detroit Free Press)
We like to believe that partisan primaries are the the political equivalent of the playoffs that take place each fall in Major League Baseball's National and American leagues, yielding each league's strongest contender for the World Series. But that's not how the partisan primary system works.

In City Hall, Women Make History (CityLab)
More women are on track to be elected mayor in the top 100 cities than ever before—in some major cities, for the first time. But not before overcoming some major hurdles.


Some amazing findings on income mobility in the US including this: the image of a static 1 and 99 percent is false (AEI)
It turns out that 12 percent of the population will find themselves in the top 1 percent of the income distribution for at least one year. What’s more, 39 percent of Americans will spend a year in the top 5 percent of the income distribution, 56 percent will find themselves in the top 10 percent, and a whopping 73 percent will spend a year in the top 20 percent of the income distribution.

A higher minimum wage could lead to fewer rich kids (Quartz)
Critics of a $15 per hour minimum wage—as advocated by Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Party, and soon to be implemented in California and New York—point to the standard’s unintended consequences: fewer jobs, higher prices, and more workers replaced by robots. It could also have another unexpected effect: fewer rich kids.

How the American dream turned into greed and inequality (Business Insider)
The American Dream is broken. Paul Ryan, speaker of the House of Representatives, recently stated that "in our country, the condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life." Yet the idea that every American has an equal opportunity to move up in life is false.


Has the time come for participatory grant making? (Ford Foundation)
A growing number of foundations around the world are experimenting with new approaches to philanthropy—approaches focused on engaging people from outside their institutions in everything from setting priorities and developing strategies to sitting on foundations’ boards or advisory committees. Some foundations are also partnering with these stakeholders to make grant decisions.

Town E-Voting Raises Questions in Plymouth, Mass. (Government Technology)
Uncounted votes on a $16.9 million project have some officials criticizing the town’s electronic voting system.

Nudging Citizen Behavior Can Drive Positive Community Change (Government Technology)
The United Kingdom's Behavioural Insights Team is helping U.S. municipalities improve outcomes by fostering initiatives centered around real human behaviors rather than long-held presumptions.


Rural schools unite to make college the rule, rather than the exception (Christian Science Monitor)
Turning around struggling high schools is the toughest work in education reform. Research found that a $3.5 billion federal program meant to fix the nation’s lowest performing schools – which focused disproportionately on high schools – did little to improve student achievement.

Study: Chicago Public Schools leading in academic growth (Education Dive)
A recent study conducted by Stanford University researchers reveals Chicago Public Schools, labeled 30 years ago as the worst in the nation, now has students in grades 3-8 averaging six years of academic growth over a five-year period — a rate that is significantly faster than 96% of school districts in the nation, Education Week reports.

Parental involvement improving at NYC schools after years of struggles, stats show (New York Daily News)
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña says data indicate more parents took part in their children's schooling, for the school year that ended in June. She credits a number of new investments and an overhaul of the city’s family outreach efforts.

Higher Ed/Workforce

The false argument against higher education funding (The Hill)
The higher education community is now engaged in a heated debate about whether the current tax benefits for college students should be eliminated as part of tax reform. The House Republican plan says they should. Many in higher education disagree.

Boosting Completion by Softening Standards? (Inside Higher Ed)
A nonpartisan watchdog group is questioning whether City Colleges of Chicago is misleading the public with proclamations of dramatic graduation rate increases.

New International Enrollments Decline (Inside Higher Education)
Open Doors survey shows declines in new international students starting in fall 2016, after years of growth. This fall universities report an average 7 percent decline in new international students.

Health Care

What States Can Learn From One Another on Health Care (The Upshot, New York Times)
We know that where you live matters: There are huge disparities in health and costs across the country.

Consumers use price transparency tools to financially plan, not shop around (Modern Healthcare)
The majority of healthcare consumers use price transparency tools to financially plan, a new survey found, contradicting claims that consumers will shop around for the cheapest providers if they know the price before obtaining care.

Trump Health Agency Challenges Consensus on Reducing Costs (New York Times)
The efforts to chip away at mandatory payment programs have attracted far less attention than attempts by President Trump and congressional Republicans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, but they have the potential to affect far more people, because private insurers tend to follow what Medicare does.


11.14 How Public Engagement Needs to Evolve, Part 5

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017 | MATT LEIGHNINGER


How can public engagement evolve in order to meet the challenges and conditions of 2017? My previous post explored ways we can 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. This time, I’ll address the need for public institutions to collaborate in their efforts to support engagement so that it becomes more efficient, systemic and sustained.

In most issue areas, engagement happens as a temporary, stand-alone activity – and even when those processes or initiatives are successful, participatory practices are rarely incorporated into the official avenues for engagement. So planners conduct participatory charrettes and then go back to contentious public hearings; police departments engage in police-community dialogue even as neighborhood watch groups flounder; school districts mobilize parents to support bond issues while PTAs languish.

Furthermore, the professionals in these different areas rarely work together when they are trying to engage the public. Even though education, health, policing, land use and other issues are inextricably intertwined, and even though a citizen who cares about one of them is quite likely to care about others, engagement rarely happens in ways that people can connect any of the dots. For each issue, there is a separate set of meetings to attend, announcements to track, processes to follow and websites to look at. In engagement, it is usually an every-department-for-itself situation.

This is a problem for several reasons. First, it is inefficient: engagement takes time and resources, and it is a duplication of effort for each individual department or issue area to create its own separate meetings, apps, processes and websites. Second, the people doing all this work are rarely able to learn from each other: instead of comparing notes and pooling community contacts, they essentially reinvent the wheel every time they try to engage citizens.

Finally, every-department-for-itself engagement usually results in lower turnout. Faced with a choice about which of many meetings to attend, busy citizens will usually choose the one that is most relevant to their interests (or none at all). So the parents of school-age children will attend the school meetings and not the ones about crime, while the senior citizens may be active in neighborhood watch but won’t be connected with the schools. It becomes very difficult for any single engagement opportunity to attract a broad cross-section of people. And since much of the power in engagement comes from being able to recruit a large, diverse number of people, all of these efforts suffer.

One way to break out of these engagement silos is to build some “universal pieces” of local engagement infrastructure. These include:

  • Hyperlocal and local online networks. This category of infrastructure (described in previous posts in this series) is already rapidly growing and holds great potential for connecting engagement in many different issue areas.
  • Buildings that are physical hubs for participation. The political philosopher Hannah Arendt is said to have remarked that “Democracy needs a place to sit down.” Communities need accessible, welcoming, wired public spaces for engagement on a range of issues.
  • Youth councils. Perhaps the most undervalued of our civic assets, youth leadership should be cultivated and supported in settings specifically for young people.
  • Engagement commissions. A local engagement commission (or advisory board) can advise a community on the design, implementation and evaluation of public participation tactics, and more broadly on building and embedding a sustainable participation infrastructure. Such a commission could be an official body constituted by local government, or a stand-alone entity recognized and supported by a range of community institutions, such as foundations, governments, school systems, chambers of commerce and interfaith councils and faith institutions.

Instead of always going it alone, officials, experts and activists in seemingly intractable issue areas might profit by working together to build and support these universal pieces of engagement infrastructure. At the very least, they should compare notes about how to do engagement well. But by taking that critical step towards building a participation infrastructure, leaders can begin to sustain and support regular opportunities, activities, and arenas for people to connect with each other, solve problems, make decisions and celebrate community.

Let us help you take that first step towards better engagement. Check out our free resource Strengthening and Sustaining Public Engagement In Vermont. Although created for Vermont, the guide is intended for local municipalities and community leaders across the country who are looking to plan for an overall system of engagement that's both effective and sustainable.


11.10 Engaging Ideas - 11/10/2017

Friday, November 10th, 2017 | PUBLIC AGENDA


Why Congress Has Done Nothing on Guns (The Atlantic)
In the weeks after Representative Charlie Dent signed on to legislation that would have banned bump stocks following the massacre in Las Vegas, the moderate Pennsylvania Republican was “besieged” by responses from his constituents. These were not thank-you calls.

Is it time for Facebook, Twitter, and Google to become more American? (Quartz)
This week, US Congress members accused Facebook, Twitter, and Google of being everything from hapless to stupid in a series of public hearings in Washington D.C.

Tuesday’s election proves it: American politics are a disaster (Washington Post)
It might be comforting to believe that Tuesday’s election can be explained as a political primal scream aimed at President Trump and his dangerous excesses. Unfortunately, that pipe dream ignores the more profound meaning of this week’s election results: The shellacking Republicans took proves again just how unmoored American politics has become in the 21st century.


Charlotte, North Carolina: A City with One of the Lowest Economic Mobility Rates in the Nation (The Davidsonian)
In 2013, Harvard University, Stanford University, and the University of California- Berkeley released findings from their joint Equality of Opportunity Project. The project looked at causes and potential solutions for cases of intergenerational poverty and inequality throughout the United States. Charlotte, Davidson’s most prominent urban neighbor, did not fare well in the study.

Our renter's republic is broken: one in five tenants can't pay the rent (The Guardian)
In the waning days of white-picket-fence America, the burgeoning tenant class is faring worse than ever before. Rents are rising faster than wages and the math is catching up to us. Tenants who spend more than a third of their income on rent doubled from 24% in 1960 to 48% in 2015.

The Paradise Papers Are Just a Glimpse at the Unreal Wealth Gap (Vice)
A new report on spiraling inequality in America is even more concerning given what the Paradise Papers showed us about how good rich people are at hiding money.


Opinion: Looking past 'get out the vote' (Crain's New York)
More New Yorkers watched the World Series than voted in yesterday’s election. Advocates will say we need to make voting easier, and that’s true. But what if an important and overlooked part of increasing voter turnout actually involves increasing civic participation the other 364 days per year?

How Can Government Deliver an Amazon-esque Service Experience to Constituents? (Government Technology)
States at the forefront of developing a unified, customer-centric digital government experience share some of their top insights.

How the people of Ithaca will help decide next year's budget (
Starting next year, residents of the city’s Second Ward will have the ability to participate in a concept called “The People’s Budget,” a participatory budgeting program that will allow a neighborhood true democratic control of a $10,000 piece of the city’s budget.


Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Jumps Into Tech Training, and K-12 Curriculum (EdWeek MarketBrief)
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has launched a company focused on giving people online training for technology jobs—a project that is meant to encourage K-12 students to enter the field, too.

Educators Are More Stressed at Work Than Average People, Survey Finds (Education Week)
Teachers are feeling especially stressed, disrespected, and less enthusiastic about their jobs, a new survey has found. The survey, released by the American Federation of Teachers and the advocacy group Badass Teachers Association on Monday, included responses from about 5,000 educators. It follows a 2015 survey on educator stress—and finds that stress levels have grown and mental health has declined for this group in the past two years.

In more than 200 school districts, at least 1 in 10 students attends a charter (Chalkbeat)
Charter school enrollment is continuing to tick upward in cities across the country. And in 208 districts, at least 10 percent of public-school students attended a charter last school year.

Higher Ed/Workforce

How the GOP Tax Plan Could Hurt Graduate Students — and American Research (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
Under current law, college employees are allowed to get a break on tuition without counting that break as taxable income. Graduate students who work as research or teaching assistants are among the chief beneficiaries of that policy. But the bill released last week recommends that tuition waivers be counted as income and be subject to taxes. If that provision becomes law, graduate students could find themselves paying taxes on a far greater amount of money than they actually receive in paychecks from their college.

Part-Time Students Deserve More Attention (Real Clear Education)
Nearly four in ten college students are studying part-time, and most of them will never graduate. It’s a true scandal, one that much of the higher education world has managed to ignore.

When College Classrooms Become Ideologically Segregated, Everyone Suffers (NBC News)
College classrooms, one of the few spaces capable of encouraging civil disagreement, are becoming partisan islands.

Health Care

A nation of McHospitals? (Politico)
Why the health landscape might change more than we imagine.

Health Care Professionals’ Quality of Life is Critical to Hospital Performance, Industry Leaders Say (US News & World Report)
Health industry leaders participated in a panel Thursday at U.S. News' Healthcare of Tomorrow Conference to discuss the importance of promoting health care providers' well-being. By advancing their employees' quality of life, hospitals can enable them to better serve their communities.

Doctors face barriers in move to value-based care under MACRA, congressional committee told (Fierce Healthcare)
Physicians continue to face barriers and need support as they move to new payment models under MACRA, physician leaders told a congressional committee this morning.


11.09 Practical Agreements in Health Care

Thursday, November 9th, 2017 | ANTONIO DIEP

It seems nowadays Americans can’t turn on the TV, go online or scroll through their social media sites without finding the same narrative: a dystopian portrait of a hopelessly-divided America. The media, pundits and other purveyors of daily happenings underscore the toxic political discourse and gridlock on Capitol Hill as indicators of how polarized we have become in this country. In fact, an October 2017 Pew Research Center poll shows Americans are becoming increasingly partisan on a number of issues.

The trends have naturally compelled experts to set out on a quest to identify the sources from which such divisions derive – citing economic, cultural, ideological, psychological and a myriad of other reasons. While the country appears to be growing ever more divided, we have set out on a new Hidden Common Ground initiative to look for common ground that exists among partisan lines.

Health care is one such issue that has become one of the most entrenched in our nation’s bitterly hostile discourse and one of two issues we are exploring in our inaugural project of this new initiative. Because health care is an important issue to the American public, leaders have naturally come to understand that it is an agenda item they cannot ignore lest the likelihood of a voter backlash. Yet political gridlock, private interests, disagreements and the diverse needs among the public have impeded our nation’s representatives from making any meaningful strides to improve the health care system. However, health care does not occur in a vacuum; there are many, complex parts that make up the whole.

Americans are generally concerned about high medical costs, access to health insurance and the uncertain future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The proposed solutions we see to address such concerns typically predicate from ideological views on the subject. But we are learning in our conversations with everyday Americans from our nation’s urban, suburban and rural communities that while there may be acute disagreements on broader issues, therein lie specific areas with less intense disagreement than we typically hear and read about. For instance, we are seeing in our research that when it comes to solutions for improving health care, pragmatism can supersede ideology on certain areas.

When it comes to the ACA, the public may be divided on the law as a whole, but certain provisions were popular among respondents and in turn would be practical to keep.

“One of the things about Obamacare I like [is] the 26 extension for children,” said a focus group participant. “I was very concerned about what was going to happen to my kids. [The extension] gave me some comfort. There seems to be more widespread coverage. I think that’s a good thing.”

Solutions like the Medicare for All bill and increasing competition were also viewed in practical terms rather than ideological. While the former initiative was appealing to respondents, questions remained on whether the government could implement and administer such a robust program. The latter, while also a welcomed solution, raised concerns on whether it would lead to unregulated profits by private insurance and big pharmaceutical companies.

As we continue this work, we intend to learn whether the political noise and data-driven narratives match the conversations we have with regular Americans. It is with our findings, based on real concerns and priorities, that we can reveal areas of accommodation in health care with which leaders can craft real solutions.

There are of course agenda items on which we have disagreements, but by recognizing that some issues have areas of common ground, it will help us come together to take on even some of the most divisive issues.

The inaugural Hidden Common Ground research project will be released in early-2018. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to be one of the first to hear about it and continue to check back at for more blogs and information on this exciting initiative.


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