COMMENTARY

We advocate for the voice of the public across many issues. Below are recent op-eds and other commentary.

What's Free College Got To Do With Completion?

Erin Knepler | Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Affordability and accessibility do not equal completion. What good is free college if up to nearly three-quarters of students never finish?

Participatory Budgeting's Promise for Democracy

Carolin Hagelskamp, Ph.D., Matt Leighninger, Allison Rizzolo | Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

More and more communities are trying it, bringing millions of people into decisions on local spending.

Flying Below the Radar: Making Local Progress in Spite of National Dysfunction

Will Friedman, Ph.D. | Thursday, April 14th, 2016

In cities big and small, where most people live and work, the ability of residents and officials to solve problems has not abated and may actually have picked up.

Only Authentic Community Engagement and Empowerment Can Begin to Restore Flint

Will Friedman, Ph.D. | Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Nothing can make up for what was lost, but it might be the one way to get governing and democracy back on track.

Is All This Polling Even Good for Democracy?

Will Friedman, Ph.D. | Friday, January 15th, 2016

Public opinion research can be both a boon for democracy and a bane. It all depends on whether it is done well and how it is used.

How Can We Quantify Democracy?

Matt Leighninger and Tina Nabatchi | Friday, October 23rd, 2015

In the last decade, more direct, innovative, interactive — and democratic — forms of participation have emerged, giving us new sets of numbers to collect and analyze.

South Australia: Innovators in Democracy and Public Engagement

Will Friedman, Ph.D. | Friday, July 24th, 2015

Public Agenda President Will Friedman was invited by the South Australia Premier's Office to consult on the state's public engagement strategy and initiatives.

Getting Your Message Out (and Why It's Not Enough)

Jean Johnson | Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

In a world of "messaging," let's not forget the importance of listening.

Americans Are Eager for Price Information, New Survey Finds

David Schleifer and Andrea Ducas | Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Despite the fact that so many Americans must pay for so much of their medical care out of pocket, easy access to accurate price information remains far from routine.

Less Divided than We Look

Will Friedman, Ph.D. | Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

In response to a new study that suggests we are becoming a more polarized people, Will Friedman argues that the public may not be as divided as it seems.

A Divided Nation?

Will Friedman, Ph.D. | Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Our nation's people are not as politically divided as they often appear.

Colleges Should Help Would-Be Students Make Responsible Choices

Will Friedman, Ph.D. | Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Higher-education leaders and policymakers should also pursue a complementary strategy that gives students themselves more agency as consumers.

Not All Students Are Becoming Savvier Shoppers

Carolin Hagelskamp, Ph.D. | Friday, March 21st, 2014

Even though improving job prospects weighs heavily on the minds of the currently enrolled students we spoke to, few know information about the types of jobs and salaries typical of graduates from their school.

Patients' Views On Reforming The Physician Fee-For-Service Payment System

David Schleifer, Ph.D. | Friday, February 28th, 2014

Proposals to fix Medicare’s sustainable growth rate include provisions to reward physicians for providing high-value rather than high-volume care. But would patients necessarily be aware that their physicians are being paid differently? And would they even care?

Choosing a College

Will Friedman, Ph.D. and Carolin Hagelskamp, Ph.D. | Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Better school performance data is insufficient for helping prospective students choose a college wisely. Many students do not immediately understand how this data relates to their own chances for success in college and in the work force.

NYC Experiments in Civic Inclusion

Will Friedman, Ph.D. | Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Within our current political climate, particularly when it comes to national politics, finding workable solutions can feel Herculean. Fortunately, on the local level there are great examples of communities working together to make progress on important challenges.

For Tomorrow's World, Should Engineers Study a Little Art History?

Jean Johnson | Friday, September 20th, 2013

The top ten college majors offering the best starting salaries are all STEM. Should today's college students sidestep courses in art history and music, and should colleges and universities make STEM education their top priority?

How To Boost Teacher Voice In Policy

Allison Rizzolo and Ellen Behrstock-Sherratt | Friday, August 16th, 2013

For teachers to truly have an impact on education policy, advocating for a seat at the table is just step one in a long, arduous, yet essential path.

25 Years From Now and Still Relying on Fossil Fuels?

Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson | Monday, August 5th, 2013

The federal government’s latest international energy projections are out, and there’s no question we’re living in a time of enormous change—and perhaps remarkably little progress.

How to Spot Good Teaching -- Maybe It's Time for a Broader Discussion

Jean Johnson | Friday, July 19th, 2013

How do you know when a teacher is doing a good job? Are schools doing enough to insure that we have effective teachers and that we're supporting them? These questions are on the table in school districts nationwide as debates over teacher evaluation policies heat up.

Revitalizing Democracy, Community by Community

Will Friedman, Ph.D. | Friday, June 28th, 2013

At the level of national politics, the American democracy is in clear crisis. Rampant gridlock and partisan bickering undermine progress and earn the mistrust and frustration of the populace. Fortunately, a better story is unfolding in many local settings.

Parents need help, not shame, in school involvement

Will Friedman, Ph.D. and Carolin Hagelskamp, Ph.D. | Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Initiatives to boost parent involvement will fall short if education leaders do not recognize a key fact: It's not a one-size-fits-all proposition.

From Sea to Shining Sea, Who's Using the Most Fossil Fuels?

Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson | Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

The latest federal statistics on carbon emissions by state show some regions are pumping a lot more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than others.

Can Parents Save American Education?

Jean Johnson | Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Most American parents readily agree with the premise that parents are a crucial ingredient in a child's educational success. But what exactly do we mean by "parental involvement"?

Failure to Compromise: Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Will Friedman, Ph.D. | Monday, May 6th, 2013

Our nation's leaders routinely and repeatedly fail to work together and compromise to solve problems. Only by setting aside the excuses can we build a future fit for our children, rather than leaving them with dwindling hopes and the dregs of our dysfunction.

Is Growth the Best Measure of a Good Economy?

Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson | Monday, April 29th, 2013

A mistake in economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart's influential study causes us to take a closer look at the best way to judge growth in the economy.

Can "Race to the Top" Work for Energy Innovation?

Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson | Monday, April 29th, 2013

Improving the nation's power grid is a huge task. Is "Race to the Top" the right model?

The Big Gamble in Health Care: Would Competition Outdo Government in Controlling Costs?

Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson | Thursday, March 28th, 2013

The Obama administration opened talks in Arkansas and Ohio to allow the states to use federal Medicaid money to buy private health insurance for their low-income residents. If it goes through, it will be an unexpected pairing of progressive and conservative ideas -- one pragmatists may find encouraging.

Reviving Manufacturing, Saving Energy: Can We Do Both?

Scott Bittle | Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Over the last half-century, America has shifted from a manufacturing economy to a service economy, and that has had a significant impact on our energy use. But the change from manufacturing jobs to service jobs has come at considerable social cost as well.

Can Accountants Succeed on Climate Where Others Have Failed?

Scott Bittle | Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

The Government Accountability Office, the federal government's independent auditor and watchdog agency, added climate change to its list of "high risk" threats to the nation's fiscal health.

Post-Sandy New York: A Model for Collaboration in Problem Solving

Will Friedman, Ph.D. | Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

As the city shapes its future post-Sandy, can it also become a role model for how a community of leaders and citizens can work together to solve complex and potentially volatile public problems?

Lessons Learned From High-Poverty, High-Achieving Schools

Will Friedman, Ph.D. | Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Schools identified as high-poverty or high-needs often pose the biggest challenge to educators. They can also evoke the most pessimism. How can kids learn, people ask, when they lack adequate food, clothing or safety on the way to class?

Let's Pay for Our Priorities

Scott Bittle | Friday, November 16th, 2012

Imagining a positive outcome for a strategy as dumb as the fiscal cliff is a challenge. If all the provisions went into force, the cliff would, in fact, do a lot to put the budget on a sustainable course.

We Must Avoid Austerity on Steroids

Jean Johnson | Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Going over the fiscal cliff is basically austerity on steroids. It means that taxes will rise suddenly for nearly everyone.

Sparking a Conversation to Get the Best Teachers

Ellen Behrstock-Sherratt and Allison Rizzolo | Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Chicago Public Schools teachers recently took to the streets for the first time in a quarter-century to protest the new teacher evaluation system alongside more traditional bread-and-butter issues.

The American Dream

Bob McKinnon | Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Bob McKinnon, director of the GALEWILL Center for Opportunity & Progress, discusses a national survey of 2,000 Americans as part of a project The Invisible Dream: Creating a New Conversation About the American Dream, done in conjunction with Public Agenda.

One Degree of Separation (Commentary)

Jean Johnson | Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Most young Americans who don't graduate from college come from low-income, less well-educated families. Without more education, they are likely to continue that pattern and remain financially insecure throughout their lives.

On Teacher Evaluations, Teacher's Voices Matter

Ellen Behrstock-Sherratt and Allison Rizzolo | Thursday, March 15th, 2012

We've seen the fallout when teachers are left out of discussions on how they're evaluated: states and school districts have pushed through top-down methods for measuring teacher effectiveness without input from teachers and principals.

The Iceman Goeth

Scott Bittle | Sunday, February 26th, 2012

As the presidential candidates spout on about jobs and the economy, I sometimes wish I could put my late grandfather on the stage during the debates.

12 Myths about America's Jobs Crisis

Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson | Monday, February 6th, 2012

hen Americans head for the polls this fall, a lot of people will be voting on just one issue: jobs. But so far, much of the political rhetoric sounds like it could be coming from one job that's pretty much obsolete - a carnival barker.

Election Year Follies

Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson | Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

You know how sometimes when you repeat a word over and over again, it starts to lose its meaning? If you listen to our current crop of presidential candidates, they're doing their best to do that with the most important word in this election: Jobs.

Twitter & The Freedom Trail: Citizen Networks For High-Octane Democracy

Francie Grace | Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Social media - Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, foursquare and more - is changing the world in ways previously never even imagined. For Public Agenda, it's a great tool for constructive dialogue on contentious public policy issues, as Francie Grace, vice president, managing editor and director of social media for Public Agenda, explains in this speech delivered at the #140 Characters Conference in Boston.

The Optimism Gap: Are Washington and the Public on the Same Track?

Scott Bittle | Friday, May 13th, 2011

Part of leadership is conveying an air of optimism and confidence. Any management book, any memoir by a general, politician or basketball coach will tell you that. But what does it mean when leaders are more optimistic than the people they're supposed to be leading?

The Only Way to Ruin Social Security

Scott Bittle | Friday, February 25th, 2011

Let's start with the obvious. Social Security is a beloved and vital program that needs changes. Politicians are afraid to touch it, and some its staunchest supporters say we don't need to talk about it now because its problems aren't all that serious. The irony is that not talking about Social Security -- and not touching it -- is the riskiest choice of all.

Would Getting the Economy On Track Give Us A Free Pass Out of the Federal Budget Mess?

Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson | Friday, January 28th, 2011

It looks like the country might finally be gearing up to tackle our massive federal deficits and growing federal debt. If history is any guide, serious debate about unpleasant things like cutting popular programs and raising taxes will be accompanied by plenty of people hawking miracle cures that will take away our pain.

Turning the Clock Back Isn't Enough: The Nasty Surprise Awaiting the GOP on Health Care and the Deficit

Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson | Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

The Republicans who will take control of the House this January have made it clear there are two things they hate: deficits and President Obama’s healthcare reform. They’ve promised to reduce the first and repeal (or at least hobble) the second.

Making the Connection on College Completion

Ruth Wooden | Monday, July 5th, 2010

In a recent report by Public Agenda, Ruth Wooden, president of Public Agenda, addressed the report's findings at the July 5, 2010, annual meeting of the American School Counselors Association in Boston.

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