July 28, 2017

Dropping Knowledge

Charter schools have been in the news this week as a result of the NAACP renewing its call for a moratorium on new charter schools. Amidst that story, the 74 million published a piece on the relatively high college completion rate of students from the highest performing charter schools that are focusing on low-income students. Many of these top charters see the college graduation rates amongst their graduates in the 25 to 35 percent range. Nationally, the college graduation rate for students in the bottom quartile of family income was 9 percent.

Regardless of whether charter schools are net positive or net negative, it is important to keep in mind charter schools’ initial purpose: to serve as laboratories for experimenting with different education methods and strategies. As such, there are several noteworthy points that can be applied to any school that is educating a high proportion of low-income students.

  • Top tier charters see their connection with students going beyond high school. Their strategic goals include objectives that will increase their graduates’ college completion rate. This is in contrast to many school models where high school graduation is the attainment goal, after which students are someone else’s problem. Many of them build that expectation into the curriculum and begin reinforcing it as a student goal early in the course of study.
  • These schools are tracking the data for how their graduates do in college. The national data for college graduation rates by income comes from the federal Pell Grant program. The higher performing charters take the data collection burden on themselves and acknowledge that college preparation–their responsibility–is an important factor in college completion.
  • Top charter schools are heavily engaged around which colleges best support their graduates and help steer them to environments where they can be successful. This has led to expected partnerships with large public and commuter colleges and some less expected partnerships with rural, selective schools that are looking to diversify their student bodies.

Contextual Healing

The New York Times Upshot blog had two interesting posts this week about health-related metrics.

The first post examined which hospital quality metrics patients should consider when selecting a hospital. It pointed to a recent MIT study that showed a correlation between patient satisfaction scores and lower mortality rates.  Studies have shown that even basic satisfaction metrics tied to social apps like Yelp can provide effective hospital quality information.

The second post looks at the complicated relationship between physician staffing firms, hospitals and insurance carriers. In doing so, it demonstrates some of the reasons our healthcare system is so costly and often infuriating. The post looks at EmCare, a large physician staffing network, and the ways that it is able to charge patients and/or insurance companies higher out-of-network rates despite working within the in-network hospital. EmCare argues that it is providing higher quality and patient support for the cost. Critics argue that it is impossible to measure the increased quality, that the payment process for the services is not transparent, and that patients often do not have the ability to understand, much less negotiate, that they are shifting into higher cost care.

The post is written clearly, but the complexities of the health processes demonstrate why healthcare policy is so difficult.

Food for Thought

The Harvard Business Review has posted a short but fascinating video examining the relationship between American innovation and economic growth across the 50 states.

Making News

In advance of a U.S. Senate debate on Affordable Housing, the American Enterprise Institute released a white paper arguing that housing voucher programs are more efficient than tax credit programs that incentivize low-income construction. A synthesis of the paper suggests: “The tenant-based housing voucher program is by far the most cost effective approach to delivering housing assistance. Its recipients capture almost all of the subsidy provided to landlords in terms of reduced rent. In contrast, occupants of tax credit projects capture only about a fourth of the subsidies provided to developers.”


  • The Conservative Case for Universal Healthcare

    The American Conservative | 07/25/2017

  • To Reduce Recidivism, States Scrap Barriers for Ex-Offenders

    Stateline | 07/27/2017

  • Why there’s no such thing as a gifted child

    The Guardian | 07/25/2017

  • These universities are America’s engines of upward mobility—and they’re sputtering

    Quartz | 07/25/2017

  • Biologics: The pricey drugs transforming medicine

    The Conversation | 07/24/2017

  • Five Models for Local School Food Procurement

    Grace Communications Foundation | 07/18/2017