Summer Learning, America's Middle Class, Waking Up After the Pandemic: RAND Weekly Recap

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April 23, 2021

We discuss tips from RAND research for effective summer learning programs; America's competitors in the “gray zone” short of war; why it's so hard to get into the middle class; North Korea's nuclear appetite; China-Iran cooperation; and a post-pandemic wake-up call.

Elementary schoolchildren wearing face masks in a classroom, photo by kevajefimija/Getty Images

Photo by kevajefimija/Getty Images

How to Make Summer Learning Count

As many school districts are still planning for a full-time return to in-person instruction, summer learning programs could be one way to help students recover from COVID-19 learning losses. In fact, RAND research has shown that summer programs can produce positive outcomes for children in math and reading.

But the potential benefits of these programs are often hampered by logistical missteps like late buses, missing instructional materials, and frequent class interruptions. To avoid these issues, RAND experts offer three tips for schools: Start planning and staffing early; don't expect teachers to write their own lessons; and make programs at least five weeks long.

The stakes are high for students, so it's worth the considerable effort of getting summer programs off the ground. Without additional instructional time, the most disadvantaged students are most likely to be left behind.

Chinese marine surveillance ships cruising in the East China Sea, as the islands known as the Senkaku isles in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China are seen in the background, April 23, 2013, photo by Kyodo/Reuters

Chinese marine surveillance ships cruising in the East China Sea, with the Senkaku Islands in the background, April 23, 2013

Photo by Kyodo/Reuters

U.S. Deterrence in the Gray Zone

More and more, America's competitors seek to gain an advantage through gray zone activities—acts of aggression that remain below the threshold of outright warfare. A new RAND report identifies the common characteristics of such aggression and explores how the United States and its partners can counter it. The authors focus on Chinese aggression against the Senkaku Islands, Russian aggression against the Baltics, and North Korean aggression against South Korea.

A barista making coffee while wearing a mask, photo by stockstudioX/Getty Images

Photo by stockstudioX/Getty Images

Why Are So Many Americans Stuck Outside of the Middle Class?

Moving into the American middle class—and staying there—is arguably more difficult than it's ever been. In a new paper, RAND experts detail the subtle but important changes that are responsible for this shift. For instance, the number of middle-income jobs has declined, and the good jobs that remain require more education. Additionally, many people now have jobs that are less stable, provide fewer benefits, and may not lead to long-term careers. What might it take to build new pathways to the middle class?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during the conference of the Central Military Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in this image released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 23, 2020, photo by KCNA/Reuters

Kim Jong-un at a conference of the Central Military Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea; image released by the Korean Central News Agency on May 23, 2020

Photo obtained via Reuters

North Korea's Nuclear Appetite Is Still Strong

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently upgraded his mansion compound near a military submarine base. He could be preparing to inspect a new submarine, says RAND's Soo Kim. This suggests that Pyongyang may resume weapons demonstrations, potentially with longer-range, more-powerful missiles. Despite North Korea's ongoing public health issues and economic hardships, it appears the regime's “appetite for nuclear and missile bargaining with the United States remains intact,” she says.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif exchange documents during the signing ceremony of a 25-year cooperation agreement, in Tehran, Iran March 27, 2021, photo by Majid Asgaripour/WANA via Reuters

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the signing ceremony of a 25-year cooperation agreement, Tehran, March 27, 2021

Photo by Majid Asgaripour/WANA via Reuters

China-Iran Deal May Not Damage U.S. Interests in Middle East

A newly signed agreement between China and Iran may not be the game changer that some have made it out to be. That's according to RAND experts. Although both countries would like to sideline American power and influence, they don't share enough interests to support a lasting partnership. So instead of attempting to push Beijing out of the Middle East, Washington could try to mitigate the negative aspects of China's involvement, identify potential areas for cooperation, and consider reimagining its own policies in the region.

Busy family morning in the kitchen, photo by Getty Images

Photo by monkeybusinessimages/Getty Images

Wake-Up Call: Start Preparing for Post-Pandemic Life

No commute. No rush to get kids off to school. No need to get dressed up for work. For many people, morning routines have slowed down. But a post–COVID-19 world could speed things up again. RAND sleep scientist Wendy Troxel recommends making small adjustments to your mornings now to get ready for a return to “normal” life. Troxel, who just released a new book on couples' sleep), notes that how you wake up and the consistency of your wake-up times is critical for sleep success at night.

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