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Education Opinion

Why the ‘Schools v. Poverty’ Debate Feels Aimless: A Twitter Play (in Three Acts)

By Rick Hess — May 13, 2013 1 min read
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I finally joined Twitter the other day. (I’m at “rickhess99,” if you care.) I haven’t yet actually penned any tweets, and don’t know that I will. But I thought I’d practice my tweeting a bit (just in case), by taking a crack at boiling down last week’s familiar back-and-forth debate over “is it schools, or is it poverty?” Fordham’s Mike Petrilli kicked things off last Tuesday with a letter to Debbie Meier over at “Bridging Differences.” That yielded a flurry of back-and-forths in a “reply all” public email exchange. Unsure how much of this was posted anywhere, I thought I’d try to distill it for you, twitter-style, since I thought it fairly illuminating. (Note: I may have taken some liberties in Act 3 when it comes to current or former U.S. Secretaries of Education, and the ghost of Kurt Vonnegut.)

Act I: Exposition

Mike Petrilli: Poverty matters. But Ravitch, Carter et al. wrong that schools don’t matter. Schools matter. Vocabulary matters. So Common Core is good.

Diane Ravitch: Mike, you mischaracterize me. I agree schools matter. But we can’t ignore poverty. Poverty matters too. So Common Core is bad.

Mike Petrilli: Diane, sorry about that. But schools matter. They need more rigorous curriculum, vocab building. That’s why Common Core is good.

Debbie Meier: Mike, poverty matters. Achievement gaps in elem reading are mostly about poverty. Vibrant schooling matters. So Common Core won’t help.

Act 2: Rising Action

Prudence Carter: Mike, you’ve got me wrong. Schools matter, but poverty matters too. Don’t forget asthma, toys, health. Need to spend more on poor kids.

Mike Petrilli: Yes, poverty matters. That’s why growth is right metric. But already we’ve got Head Start, EITC, food stamps. Now Common Core will help.

Robert Pondiscio: Sounds like no one is happy about early elem reading tests. How about we agree to ditch those?

Mike Petrilli: Cool idea! Some state should try that via ESEA waivers.

Act 3: Resolution

Arne Duncan: As if!

Margaret Spellings: Props to Sec. D-dog. Boy, that is one terrible idea.

Mike Petrilli: Well, I think we can all agree that poverty matters and schools matter. And that vocab can help. And that’s why Common Core is good.

Diane Ravitch: Poverty matters. Schools matter. But leaked Com Core tests look awful. Will drive more mindless test prep. That’s why Common Core is bad.

Ghost of Kurt Vonnegut: So it goes...

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.