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