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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...

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