Twitter Fight of the Week: Can All Schools Actually Be Great?

A social media duel that cuts to the heart of the Philly schools debate.

School District of Philadelphia
Sure, Twitter is an ephemeral, terse medium. Yes, it is better suited for pithy one-liners and insults than for substantive policy debate. But every so often, Twitter’s immediacy, its frisson-stoking powers, yields fascinating and relatively unfiltered discussions between those Philadelphians who are wrangling with the city’s Big Issues.

Citified will highlight these edifying Twitter fights when we find them (ok, ok, we may highlight some that aren’t so edifying as well). This week features a genuinely substantive debate sparked by a provocative op-ed published Wednesday by the Public School Notebook.

The article’s author argues the following:

Charter school proponents often suggest that the ills of urban education can be solved by simply creating more charter schools. And even more people believe that, if we could just have better teachers in all urban public schools, we could increase student achievement and success for all students.

But are schools and teachers really at fault? My own examination of urban children and their families suggests a very different reality…

The success or failure of many urban schools are in large measure due to characteristics of the students that attend them.

On the one hand, this is a fairly obvious observation. Demography matters when discussing school performance. On the other hand, though, this op-ed highlights one of the key distinctions between veteran educators and school reformers: The reformers contend that every child has an opportunity to succeed. Veteran educators might agree, in the abstract. But some also argue that factors outside the school setting, such as poverty, family stability, quality of life and so on are equally or more determinative of academic success then is schooling itself.

Read on to see how that debate played out in Philadelphia this week.