Sometimes, when I look at these celebrity reformy types, I have to dig deep to find out what they're all about. But not this time: it turns out Dr. Perry has been out pushing his brand across the country - hard. This past September, when most principals were up to their ears with the start of the school year, Perry was launching his book with a star-studded party; guests included Diddy, Chris Rock, Geoffrey Canada, and Joel Klein.
What has this man learned from hanging out with the stars?
I'm at a party and Kev Liles, I met him at the premiere of "Black in America 1." Soledad said I should meet this cat. He had an engagement party, a small affair, but Diddy was there, Jay, Andre Harrell. I'm walking out and Diddy says 'Whaddup Ni**a"(laughs). He said, "Good shit, I like what you do," and I replied, "Good shit, I like what YOU do." And then Jay told me that there are some things that he wants to do, and he would really like to talk about it. He clowned me for driving my kids to school. Before I left he let me know that he was serious and really wanted to do something, still I'm just like whatever. I don't go out and make beats, you know, so if they want to do what I do, then you have to be real.Just another day for a humble Connecticut principal, right? Except I don't know many principals who've been sponsored by Verizon, and have regular gigs on CNN, and who have their own publicists, and are registered with a speakers bureau.
Yes, it's true: you can get Dr. Perry to show up at your school or corporate event for a reported mere $10,000. What do you get for your money?
Oh, dear. Well, maybe he was off his game that day; what does this diarist from DailyKos think about a visit to her school by Dr. Perry?
OK, that's just two people's opinions. Let's ask some folks from Connecticut, where Perry works; they would know him best, right?Everything went well until the end of the day. I was not present, but heard about it immediately after the fact.CNN cornered our students and demanded to know if they thought they were learning anything. How did they know? How can they prove it?The teacher was given the same in-her-face treatment and questioned along the same lines. She was informed that, "Some teachers need to be fired here."She came out of that room shaking, extremely upset - and knowing her reaction to Steve's rudeness will be seen coast to coast.Wonderful.Steve Perry's motivational speakers biography ad:Dr. Steve Perry is a strong advocate of personal responsibility in all aspects of life. As a motivational speaker he emphasizes the social issues in the community with messages that aim at building up both the individual and the community so that our children can be better contributing members of society. His calls to action, personal responsibility and solutions. Man up Nobody is Coming to Save UsDr. Perry is a social worker with no administrative certification or teaching background. I suggest he 'man up' and obtain the same certification and experience as the public school teachers he assails in order to promote both himself and CNN.Until then, he's just an attack journalist - with no cred.
Well, that's just some people's opinion. Let's ask an educator; what does a veteran teacher think about Perry's book?
Throughout, Perry spews unsubstantiated pearls of wisdom that he appears to pull straight out of his asterisk. That is if there were asterisks; the book is largely devoid of footnotes or citations. This is the world according to Perry, where coaches and attractive people make the best teachers. It’s also a world of mangled metaphors: “Urban schools are America’s canary. The shafts are dangerous. Traveling them will cost more than money.” Perry cultivates a maverick image, peppering his speech with colloquialisms like “piss-off,” “hell yes” and “hell no,” “silly-ass,” “raggedy ass,” “sorry-ass,” “dumb ass,” and several other variations on the ass theme. He may be keepin’ it real for the ’hood, or just swapping brazen rhetoric for substance. It’s hard to say.
Perry takes us through most of the hot-button topics in education today: failing schools, teacher pay, school vouchers, parenting, teacher accountability, No Child Left Behind, tenure, and so on. What he serves up in response is a warmed-over casserole of premasticated ideas: authentic assessments, learning styles, the importance of safe and happy environments, relevant lesson planning, and so on. He expounds at length on “good” and “bad” teachers, then—as if to nullify his own views—he boasts that his staff was drawn entirely from failed schools. “But when they were put in a better system, better things happened.” I couldn’t have said it better.
But things are not as they seem at Capitol Prep. Perry hints at this periodically: “I’ve seen the right students and the wrong studenwts come to Capitol Prep.” Elsewhere he says it’s “excruciating” when a student is in “the wrong school.” So what happens to these “wrong students?” Capitol Prep is without doubt an excellent magnet school. But parents elect to send their children there. Perry defensively responds to those who presume that he must “cream” the best students from the system, declaring “untrue!” Consider this, though: it’s a college preparatory school. “If you don’t want to go to college,” says Perry, “go somewhere else.” Capitol Prep is a year-round school where uniforms are required and discipline is stressed, attracting parents who demand more of their children. Students for whom the school is not a “good fit,”—i.e., they are not doing well—are “counseled” out. In one recent year forty-three percent of the enrolled students left before graduation. This is not just cream, it’s extra heavy whipping cream. Of the fifty-seven percent of students remaining, all go on to four-year colleges, Perry’s claim to fame.
Regular public schools must accept the “wrong students,” along with many other kids for which Capitol Prep would not be the “right school.” Principal Perry must know he has a good deal going. In any other situation he would likely be just another anonymous struggling educator.Oh, my. I've been wondering how this man managed to find the time to be an author, a speaker, a broadcaster, a Twitter-holic, and a celebrity... and still find the time to run a school. I guess it's easier when your attrition rate is so high.
I'd be happy to correct the statistic alleged in this report, if Dr. Perry will simply release his attrition rates. Perhaps he can find some time in his busy, busy schedule to do so.