I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Reformy Dr. Steve Perry Show - Part IV

Let me wrap up our little look at the very reformy Dr. Steve Perry. In Part I, after watching him have a Twitter meltdown, we took a quick look at the demographics of his school; he has far fewer students living in poverty than do the schools he puts down right in his neighborhood. In Part II, I took a closer look at his students: fewer poor kids, fewer kids with learning disabilities, and fewer English language learners. For Part III, we heard reports of the celebrity life of Dr. Perry, which includes hanging out with the hip-hop gliterati and charging big bucks for speeches.

For this last part, I'd like to take a look at his staff. These graphs come to me from a source that I trust implicitly, who had access to some data that is no longer available publicly. The data is originally from the Connecticut Department of Education's CEDaR website.

Here we have the distribution of years of experience for the staff at Capital Prep, Dr. Steve's school, versus the other magnets and the traditional schools in Hartford. Apparently, Dr. Steve doesn't much value veteran teachers; or, perhaps, there isn't any incentive for folks with years of experience to stay.

One of the tropes we often here from reformy types is how older, burned-out teachers are keeping youngsters from entering the field. But attrition like this is certainly going to set the tone for the younger teachers who come into the profession: don't get too comfortable, kids. I wonder: do we find this desirable in medicine? Aviation? Law?

Well, let's see if we can figure out why all these teachers are leaving Capital Prep:
Retirement? Not so much, huh? Looks like quite a few were simply let go; of course, that's very easy to do if they don't have tenure, and it looks like many of Dr. Steve's teachers don't stick around long enough to earn it.

But look at the number who resigned. Did they go on to other schools with better pay, benefits, and working conditions? If so, Dr. Steve's students paid the price for giving them the experience they needed to land a job elsewhere: they had young, inexperienced teachers who got better and then left.

Or did these teachers leave the field altogether? Did Capital Prep burn them out? Hard to say.

What is clear is that the teacher population at Capital Prep is just as different as the student population. Which suggests, once again, that Dr. Steve's highly-touted successes are not replicable.

Which is really the point of all of this. Perry can go on TV and pat himself on the rump all he wants, but the fact is his situation - like Geoffrey Canada's, like Eva Moskowitz's, like the KIPPsters' - is sui generis. There is simply no way to replicate what he is doing on a large scale.

We can have an adult conversation about this. We can look at these schools and say, "Well, is there an advantage to isolating the children in these schools in this way?" Capital Prep is, in fact, one of the least segregated schools in the Hartford area. Maybe it's worth isolating this population of students from their less-advantaged peers to achieve this goal - maybe.

What I do know is that Dr. Steve Perry is not having that conversation. He is bashing unions, bashing teachers, and pushing his brand hard. He's making a name for himself as a "no-excuses" reformer, but he's not being straight about how he does it.

He may be a great principal (I sincerely hope he is), but he is a lousy spokesman for educators. He needs to drop the cant and start owning up to the realities of education in America today. And if he doesn't, CNN should cut their ties to him - they owe their viewers at least that much.

OK, that's all on Dr. Steve Perry for now - unless he says something really awful...

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I think we've all come to realize that CNN has become Fox Lite. And so being, I wouldn't hold my breath for them to seek credibility.