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

Monday, May 27, 2013

Dr. Steve Perry: The Final Debunk

America's favorite teachers union basher, Dr. Steve Perry, has been making a lot of noise lately, and coming under increasing scrutiny. The former CNN commentator and current magnet school principal is a reformy crowd favorite, mostly for his ability to bash teachers and their unions:
Note: after the event, our local teachers union published a letter stating, “Dr. Steve Perry, a magnet school principal from Connecticut, and noted anti-union activist, spent the evening abrasively trashing teachers and our unions. He went as far as to say “we need to call out the roaches” when referring to teachers unions. Dr. Perry went on to blame teachers for the literal death of children. It was truly beyond the bounds of acceptable dialogue.”  In response, Minneapolis Public School Superintendent, Bernadeia H. Johnson, urged Minnesotans not to dismiss Dr. Perry’s “overall message of acting urgently to save a generation of young people because of the sharp rhetoric he used during his speech and the subsequent panel discussion.” Read the entire exchange here. [emphasis mine]
So here's the thing: I don't really have a problem with Perry's rhetoric, as long as he can back up his words. In other words, if he's going to smack down teachers and unions, he'd better be a monster in the classroom himself. Is he?

I've broken down Perry's record as an educator before (here, here, here, and here). The terrific Jon Pelto in Connecticut has also called Perry out. But let's make this simple and put the relevant data and facts together for once and for all:

Here stands the record of Dr. Steve Perry and his school, Capital Preparatory Magnet School of Hartford, CT.

1) Capital Prep serves far fewer students in extreme poverty, with disabilities, and who are English Language Learners than the other high schools in Hartford.

As all three graphs show, Perry's school has fewer students who qualify for Free Lunch, fewer kids with disabilities, and fewer kids who are ELL than neighboring high schools in Hartford. Here is a map of Capital Prep's neighboring schools, showing their relative level of student poverty in the size of their markers:

Simply put: Capital Prep does not serve the children of Hartford who are the most difficult and expensive to educate.

2) Capital Prep has high attrition rates between its freshman and senior classes.

In the last two years for which we have data, one in three incoming freshman at Capital Prep will not make it to their senior year.

3) Despite its segregated student population and high attrition rate, Capital Prep's academic outcomes are not superior.

Here are the average composite SAT scores for every school that reported them in Connecticut, plotted against the percentage of the student population at each school that qualifies for Free or Reduced Price Lunch. Unsurprisingly, the correlation between poverty and SAT scores is very high (if R-squared was 1.0, the correlation would be perfect, so 0.79 is very strong). Notice that Capital Prep falls below the trendline; if Perry was "beating the odds," his academic outcomes would be much better.

4) Capital Prep's staff is relatively inexperienced compared to other schools in Hartford, and has a higher rate of turnover.

Capital Prep has fewer experienced teachers than the other Hartford public schools.

Many more teachers resign from Capital Prep. Perhaps they leave the profession, but they may also leave for other teaching positions. Which would mean that the students at Capital Prep do not get to enjoy the benefits of seasoned teachers who gained experience at their school.

So here's what this all comes down to: 

Dr. Steve Perry's own record as an educator is hardly superior; there is no reason that anyone should listen to his ranting and ravings against teachers and their unions on the basis of his own accomplishments (or lack thereof).

Like Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, Ben Chavis, the KIPP Krew, and Wendy Kopp, Dr. Steve Perry is a lot of talk and very, very little walk. There is simply no reason to listen to anything the man has to say.

ADDING: I want to be completely fair here; using SAT scores, despite Perry's claims that he sends 100% of his students to college, won't give the complete story, because the SAT is voluntary. If Perry is encouraging more of his students to take the SAT, it may skew his scores downward.

So let's look at the compulsory reading test for Connecticut High School students, the CAPT, given to all 10th Grade students:

Again, average school scores are highly correlated to the percentage of students eligible for Free and Reduced Price Lunch. And, again, Capital is below the trendline, although not as much as they were on the SAT (although, statistically, that's a trickier comparison than what I'm going to get into here).

The point stands: Perry is hardly "beating the odds."

ADDING MORE: Here are the CAPT Math Scores:

Well, at least this time Capital is above the trendline - barely. Not a lot to hang your hat on, Steve.


Unknown said...

Please visit www.stockholdersfirst.org to see what is really up!

(Love your stuff!)

Dave said...

8/10/2017 - More Twitter discussion with Dr. Perry yesterday. His story hasn't changed, and he's still sticking to it!!! :) :)