Fighting for Education

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dr. Steve Perry, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford and author of Push Has Come to Shove: getting Our Kids the Education They Deserve - Even If It Means Picking a Fight, offers his take on education, including support for vouchers and a critique of teachers' unions. 


Dr. Steve Perry

Comments [55]

Pauline from NY suburbs

I guess here's where I part company with my fellow WNYC listeners. When I heard this guy, I was amazed at how spot on he was with his assessment of public schools today and how unions have severely damaged public education. The image of the underpaid, overworked teacher is a myth here in the tri-state area. Many, if not most, are making six-figure salaries for a six-hour day 180 days a year. And the union leadership's primary focus is not to provide children with the best education, but rather to protect their jobs, limit their responsibilities, and increase their compensation. It's funny that most of the comments on this piece were decrying the lack of data to back up his arguments, when the education establishment rejects data or rationalizes it when it indicts their performance. This guy wasn't here to present data, but everything he said rang true to my experiences in dealing with public education, even in a fairly affluent, mostly white suburb.

Jan. 28 2012 09:06 AM
sergio from rio

Educate our children are to learn them the morals values,to form caracther,to have virtues,to respect others of all cultural diversity,to don't have racism ,and don't have preconscentual to others.Strong values are a lacks of our modern times.I wish the teachers and ,people of educated areas known this and not only knowlkedge areas or technology areas,but a kind of quality humans that we formate for the future.

Nov. 28 2011 07:33 AM
mike from reality

was that jackie childs , kramer's lawyer from seinfeld??

Nov. 22 2011 11:24 PM
Faith from NYC

Not a single "fact" that "Dr." Perry cites is backed up by a statistic. Every story involving evil unions and bad teachers and schools being shut down by unions (huh? unions don't shut down schools - school boards do) was anecdotal. Dr. Perry if you want to be at all credible in your fantastic claims, back them up with verifiable evidence!

Nov. 22 2011 08:07 PM

I couldn't believe how unchallenged this guy went. While he seemed/sounded semi-incredulous, Mr. Lehrer didn't challenge his guest, though to be fair anyone who would challenge him over the phone (most teachers I imagine) was too busy teaching to listen to the program. What NYC teacher would get time off in the middle of the day to promote their book on a radio show? None!

All Mr. Perry (the only people with doctorates who insist on being called Dr. seem to be principals...according to the logic of some things he said in his interview, is he a Dr. for whom it didn't work out) did was talk and talk and talk...the kind of guy who thinks he's won an argument just because no one feels like listening to him anymore.

However, Mr. Perry's book is heartily recommended by none other than the noted intellectual and educational reformer *cough* I mean former comedian Steve Harvey. Just check out Amazon. Who can go wrong with a book Steve Harvey likes?

Nov. 22 2011 07:56 PM
Richard from NYC

Mr. Perry is a savvy talker and would make a fine lawyer or professional argumenter. As a principal, he seems awful....a self-loving bully who talks and talks and talks and doesn't listen. What a shame.

Nov. 22 2011 07:51 PM

I doubt that many teachers quit after a few years because of unions, or because of testing. This has been studied and covered by reporters and documentarians. They quit because they are badly treated by administration in big and small ways. It's an incredibly complex job, and generally new teachers have been mostly on their own, although this is changing in many places.

And in small ways...for example when I started at a large high school in San Francisco the chair behind the teacher desk was about fifty years old, falling apart, and tilting to the side. I requested a new one, and got a filthy, rusty old metal and plastic cafeteria type chair in its place. This was just a typical example of the administration's attitude to their employees, not to mention students. The principal's private office was somehow quite nice. To be fair, Perry does also bitch about lousy principals, of which there are no doubt still many.

Outside big cities picking a school for your child may be more than an inconvenience. Who can drive a half hour in the opposite direction from their job to get your child to the perfect school, where any friends they make will live twenty miles away, and then drive the other kids to their various schools? Do they call cab to get home at the end of the day?

All schools should be good. The idea that each child is some totally unique being that needs a school that caters to their particular set of needs and interests and particular preferred "learning style" is ridiculous.

Nov. 22 2011 05:30 PM
Jamie from NYC

What a talker. Very intune with todays politics.
Non stop BS'r, knows and suggests nothing specific that has a chance of working on scale, he would make a great fortune teller and I bet he would make a lousy teacher.

He should look into politics or philosophy.

Nov. 22 2011 03:53 PM
dale from brooklyn

Teachers are subject to the winds of change. In one fell swoop a great teacher can suddenly become a bad teacher because a new administration blows through, and doesn't like them or a new teaching method is instituted because some new big shot at the top decides now everyone is going to do "this", next year, do "that". The people who decide to make these changes are usually not in the classroom and don't know what the teachers are dealing with on a daily basis but are very fond on telling teachers what to do and judging them against their arbitrary standards. The unions provide some protections for teachers.

Nov. 22 2011 01:38 PM
$20,000 per child, $600K per class from Where does the money go ? Let's see the pie chart!

NYC spends $20,000 per student per year.
For a class of 30, that's $600,000 per class
per year.

Where does this money go ?
Let's see a pie chart of the major areas.

The teacher probably only gets 10-15 %
(60 - 90 k per year).

The building has been bought and paid for decades ago by public works projects.

Is it going to copyrighted works ? If so, NYC's school system should write it's own
public domain textbooks and teaching materials.

Is it going to administration and bureaucracy ? If so, perhaps it's better to decentralize and hold teachers responsible for results (including improvement), rather than micromanaging them.

Is it going to cozy deals with private contractors ? Many school janitors are paid more than their teachers. This is inefficient and it is wrong. It sends the wrong message to children about the value of education. If genuine competitive bidding isn't feasible, then it may be cheaper for the city to directly employ people for needed maintenance. Reduced centralization and bureaucracy may also help here. Let local schools make local decisions. Let local teachers make local decisions regarding their classrooms.

Where does the money go ?

Let's see a pie chart with the numbers.
We have a right to know.

Brian, perhaps you could do a special on this ?

Nov. 22 2011 01:35 PM
Improving education+reducing poverty&unemployment from Innovative solutions to public policy

Here's a way to :

(1) improve childhood education
(2) improve the living standards/stability/economic security of poor households.
(3) reduce unemployment by creating meaningful and stable jobs.
(4) increase the time parents can spend with their kids.
(5) give children strong incentives to study,
and parents strong incentives to become
heavily involved in ensuring that their
children learn.

Allow a child's parent to teach them from a public school curiculum as a full time job.

NYC spends over $20,000 per child per year.

A comparable amount should be made available to a parent who choses to teach his/her own child from the same public school curriculum.

Payment and ongoing employment as a parent-teacher should be contingent on results. If a child does above the public school average, both the child and the parent-teacher should get a bonus. If the child consistently performs poorly, the parent-teacher should be fired and
the child returned to the public school system.

NYC spends about 20,000 per child per year. If a parent of 2 could choose to provide a comparable education for a comparable price - as a full time job -
this would give the family about 40,000 per year - enough to lift them out of poverty.
According to the 2009 HHS Poverty guidelines, the poverty-line income level per year for a family of four is *22,050* , and for a single parent family with one child is *14,570*.

Children would be highly motivated to study - knowing that it is making an
immediate significant difference in their family's practical well being and security.

Clearly, it is easier to learn when your practical life isn't in immediate
and constant crisis.

Nov. 22 2011 01:25 PM
emjayay from Brooklyn

Some customer reviews of his previous two books on Amazon mention that they are full of grammar and spelling errors. Haven't read them myself, someone suggested below, mayb Brian Lehrer should have.

Nov. 22 2011 01:10 PM
emjayay from Brooklyn

I tried finding out exactly what Perry is a doctor of, as a commenter suggested. Sorry, but couldn't find it. Every website connected with him is about how awesome he is, but nowhere is there anything about his Phd - where from, in what, what did his dissertation cover. Nothing. The only biographical fact (with no explanation)is that he grew up poor. Nothing about his experience as an educator either.

One site was touting his upcoming bestseller book. That's right, his latest book is a bestseller before even being published. Beat that. He is also a motivational speaker, meaning that unlike almost every other principal in the country, he makes a whole bunch of money revving up convention or corporate crowds in addition to his pay as principal.

He could possibly be great at his job with no teaching experience and a GED, but the level of unattributed hype and lack of real information about him is interesting. And of course not questioned in any way by Brian Lehrer.

Nov. 22 2011 12:51 PM
emjayay from Brooklyn

For the commenters who are challenging the "everyone is going to college thing", this Perry guy notwithstanding, it is in general a good idea. Poorer kids in this country with uneducated parents (or parent, or grandparent) often grow up in an environment where going to school is an afterthought, and being serious about education or even entertain or imagine the idea of going to college is not in the picture.

Even if you grew up poor, you (NPR listener) probably did not grow up like that. Schools like KIPP schools try to establish an educational environment and behaviors that would be a given in more educated or education oriented homes.

Nov. 22 2011 12:21 PM
emjayay from Brooklyn

This interview with Dr. Perry was yet another complete failure by Brian Lehrer, who once again did not challenge the interviee about any of his, as far as anyone can tell, completely unsupported allegations about teachers and teacher unions. He could be right about everything or wrong about everything - who knows? He was never challenged to support any allegations with any verifiable facts.

Same thing with a caller who said the unions shut down some fabulous charter school because it was non-union. Really? What school? When? Is there another side to the story? We'll never know, because Brian Lehrer did not challenge her or follow up in any way.

I taught in high schools in San Francisco until eight years ago. No one ever kept me from having lunch in my classroom and inviting any student to work and get help during that time, which I did every day. Or come in during my prep period if that worked out. When there was an employment issue, the union turned out to be more in bed with the administration than interested in representing me and enforcing the requirements of their contract.

By the way, welcoming immigrants from all over the world may be a value of this country, but that statue in the harbor isn't actually "saying"that. The "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses" stuff referred to by Perry is from a poem by local poet Emma Lazarus written three years before the statue was dedicated and largely forgotten about for the next twenty years.

Nov. 22 2011 12:10 PM
John from Inwood

Maybe his book is more enlightening, but during this segment Mr. Perry offered nothing to support his arguments other than ad hominem attacks based on his own biased observations. And how rich that such a shameless self-promoter accuses those toiling in the trenches of being in it for themselves.

Brian, your listeners deserve better.

Nov. 22 2011 12:02 PM
William from Manhattan

Note to producers: Maybe a little more due diligence would be appropriate. Just a little googling turns up some seamy information about Dr Steve and CNN: CNN ambushed my public school today ( Can we expect Fox commentators next, with no serious interviewing?

Nov. 22 2011 11:55 AM

Brian, if you're going to allow your guests to angrily spew anecdotes, false spin, and selective presentation of facts, couldn't you at least be a good host and bone up on these issues? Not in the interest of unions, teachers, or any one else, but simply in the quest for truth?

When Perry describes the bad or non-functioning parts of schools, he could be describing any endeavor or business, from schools to Wall Street to the K-Mart.

My opinion is, unions are a good thing, they're here to stay, and one important function of unions is to protect their members from anti-teacher zealots like Mr. Perry.

Nov. 22 2011 11:53 AM
Edward from NJ

This is how you can convince me that a charter school is actually doing a better job than a regular public school:

1) Set up the school.
2) Announce a lottery to get in.
3) Choose the student body from children who's parents *didn't* sign them up for the lottery.
4) Educate those children well.

Nov. 22 2011 11:52 AM
Joe from nearby

Where does your school get its FUNDING from? Taxes?
If so, does your school have to follow the same rules a public school does? Or do you get to 'have your cake & eat it too,' i.e. take public funding, ignore public rules.

Nov. 22 2011 11:47 AM
Edward from NJ

I'm guessing that a key factor in his magnet school's success is that he can have students removed to their district schools if they cause any problems.

Nov. 22 2011 11:44 AM

If this guy has a point it's hard to hear it past his "rap".

Sounds like a bunch of self-serving hype to me.

Nov. 22 2011 11:44 AM
Jeff in NYC from NY

Rarely have I felt so inspired to allow myself to be reduced to name calling. Dr. Perry (please check his credentials) may think he knows what he's talking about, but he is woefully unaware of reality, apparently residing in a fantasy land he likes to describe as fact. Having grown up with a mother who taught in one of the best school districts in NY, having 3 close friends who went to the trouble of getting a teaching degree (for a lower paying job) and then dropped out of teaching after 2 years or less, and having several close friends who are public school teachers who perservere notwithstanding the sad state of affairs in their school systems, I am well aware of the failings in our public education system, and the government responsible for, and the administration running, these schools are at the very least equally -- and in most cases more -- culpable for the difficulties schools face.

He's compromised, he just doesn't know it.

Nov. 22 2011 11:44 AM
RJ from prospect hts

It's easy to say "the most skilled," but to teach them what? To be widgets? To challenge the hierarchy and paradigm of study? To be the most creative? Pre-Giuliani there were noncharter experimental schools that he made impossible to survive.

It's easy to throw out cliches like "the most skilled": harder to define.

Overworked teachers cannot teach well. Has he checked into the history of preferential and punished teachers that predated unionization? Aspects of union contracts may need fixing, but the basic idea of protecting teachers against retribution has not changed in its history.

Nov. 22 2011 11:43 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

"Happy" and this "feels good"???

What nonsense. I've encountered "feel good" private schools where the kids learned basically NOTHING. It's much more than feel good.

Nov. 22 2011 11:43 AM
Mike from Manhattan

This food did make a good point, teachers are paid to teach. Not to be clinical psychologists, family therapists or drug rehabilitation therapists. The great problems with American education began when the politicians decided that since all kids in this society go to school, the school should be responsible for all curing all the problems of our society. Schools need to focus on education. The school day is too short, the school year is too short. Teachers who are in schools where they can focus on teaching, not family therapy, have a chance to be successful, and usually remain in the profession. Unfortunately, that situation is becoming increasingly rare.

Nov. 22 2011 11:42 AM

Who is this guy, anyway?

"Dr." of what, exactly??

Nov. 22 2011 11:41 AM
ml from inwood

If your ideas are right, how can you explain that many charter school faculties are choosing to unionize?

Nov. 22 2011 11:41 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

Clearly, from his answers, Mr.Perry is one of these Principals who shouldn't be there

Nov. 22 2011 11:40 AM
KM from NY, NY

Seriously Brian, this guy is giving me a headache. He is so angry. Anger & fustration -- that's all that's getting across. I had to lower my radio. Perhaps he could learn to relay his message in a more composed (possibly soothing) voice for the radio. His message could then be heard. He sounds hysterical right now.

Nov. 22 2011 11:39 AM
pivers from manhattan

Perry sounds like a zealot. Of course there are problems with the Teachers Union but it is far from the only problem and it is unfair to blame them for everything. My experience with teaching, the problems have often come from management with "new initiatives" like whole language. I am curious...when was the last time Perry taught?

Nov. 22 2011 11:39 AM
ml from inwood

If your ideas are right, how can you explain that many charter school faculties are choosing to unionize?

Nov. 22 2011 11:39 AM
manny from westchester

Maybe it isn't enough to blame one side or the other.

Nov. 22 2011 11:39 AM
RJ from prospect hts.

I'm sorry, but this guy does not know what he's talking about. My father was a teacher, my aunt was a teacher, my cousin is a teach, close friends of mine have recently been teachers, and the only resemblance to reality that this guy is conveying is that too many teachers leave under the pressures teachers have to live with these days. My goddaughter is in a charter school. A friend of mine tried slightly different ways of teaching and it's her principal who called her out over the PA system. My goddaughter is in a lovely school that can't expand next year because of Dept of Ed screwups. It is the top-down absurd priorities of the cookie-cutter, widget-producers is the dominant paradigm.

Teachers at several charter schools have organized because of overwork conditions and have been fought tooth and nail.

Nov. 22 2011 11:38 AM
Chad from UWS

Brian can you ask your guest this "If you could make the Union rules, scratching what has been established but keeping the Union what would you chagne?" I wonder how we can work with the Unions.

Nov. 22 2011 11:37 AM
Edward from NJ

If the principal is adversarial, the unions will be adversarial. Unions only get into CYA mode in schools that are already deeply disfunctional. As much as Perry wants to deny it, the 17 hours of the day that kids aren't in school do matter.

Nov. 22 2011 11:37 AM
NIcole from NYC

The first commenter has it right. Dr. Perry is using anecdote, not facts, when it comes to discussing unions and standardized tests. It is unfortunate that he could put across his assertions without being asked for the data.

Nov. 22 2011 11:37 AM
William from Manhattan

I must protest - this guest has opinions, not knowledge. He is delivering slogans and message points, not a reasoned argument. I pity his pupils, and wonder how he got anointed as an authority. I am disappointed that the show is helping to publicize him.

Nov. 22 2011 11:37 AM
Jim B

How on earth does a union shut down a school?

Nov. 22 2011 11:37 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Dude, STOP yelling!

Nov. 22 2011 11:37 AM
Amy from Manhattan

The teachers I've known & heard complain about what gets in the way of their teaching effectively have blamed the school administrations, or sometimes the requirement to teach to a standardized test. I don't remember hearing any of them blame teachers' unions.

Even aside from that, Dr. Perry is overgeneralizing in most of his statements--always a warning sign.

Nov. 22 2011 11:37 AM
wanda b from nyc

Perry's allegations about teachers are utterly inaccurate and offensive to the majority of people who teach in our schools.
He should see AMERICAN TEACHER -- a new film about terrific young teachers who love their work -- several of whom were forced to leave teaching for financial and other reasons.
Teaching is hard work, intense and not for the faint of heart.

Nov. 22 2011 11:36 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

Teaching only for tests is NOT education. End of story.

Go crawl back under your rock, Mr.Perry.

Nov. 22 2011 11:35 AM
mick from NYC

This person is a self-serving parasite who has made a career by attacking unions--an always popular approach among the right wing.

Nov. 22 2011 11:35 AM
former tch from ny

I think he implied his own credentials as an educator well when he blamed "cowardice [sic] politicans''.

Nov. 22 2011 11:34 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

It's not a parent's job to help their child learn?
Poverty and a child's home life doesn't effect their ability to learn? Talk about a disconnect.

I also agree with Hazel - the whole "every child should go to college" mantra is a huge detriment to learning and a child or student's growth. There are so many professions that don't fit into a standard college education, many very fulfilling.

Nov. 22 2011 11:34 AM

The schools take weeks to prepare for the standardized tests. How can Perry say they have no impact on teaching?

Nov. 22 2011 11:33 AM
Michael from Hicksville

I work in Health Care and we deal with very much the same problems. 1199 is the biggest impediment to quality patient care. I was repremand by 1199 for giving a diabetic patient a meal when it wasn't my job.

Nov. 22 2011 11:33 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

...and so Mr.Perry loses all credibility when he says that standardized tests have nothing to do with what is wrong with the school system today.

"Nothing"? Really? Seriously? You, Mr.Perry are clearly just an idealogue with nothing new or informative to say.

Nov. 22 2011 11:32 AM
sheila from nyc

What??? This guy is a wacko and even worse, a liar. You cannot file a grievance against another teacher--this is simply bull. And the idea that the union rep goes and tells you what you can and cannot do--obviously he has no experience with the UFT, that usually doesn't even bother to enforce the contract, let alone have a union rep who bosses you around. What a crock.

Nov. 22 2011 11:32 AM

Does Steve Perry have anything to support his argument beside anecdote. And can he even support his anecdotes, or like most conservatives, is he just making this up (the Bachmann-Perry-Gingrich approach).

"Most people who have issues with standardized tests have never even read a standardized test."

Does ANYBODY believe that idiotic assertion?

On teacher attrition rates, does Perry take ANY account of students entering Teach for America or similar programs with the _intention_ of leaving after three or four years?

Perry is sounding like a _bad_, ill-informed version of Joel Klein or Arne Duncan. Pathetic. Disgusting.

Nov. 22 2011 11:32 AM
Marc from nyc

I really hope this isn't another "interview" where the guest is given free reign to say whatever he wants, with out critical analysis. As a teacher, this guy clearly has no idea what goes on in schools or the classroom.

Nov. 22 2011 11:31 AM
Berry from LES

So ok, let's say the unions are terrible. So let's have reform in the unions but isn't getting rid of them detrimental to society?

Nov. 22 2011 11:28 AM
Hazel from New Jersey

There is absolutely nothing revolutionary or even new about Perry's ideas. In fact his charter school's philosophy that every child will go to college is what is outdated. We need to get away from idea that EVERYBODY has to go to college - or has to go right after high school. This is a major fallacy and is turning our schools - including colleges - into educational factories.

Nov. 22 2011 10:29 AM
Brenda from New York City

I will be listening raptly to Dr. Perry. My fervent wish is that we can take adult special interest out of the education formula. Students are obscenely short-changed today. There is simply no defense to having college freshmen in remedial classes.

Nov. 22 2011 09:47 AM

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