Brash, bold, passionate, poignant, and unapologetic are just a few adjectives that describe the principal of Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut. What do you call a man whose interests lay in education reform, revamping the teachers’ union, and the well being and success of all students? You call him, Dr. Steve Perry. Who can be seen on MSNBC and on CNN as an education contributor on your local cable channels.
Dr. Perry tells a story of two young men who grow-up in the same neighborhood. Both dream of success but they take different paths to reach it. Both young men realize their school system does not foster success. One quits school while the other continues onto college. The two remain friends but one settles for the street life. When money runs out for college, the young man goes to the dean angry about the prospect of his future. The dean helps the young man with the understanding he is to help someone else. This is Dr. Perry, helping students to achieve their success.
In the novel,“Push has come to shove,” Dr. Perry explains how education works in America. In elementary school, test scores are closer to those of international students. “We start to lose most of our children around middle school.” Why is that? Dr. Perry believes there are a number of factors that affect this shift politics, teachers’ union, students, and a need for new teaching methodologies. American students can’t keep up with international students in test scores even in the suburbs.
School politics can be found in two areas 1) the school board and 2) the teachers’ union. Quite simply put, “It is hard to get rid of bad teachers.” It can take upto two years to get rid of a non-effective teacher. The union protects the teacher’s job but not the student. If a good teacher volunteers their time to help a student, without pay, this is a violation of union rules. Teachers are to be paid extra for helping students beyond their 6 ½ hour work day and for facilitating any after school activities. Dr. Perry sees good teachers as being limited by union rules. The union also has the power to help place certain political candidates into office that will protect their interest.
The second from of politics is the school board. Parents have to join forces to encourage school board members to listen and make changes. Dr. Perry suggests using an internet representative. On the day the school board meets, all parents privy to the concerns should show up as one. Getting a high school diploma is a contract between parents and the school. The student should know how to read, write, and do math upon graduation. “It is not the parent’s fault if the student can’t read.” It is the teacher’s fault. Students come to school to learn. Teach them. This is why parents should know their schools' principal. It is the principal who sets the school's vision and builds a team that will ensure students' success.
“You cannot make a bad teacher into a good teacher.” A bad teacher is a bad teacher just as a good teacher is a good teacher. Dr. Perry believes a person is born with it. A good teacher is always teaching even when she is not at school. When a school has a bad teacher, he or she is sent to another school. This is called, “Dance of the lemon.” It takes too long to get rid of a bad teacher so he or she is moved elsewhere. Students know when they have a bad teacher.
Students are in need of a new teaching methodology. Everything cannot be taught in the classroom. Students need to go out and explore and apply what they are learning. Dr. Perry is all for visiting foreign countries via satellite. Students should be able to visit a Chinese classroom.
Dr. Perry believes a student’s success comes from the student’s will no matter what circumstances he or she comes from. Success is not incumbent on the student’s ethnicity, background, or social economics. The student reaches beyond his or her circumstances to do better. These types of students are not perfect, they just make choices. They make more right decisions than they do wrong.
“Push has come to shove” by Dr. Steve Perry is a must read. He gives understanding to the “why questions” in the educational system as well as some possible solutions. He points out the difference between making a living and making a life. “When you make a living, you pay bills. When you make a life, you pay a debt.” Good read.