When is 36 Percent equal to Near Zero Percent?

When Capital Preparatory Magnet School’s principal Steve Perry says it is.

Calling himself “America’s Most Wanted Educator,” Steve Perry serves as the principal of Hartford’s Capital Preparatory Magnet School.  Traveling around the nation, on TV and radio and in his books, he talks about the extraordinary success of his “tough love” form of education.

While never revealing that his public school completely fails to take on its fair share of students who are not fluent in English or students who require special education services, he often talks about the fact that he is nearly 100 percent successful in getting poor, minority students through high school and into a four-year college.

Without checking the accuracy of his statements, media outlets and observers take his claims as fact.  For example;

“Perry’s demanding approach has yielded big results. The school…boasts a near 0 percent dropout rate.” – CNN

“Steve Perry has emerged as a voice for change. He is the founder of Capital Preparatory Magnet School, a public school in Hartford renowned for a near zero percent dropout rate…” – The Root Magazine

“Capital Preparatory Magnet School is considered one of the best high schools in the nation with a zero dropout rate” – Journal-Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“One of my favorite contributors to CNN is Steve Perry. He is principal of Capital Prep Magnet School… He boasts a near zero percent drop out rate.” – Mark Maiewski, “Virginia’s leading college planning authority”

So what are the facts?

The State of Connecticut tracks two key indicators of student connection with primary and secondary education.  Enrollment and dropout rate.   Enrollment is the number of students, tracked by grade, attending classes in a given school.  Dropout rate is the number of students, by grade, who leave school and are not enrolled in another school or GED program.

If a student actually “drops out” their connection with getting an education is severed.

As the data reveals, many students, especially in charter schools, don’t “dropout” but return to the public school system.  As is often the case, they are pushed out or counseled out, thereby leaving the charter schools with the “type of students” the school wants to educate.

So what about Steve Perry’s “near zero” dropout rate?

Capital Preparatory Magnet School’s Class of 2011 “graduated” 28 students.  Four years earlier, that class began with 43 students.  That is an enrollment decline of about 35 percent.  More than one-third of the students left or were pushed out of the program during their time at Capital Prep.

And this was after they had gone through a complex application and lottery process to get into Capital Prep in the first place.

These children didn’t “dropout” because they landed back in Hartford’s regular district schools.

Capital Prep’s Class of 2010 began with 40 students.  It ended with 29.  Steve Perry says that is a 0 percent dropout rate.

And the data reveals the same story year after year.

Word is that Perry will no longer serve as a commentator for CNN, but you can bet that he will continue to claim that losing a third of his students equals a zero percent dropout rate.

It is called “education reform speak.”

And few, even in the media, are willing to point out that it is a language in which the truth is frowned upon.

  • Luther

    Very similar to the way the state calculates accuracy of voting machines after the post-election audit. Any town with high differences between the hand count and the original machine count is asked if they thought the difference was a hand count error. If so the difference is counted as zero, then averaged in with the rest of the counts that are near zero to compute the average error.


  • Sue

    I wrote this diary over at DailyKos after Steve visited our school. It went right to the recommended list. Here’s the linkie and a short excerpt:


    …….Which is probably how we attracted the attention of CNN’s Dr. Steve Perry.

    Our school is a small formerly ‘failing/priority’ elementary school
    located in an urban Connecticut city. We had a bump in our test scores last year and are temporarily on ‘safe haven’ – a short and welcome reprieve from the microscope.

    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.solutions.

    Dr. 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 inorder to promote both himself and CNN.
    Until then, he’s just an attack journalist – with no cred.

    • jonpelto

      Will add to my post – thanks so much!

      Sent from my BlackBerry please excuss typos

    • suesylvester

      Oh yeah when Perry “goes off” he is STREET AND YOU FEEL IT…

    • suesylvester

      Yep that’s Perry…he can sell it but he can’t service it.

  • suesylvester

    Perry is very charismatic when he wants to be. We were sucked in for a short time…but we did not just go back to public we were indirectly asked to leave…while not really coming out and saying it. I would get calls that my kids was “too smart” and needed to not talk. When my child fell ill they simply did not service her…Perry is a very good old school “used car sales man” Professional salesmen deliver what they sell…Perry does not.

  • suesylvester

    Listening to Perry in “Save My Son” I would say that is his passion – motivational speaking – he lost that passion as a Principal and was ineffective but seeing him “find” himself again is nice. That is “who” Perry was before he was a Principal…very effective.

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  • cindy

    I wonder what the motive is for the media protecting these stories and others related to the reality of the direction of Education? Not sure. I know they have a slant – because we know real reporting no longer exists – but what is their angle?

  • This man is the ultimate phony–anyone who touts their own horn isn’t very impressive–and this is what this clown does–when others of all ilk tout your horn then you just might matter and really make a difference–I am embarrassed for educators in CT when I hear this guy talk on TV–please go away–Tom

  • educationmatters

    The “Sheff Center” may contain books, but not a single one can be checked out or used by students. But that doesn’t stop Martha Stone from holding meetings in the school. And since Sarah Eagen, Child Advocate for the state, worked for her for years, don’t expect any assistance from that area.