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.