Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Model to Replicate?

One of the phrases we hear constantly in the debate about education reform, particularly with regard to privatizing public education, is "replicating successful models."

Those of us who went to business school recognize the lingo. And those of us who studied statistics (instead of the calculus that the edreformers want to foist on every single child today because STEM! STEM! STEM!) also recognize that the "success" of such models usually are the result of significantly lower percentage of ELL and SPED students served. In some cases the "successful" models are the subject of lawsuits because they are failing to follow the law regarding special education services.

But many others have written about that. My topic today is a different kind of modeling - modeling behavior.

When I was growing up, my parents had this poem on the wall in our bathroom:

Dorothy Law Nolte

If a child lives with criticism,
he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
he learns to fight.
If a child lives with fear,
he learns to be apprehensive.
If a child lives with pity,
he learns to feel sorry for himself.
If a child lives with ridicule,
he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with jealousy,
he learns what envy is.
If a child lives with shame,
he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with encouragement,
he learns to be confident.
If a child lives with tolerance,
he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with praise,
he learns to be appreciative.
If a child lives with acceptance,
he learns to love.
If a child lives with approval,
he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with recognition,
he learns that it is good to have a goal.
If a child lives with sharing,
he learns about generosity.
If a child lives with honesty and fairness,
he learns what truth and justice are.
If a child lives with security,
he learns to have faith in himself and in those about him.
If a child lives with friendliness,
he learns that the world is a nice place in which to live.
If you live with serenity,
your child will live with peace of mind.

As you can imagine, when something is on the wall in the bathroom, you end up reading it a LOT. Growing up, I read that poem over and over from a child - and then a teenager's perspective. I guess some of it must have sunk in, because as a parent, I know that I can say something till I'm blue in the face, but my kids are watching how I behave. "Do as I say, not as I do" isn't an effective parenting strategy. We have to model the behavior we want to see from our kids.

Which is why I am completely and utterly gobsmacked that anyone on the Hartford Board of Education would even consider putting another educational institution in the hands of a man like Steven Perry. He has a long history of reprehensible behavior: comparing teachers to roaches , calling noted education historian Diane Ravitch a racist, and last night, after the Hartford Board of Education thankfully voted against taking the the Sand School away from the parents and students and giving it to Perry to manage under a private company he set up to profit from public funds, he resorted to issuing threats.

Really Mr. Perry? Is that healthy modeling for teenagers? If you don't get your way you resort to head injuries? I think you should be in anger management classes, rather than guiding teenagers at a school.

It's no wonder that the teacher turnover rate at Capital Prep is so abysmal.

Chart courtesy of: JerseyJazzman

I'm not sure why this man has the following he has. But he is certainly not an example of someone I would want my children to emulate.

UPDATED: According to a late, obviously reluctant piece in the Hartford Courant, Perry is now trying to claim that his tweet was a "metaphor"

Perry, a public speaker and author who has frequently lambasted teachers' unions, said that the statement was "a metaphor about hard struggle" and called the ensuing controversy "troubling."

"There's no one mentioned, inferred or discussed at any point in the entire stream," he said. "This is simply an attempt by some people to take the focus off the very important issue at hand, which is to make sure Hartford … gets access to greater quality education by any means necessary.

"It's very, very sad to me that amidst all of the very, very real issues in education … someone's talking about my tweets," he said. "A metaphor. I could've said, 'It's going to be a bumpy ride.' I was being irreverent. It was a joke."

Perry said that the message was a general statement.

"It is not related to the vote," he said. "It is related to an ongoing fight for kids' rights."

Firstly, I think Mr. Perry should go back and take some remedial literature courses, so he actually understands how to properly use metaphor.

But even if we give him the benefit of the doubt here, which anyone who read his tweets in context would have an extremely hard time doing - it still begs the question - would this be an appropriate "metaphor" for the Principal of a school to use?

That the Hartford BOE, and State BOE don't appear to realize this, and have been sitting on their hands during Perry's previous incidents of inappropriate behavior is really astonishing. It makes one wonder what is going on behind the scenes and why they are so invested in such a troubled man.


  1. Thank you for this nuanced and courageous piece. Aside from stuffing money in his pockets at an astonishing rate at the expense of students, the only thing Stephen Perry has been able to replicated is venomous invective, vile mean spiritedness, bombastic self-aggrandizement, and vitriolic ranting.

  2. When Steve brought his cameras to our school, he was so aggressive he made a seasoned teacher cry. Yesterday we we awarded an award by the Lone Pine Foundation. That's because we perform.

    1. He is a bully. That's why I cannot for the life of me understand why Hartford BOE would want to "replicate" his model, particularly for young people. Surely that is the exact OPPOSITE of the behavior we are trying to model for our youth.

  3. the phrase "strap on" is particularly troubling. It's referring to putting on a holstered weapon. It presents "head injuries" in a different light.