Educator, Author and CNN’s go-to Education expert, Dr. Steve Perry has made it his mission to transform the educational experience for all children in America. As a featured segment on Anderson Cooper 360 with “Perry’s Principles” and in his forthcoming novel “Push Has Come to Shove”
Dr. Steve Perry talks with CL’s Felicia Mancini on what grade he gives President Obama to why Hip Hop will help save students.
FELICIA : When did your passion start for education? Did you wake up as a kid and decided that you wanted to be in classrooms in some form or another for your whole life?
DR. PERRY: When I was a little kid, I wanted to play for the Dallas Cowboys. As I got older, I wanted to be a politician. Then I had a couple internships with senators and realized a lot of people were “all talk” and no action and it wasn’t for me. I wanted to be on the front lines. I decided to get a masters in social work from the University of Pennsylvania and became the director of a homeless shelter. However, wanted to prevent people from ending up in homeless in the first place and realized the only way to mitigate poverty is through education so I decided to start a school. Currently, at Capital Prep, where I am the principal, 100% of our seniors graduate and go on to 4 year colleges.
You have worked alongside countless individuals from rappers to politicians to enforce the importance of education for our youth, what do you think is absolutely pivotal to the success of our students?
DR. PERRY: We must believe in kids enough to give them the kind of education that we would want our own children to have. We know how to run successful schools. It’s through engaging the students with compelling curriculum, challenging and supporting them emotionally, intellectually. We can’t get them a hodgepodge, we have to give them the best.
How do you reach a generation of technology and often limited resources?
DR. PERRY: Resources aren’t as limited as people think. Kids know how to use the internet. The digital divide ain’t that big. 70% of my students are below the poverty line but a good majority of them have smart phones with internet access. Integrating technology in the classroom engages kids and we should be on the forefront of it.
FELICIA : How do we begin to fix our schools?
DR. PERRY: We know what works – longer school days, longer school years, teachers that are engaging and love and teach kids as they would their own. We have to give kids access to choice schools. Everyone must be able to choose where they go to school. It’s illegal and unconstitutional to have kids go to failed schools. Only poor kids and prisoners are forced to attend bad schools so it’s no surprised that many poor kids end up in prison.
FELICIA : If you had to grade President Obama on his progress with education what would you give him?
DR. PERRY: B- because he has made some significant missteps by not actively supporting former DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee last year. He didn’t support DC vouchers even though families and communities in the area supported it. Those are the negatives but here are some positives: He has gone harder than any other Democrat to further school reform initiatives. The way he incorporated change through Race to The Top is brilliant.
FELICIA : Any parting words for the readers and students on Concrete Loop?
DR. PERRY Hip hop needs to stand up and be heard in the political arena – in schools! By design, hip hop is a literary, creative, intellectual endeavor. Smart people rhyme really well. A lot of hip hop stories are about being down on the system and the system is usually schools. Look at Biggie’s “Juicy” which he dedicated to teachers who didn’t believe in him. People in hip hop need to be aware of their powerful public image. When rappers are clever and smart, they can make a positive difference for future generations and change the way our kids are educated and we can close the achievement gap.
For more on Dr. Steve Perry follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/drsteveperry or to pre-order his book “ Push Has Come To Shove” go to www.dr-steveperry.com