Steve Perry is the principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut and also a regular education commentator on various TV programs. He also recently published a book called Push Has Come to Shove. On Thursday, September 5, 2013, I attended a Teacher Town Hall in Los Angeles where Steve was a panelist.
The panelists promised that they would answer all questions, even if there wasn’t time during the actual Town Hall. There wasn’t time for my question, but they stayed true to their promise and I received a video response to my question several days ago.
My question was: “Charter schools were initially created to be a learning lab for educational innovation but we all know that best practices are not disseminated in a way that actually effects macro, systemic change. What do you think are the barriers to authentic collaboration across school leaders?”
Steve Perry’s response is below:
So why aren’t people collaborating? Perry chalks it up to ego. Though his school has regularly been one of the top-performing schools in Hartford, he has only had one other local school leader visit him. He said, “We exist, not just from school to school within a silo, but within a school, within a silo.” Indeed, as a former educator, I can certainly recall working with teachers who were hesitant to let anyone into their own classroom, afraid that they would be judged or that their secrets would be revealed. However, that gets us nowhere.
Perry goes on to say, “We as educators owe it to ourselves to look for best practices wherever they may be. Every single person has something they can learn from another school.” I agree! This is precisely why Schools That Can exists! We know that there are school leaders and educators doing miraculous work with children every day. The challenge then is finding those bright spots and scaling their impact. At STC, we work to identify those pockets of excellence cross sector; we have district, charter, independent, and faith-based schools that prove that the achievement gap can be closed. We then create opportunities for educators to authentically learn from and collaborate with one another. We support the identification, dissemination, and implementation of best practices across cities and the nation because we believe that all students deserve an excellent education and we cannot make that happen if we continue to operate within silos.
The Town Halls function as open Q & A sessions. At the event in LA, audience questions touched on topics about dropouts, school choice, common core, union involvement, student voice, and more. These Town Halls are being held in cities across the country in hopes of facilitating “open and honest conversation about what we can do to improve the quality of education for all kids.” In addition to Los Angeles, Teacher Town Halls have been hosted in Birmingham and Philadelphia.
The other panelists in these events are Michelle Rhee and George Parker. Michelle Rhee was the Chancellor of the DC Public Schools and is now the founder and CEO of Students First, a national nonprofit fighting for education reform. George Parker was the president of the DC Teachers’ Union when Rhee was Chancellor and while their views didn’t always align, they successfully collaborated and have forged a strong working relationship. George is now a Senior Fellow at Students First.
These public conversations are effectively encouraging dialogue around challenges and successes inherent in educational reform work. At STC, we believe deeply in the importance and the power of authentic cross-sector collaboration. In 2012, we hosted 116 events across our 15 cities, bringing together more than 160 school leaders to support each other in continual improvement. We are eager to expand our reach and grow our supports in 2013-14.