Hartford-to-Harlem Charter School Faces Critics Back Home

Print More

The Capital Prep website. Compared to other Hartford schools, Capital Prep performs very well. When stacked against schools statewide that are more similar demographically, it excels in some areas and lags in others.

Capital Preparatory Magnet School

The Capital Prep website. Compared to other Hartford schools, Capital Prep performs very well. When stacked against schools statewide that are more similar demographically, it excels in some areas and lags in others.

As an author, CNN and MSNBC educational correspondent, host of TV One’s Save My Son and founder of the Hartford, Conn., Capital Preparatory Magnet School, Steve Perry has built himself into an educational brand, referring to himself as “the most trusted educator in America.” He is set to bring that brand to New York City, a charter school in West Harlem set to open this August.

Boasting nearly perfect graduation rates and a 100 percent college acceptance rate, Perry and Capital Prep seemingly dispel the notion that poverty and minority racial status equate to low academic standing.

But critics in the Nutmeg State have charged Perry, who holds a master’s in social work and a doctorate in education, with exaggerating Capital Prep’s accomplishments. For the most part, the naysayers have taken issue not with the metrics of Capital Prep’s educational success, but with Perry’s characterization of the population it is serving.

“There are serious accountability problems,” says Jon Pelto a former member of the Connecticut House of Representatives and educational blogger.

Capital Prep’s philosophy, defined in their mission statement, is to provide historically underprivileged students of color with rigorous, year-round educational instruction and zero-tolerance discipline. The school states that it has “operated for the past 10 years in Hartford’s poorest, highest LEP (limited English proficiency) population and highest need school district.”

Capital Preparatory Harlem will be located in Manhattan’s community school district five – a district with similar demographics as Hartford, where over 80 percent of students are considered underprivileged, more than 10 percent are listed as LEP and roughly 15 percent have reported learning disabilities.

“The area (Harlem) is one of the worst performing districts in the state,” Perry says. “That’s why we are opening a school there.” Open enrollment will create a student body “consistent with that of the community” and provide underprivileged, LEP and learning disabled students in the area with scholastic options. As such, the school’s New York state charter application states, “we expect the majority of our students will be low-income, LEP and at risk students.”

But that is not the case for Capital Prep. Because of its status as a magnet school in the Hartford Public School district, Capital Prep is allowed to enroll students from outside its geographic district. As a result, Capital Prep serves an amalgamation of students, according to data compiled by the Connecticut State DOE, comprised of just 43 percent underprivileged students, three percent LEP and nine percent learning disabled.

“It’s hugely suburban,” says Ebony Murphy-Root, a former Capital Prep teacher who left, she says, because of dissatisfaction with the administration. “A lot of kids come from middle-class families outside of Hartford and little attention is paid to special ed and LEP students.”

Underprivileged and LEP students generally have lower test scores, graduation rates and college acceptance rates. With an attrition rate of over 40 percent, Capital Prep has been accused of compelling these underperforming and at-risk students to transfer schools in order to maintain strong statistics.

“We have testimony after testimony of students who left Capital Prep because they were sat down and counseled out,” says Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers.

Perry rejects those claims. “I disagree that there is a high attrition rate. It’s even higher in Harlem,” he says. “We have kids leaving elite school districts in other parts of Connecticut in order to attend Capital Prep. Some families decide the commute is too much.”

Because of its broader geographic draw, Capital Prep’s performance cannot be directly compared with the historically challenged Hartford school district, or Harlem’s CSD 5 for that matter. The more apt comparison is between Capital Prep to schools statewide. And there, the numbers are mixed. Capital Prep ‘s standardized test scores fell considerably short of averages statewide. But 93 percent of Capital Prep’s students went on to a postsecondary education in 2013 compared to just 85 percent of students statewide.

Follow City Limits’ other investigations. Get our free, weekly newsletter.

  • Brisue

    Perry’s figures are of course, misleading. He’s all about merchandizing himself, not educating kids. His “100%” grad rate is the result of recruiting, very HIGH attrition rate, counseling out those who will lower his supposedly great stats, which as the article points out, aren’t really what Perry says they are, then selecting students to fill the emptied slots by studetns who are most likely to be successful. (Ask yourself how Capital Prep has built the successful athlete teams it has; he’s already been warned officially about his illegal recruiting practices, so now he’s more careful.) Of those left in the school as of senior grad day, he will bargain with colleges to take students who are not accepted otherwise. Why doesn’t some genuine investigative reporter follow up to see how many of his freshman students actually DO stay and end up attending college, THEN (IMPORTANT) see how many of them are able to keep up in college and attain degrees. (Hint: You will have a good story that any editor would be excited to publish.) There’s a lot to be discovered is only someone peels back the curtain. Perry belongs at the table of shame that’s used in his school to humiliate students who break his ridiculous rules.

  • Pingback: » Questions Trail Charter School()

  • Pingback: » Clips of the Week()

  • Pingback: Questions Trail Charter School | New York City News Service()