Let's Go: Dr. Perry Challenges All Minnesotans to Step Up and Create Successful Schools

Nearly 400 people braved an April snowstorm to hear Dr. Steve Perry speak at the April 22nd Minnesota Meeting at the Fitzgerald Theater. The audience included teachers, parents, students, community members, elected officials, funders, and others. Although some of his remarks were very strongly worded, Dr. Perry held every segment of our community accountable for failing our kids. The audience embraced Dr. Perry's overall message about doing what we know works to create great schools for all children.

Dr. Steve Perry admitted at the Fitzgerald Theater on April 22nd that he wasn't there to make friends, he was there to "make change." Invited to speak at the first of three Minnesota Meetings as part of the RESET Education campaign, Dr. Perry delivered a stark message: Minnesota is failing its kids. He used his direct and provocative style to make his audience laugh and, sometimes, to make them cringe.

"The question is not 'can you run successful schools in the Twin Cities,' but 'will you run successful schools in the Twin cities?'"

As founder and principal at one of the nation's top-performing public schools, Dr. Perry knows what a good school looks like. He took every segment of our community to task, including tax-payers, educators, parents, the union, and others, saying we all have to take ownership of this problem and demand change.

"My interest is not to make you feel comfortable because you're too comfortable with some of the most deplorable conditions in the country." He cited Minnesota's ranking as the state with the worst high school graduation rate in the nation for Latino students and the fact that 9 out of 10 Native students in Minneapolis are behind grade-level.

"See we can have a conversation that's really polite. And everyone will walk out of here feeling really good," Perry said. "Unless of course you're one of the children who has to go to a failed school tomorrow morning. Whose future is diminished."

Minnesota Meeting with Dr. Steve Perry (4/22) at the Fitzgerald Theater

He continued, "The question is not do you know how to run good schools. The question is do you love your children enough to make sure every single one of them goes to a good school?"

After his speech, Dr. Perry joined a panel of three local school leaders to discuss proven strategies for creating successful schools: Eli Kramer (executive director, Hiawatha Academies), Eric Mahmoud (co-founder and executive director, Harvest Prep and Best Academy), and Michael Thomas (associate superintendent, Minneapolis Public Schools). Moderator Beth Hawkins, MinnPost reporter and author of the Learning Curve blog, facilitated a discussion shaped by audience questions.

The panelists shared their perspectives on a variety of topics, such as the role of parental involvement, and how to recruit and retain teachers of color.

But they came back again and again to the RESET strategies: using data to adjust instruction at every step, retaining and attracting excellent teachers, serving as instructional leaders, and driving a school-wide culture of learning and high expectations. According to Eric Mahmoud, "successful schools all over the country are doing the same thing."

For those schools not using those strategies, Michael Thomas observed, "We are perfectly designed to get the results that we’re getting."

The event immediately created a lot of buzz in the community, eliciting strong statements from the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, the Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent, and others. (You can read those and other perspectives here and here.

Panelist Eli Kramer thanked Dr. Perry "for making us uncomfortable," noting that the discomfort had served a purpose. And one according to one attendee, Dr. Perry's bold talk opened a door. "His talk could give people more courage to openly challenge a system that is deeply failing their children."

From the left: Moderator Beth Hawkins with panelists Dr. Steve Perry, Eric Mahmoud, Michael Thomas, and Eli Kramer at the Fitzgerald Theater.
Listen to the event

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