He called "unconscionable" the quality of education black males in particular are getting in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. And he said CMS and the community can't let poverty be an excuse.
"You can't catch a 4-year-old up? Then you suck at your job," Perry told about 350 educators and community leaders at MeckEd's annual community breakfast.
Perry said only 39 percent of black males graduate from CMS, though that appears to be a figure from 2007-08, and rates have improved significantly since then. "That's not just an achievement gap," Perry said, "it's almost two different school systems."
The solution, he said, is for all parents and community members to insist that every school is as strong as the school they want to send their children to. And that means outstanding teachers in every classroom setting high expectations for all students.
And one other thing is crucial, Perry said: Love.
"A child who's loved will go through fire for you," Perry said. "All these kids want is love, and when they feel like they're not loved, they do really bad things."
Perry's Capital Preparatory Magnet School sends 100 percent of its graduates to four-year colleges and universities despite having a generally poor and minority student body.
That experience tells him that poverty can be overcome. The poverty that's truly debilitating, he said, is "the poverty of low expectations."
Perry didn't give CMS enough credit for all the progress it has made in narrowing the achievement gap over the past five years or so. And he offered very few specifics on precisely how to ensure every classroom has a great teacher. We doubt CMS is turning away great applicants in favor of weak ones.
Even so, it was an important message for Charlotte to hear. The achievement gap is still there, and black males still lag behind most. And Perry raises an intriguing question: Would CMS's lower-quality schools be allowed to persist if the community's movers and shakers had to send their kids to them? We know the answer to that.
-- Taylor Batten