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School chancellor takes heat from parents at PS 58

"We're worried about eliminating direct instruction for workshop methods," said Community Education Council member Margaret Kolb, referring to a method introduced last school year in Region 4's elementary and writing curriculums that forces teachers to split lessons up into timed instruction blocks and group work.Kolb was among the more than 300 people who packed PS 58's auditorium at the CEC meeting for a chance to hear Klein's views and express their own.The meeting followed an equally charged protest in Long Island City last month over the workshop approach, which many say hinders student learning by allowing little elbow room for teachers to be creative.Klein's response to Tuesday's onslaught was to "find some common ground" between blanket school reform and teaching independence.U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) said at the meeting that the city's approach to school reform had strayed so far from the basics it looked "like an education school thesis paper." He blasted Klein for placing more attention and money toward principals and "cookie-cutter" curriculums than teacher-student relationships."Take a first-grade teacher worth a grain of salt and she'll see who in the classroom needs help," he said to a roaring applause. "No brochure can teach that."Klein said "we have more teachers coming to New York City than ever before," many of whom "tell me they want good (principals) who'll work cooperatively with them."He added that the district's reading levels were unacceptable when he first took office and now students' achievement scores are up significantly. "There's more work to do," he admitted. "But it's very important to put these numbers in context and remember where we started."Referring to the large portion of public high school students who do not graduate, Klein said, "we can no longer continue on that path" and still compete with globalization.Rosemary Parker, a United Federation of Teachers union representative for the district, asked Klein why teachers and lesson plans could not have some flexibility.PS 58 fourth-grader Shannon Gordon stood up with the question, "Why are we always doing test prep and teachers can't teach what they want to teach?"Klein responded simply: "I don't think low test scores is something we can sit as a group and resign ourselves to. There are so many kids who haven't gotten what they need."A few in the crowd approved of the status of their school system.Diane Marie Hudson, a PS 102 parent, said she was very proud of her children's grades and test scores. And PS 128 parent Tara Krevs gushed, "I am so satisfied with the public education my children are getting."Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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