Klein, an Astoria native and graduate of HS 445 in Long Island City, acknowledged deep-rooted problems with the city schools such as a graduation rate just above 50 percent, a lack of resources he credited to short-changing by Albany and school overcrowding, particularly in Queens."Every school has got to be a school you would be proud to send your child to. That's not the way it is right now," Klein said.He said he has been tackling the issues since his appointment as chancellor in 2002 with a series of often unpopular reforms, including a crackdown on social promotion that has held back scores of third-graders and the implementation of the so-called workshop method of teaching, which critics say robs teachers of freedom in the classroom.Thousands of teachers in Region 4 - which covers much of western Queens - protested against the local superintendent over the policy in September. The method breaks classroom time into 10- to 15-minute blocks, with teachers first going over a lesson, putting students into work groups and then assembling them for a recap discussion."So much of the spirit and the spontaneity is really being taken away from the teachers," Theresa DeCrescenzo, parent teacher association president of PS 76 in Long Island City, told Klein. "I think we're missing some of the teachable moments by sticking to that timeline."Klein said reforms often have a difficult implementation period and get more relaxed over time. While the workshop method has its critics, he said, "I see some of these schools where it's working and it blows off the roof."Klein praised other recent reforms, including a $70 million principal training program, a push to put a parent coordinator in every city high school and the introduction of 52 new specialized small schools next year. Two of the schools are slated to open in Long Island City and will have roughly 500 students each.Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@times
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