Tuesday, July 18, 2006 | As a teacher with 15 years of experience in City Schools, I am deeply appreciative of the focus that Dr. Cohn is bringing to the district.

And don’t get me wrong, I actually supported some of the reforms Alan Bersin brought to the district. Our schools needed a shake up. Before the Bersin era, City Schools did not do a good enough job of holding all students to high expectations, especially minority and economically disadvantaged students. On that account, we’ve improved.

Dr. Cohn’s focus on student discipline and staff morale, however, is a like a cool ocean breeze in San Diego on a hot summer day.

Gone is the mad rush to raise test scores as fast as possible, by any means possible, by cramming a one size fits all instructional approach down the throats of a knowledgeable but intimidated staff.

What I sense is a more balanced approach. Teachers are being treated as professionals. There is a sense of respect and collaboration that was absent before. There is a balanced approach to curriculum and instruction with a focus on high standards and what works. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We do need be more focused.

Dr. Cohn’s drive to put in place a system where social promotion from middle school to high school is no longer guaranteed is long, long overdue.

As I high school language arts teacher I have learned to teach in classes where a majority of students are reading three to five to seven(!) years behind their grade level. I don’t resent it, but I pray for the day, for students’ sake, when more of them arrive in my classes with basic skills in place. Students need to be held back from high school if they are not academically ready.

We cannot continue to reward students (by promoting them) when they fail in middle school. We’ve been creating a generation of spoiled brats.

Some parents are going to scream and yell when their sons or daughters are held back, but accountability has to be in place for parents and students – not just teachers! This has long been absent from the educational environment here.

His focus on student discipline is also long overdue. As I classroom teacher I have heard students brag out loud about getting 30 or 50 or even a 100 referrals and “nothing happened.” These students are suspended for a day and then circulated back into the classroom. It’s no wonder 30 percent of new teachers resign in the first few years.

We’ve been doing a grave disservice to our students by creating an “anything goes” environment. We’ve been enabling students by tolerating truancy, disruption and under performance. And we’re producing young people who feel entitled and that the world owes them their happiness.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t blame the current generation of students for this problem. It’s our responsibility as adults to set standards that are meaningful.

Thanks Dr. Cohn for trying to make all the actors in the educational game: students, parents and educators more accountable.

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