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Imagine you had four children and one received a brain injury in a car accident. Would you put all four children in special education classes?
The “Bersin Reforms” put all students in a “one size fits all” program. The Bersin reforms may have helped some students, but they harmed many more. He dumbed down the curriculum. The Bersin Reforms destroyed San Diego city schools.
The financial disaster the district is in now is a direct result of Bersin. He cut back on custodial, landscape, and non-teaching staff. He spent the district’s money on administration and literacy to the exclusion of everything else. Bringing in coaches, especially those from outside the district, drained money from everything except English teachers (and later math teachers) and administrators. By the time the financial crisis hit California, there were no reserves left in San Diego city schools.
I was a teacher with San Diego Unified School District from 1977 through 2008. California and San Diego schools have gone through many ups and downs in those years. San Diego Unified School District was never even close to the current disaster Bersin caused.
If the Bersin reforms were so great, why were the parents, students, and teachers of La Jolla High School so desperate to get out from under the tyranny of Bersin’s Institute for Learning. Many schools had the same desire to get out but didn’t have the political clout of La Jolla High School.
When newspapers report on San Diego’s scores and how we compare to the rest of the state, they leave out a key fact: San Diego students have always scored at the top when compared to other big urban districts. Look up the scores from 20 or 30 years ago. The Bersin reforms have nothing to do with how we compare with other urban districts.
When reporters interview people for Bersin reform stories, don’t just interview administrators and English teachers. All of the district’s resources were diverted to English (and later math) teachers and administrators. Everyone else had resources taken away. When you interview those exalted English teachers and administrators, they will say good things. When you interview history, science, physical education, and elective teachers, you will get a different story. When I left the district in 2008, I didn’t personally know any teacher who liked the Bersin reforms with the exception of English teachers.
My own children went to Poway schools. I am happy and relieved that they didn’t have to suffer through the Bersin reforms.
Lee Terry lives in University City.