CSCOPE Controversy Continues
By Peggy Venable
CSCOPE is the hottest topic across the state. And many Texans have never heard of it, though most of the school districts in Texas use it.
What is CSCOPE? It is a set of lesson plans K-12 written under the direction of the Regional Education Service Centers (ESC’s). It is then not sold, but rented to the very schools which provided funding for its creation. It costs ISD’s $7-8.50 per student per year. The authors have some problematic credentials. ..one of them is closely linked to Weather Underground, a self-proclaimed Communist revolutionary group founder and Obama ally Bill Ayers.
What’s wrong with CSCOPE? Simply put, there are four major areas on concern.
First problem is a total lack of transparency. The CSCOPE material was created with no public oversight. A non-profit shell organization was created to provide a cloak of secrecy and to deny public oversight. It is in violation of state law which requires parents to have access to their kids’ lesson plans.
Second, the curriculum includes material to indoctrinate children. Reviewers find it to be filled with anti-American, anti-free market and anti-Christian lesson plans. Other teachers simply point out that the lesson plans are fraught with errors and are not adequate to teach the subject matter.
Third, it appears to follow Common Core Standards pushed by the Obama Administration in Race to the Top program and which were rejected by Texas.
Fourth and finally, CSCOPE funding and financing is problematic. There is no transparency in the funding and there are no CSCOPE line items in the budgets. It appears Texas taxpayers paid for the creation of CSCOPE, and it is “rented” to Texas schools, often sold to the ISD leadership as a way to improve test scores.
Teachers are often the key CSCOPE critics. Kimberly Thomas, a teacher in the Lubbock school district, calls CSCOPE a “joke,” identifying a ninth-grade lesson that asks students to circle capital letters in a sentence.
Her department was rated exemplary by the state prior to the installation of CSCOPE. As Thomas notes, CSCOPE “forces our own department to undo the proven, successful curriculum we have developed that gave us an exemplary rating.”
CSCOPE has been in Texas schools since 2006. Only now, when parents and citizens are beginning to see just what is in the “secret” lesson plans, are we getting responses form the CSCOPE team (i.e. the Regional Education Service Centers) and ISD’s who have been provided talking points to appease public concerns.
Following an amazing Senate Education hearing in which the CSCOPE team (the Texas Regional Education Service Centers, working under the shell non-profit organization they call the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Consortium – TESCCC) attempted to defend creating a product which has no public oversight. CSCOPE sales team leaders admitted they did not seek approval from the state to create a nonprofit organization which allowed them to circumvent open meetings, public information requests and public review of their material. The have been working to sell lesson plans – curriculum – which many experts say follows the common core standards which the Obama Administration has been pushing. The material also was not accessible to the parents as required by state law and did not go through the elected State Board of Education (SBOE).
Senate Education Chairman Dan Patrick issued an edict to the ESC’s saying they needed to make the lesson plans available to the public and begin a review process under the elected SBOE.
The CSCOPE website responded with explanations that the public “just didn’t understand” and that they were changing objectionable lesson plans. And that the lesson plans were on line for teachers but included the test questions and answers, so they “certainly could not make that available to the public.” (Clearly the curriculum was written in violation of state law requiring lesson plans to be accessible to parents.)
Recently, CSCOPE and ISD’s that use CSCOPE are responding to public concerns. ISD’s likely got their talking points from the ESC’s. Some school board members are saying they didn’t know what was in the lesson plans when they voted to bring CSCOPE into their schools. They likely did not.
The ESC’s betrayed the public trust in creating and “selling” CSCOPE. Now they are helping the ISD’s by circling the wagons and defending the lesson plans.
Our response is simply this: too little too late. It appears CSCOPE is making changes in lesson plans based on public concerns. That won’t solve the problem. Why should we trust them now?
Is CSCOPE needed? It appears grant money has been provided for teacher training absent any CSCOPE material – The following was copied from Region 13’s website:
TEA has provided grant funds to all Education Service Centers with Rider 42b(i), 42c, 42d, Student Success Initiative to provide training in support of:
What is the response to public objection to CSCOPE?
We are gathering responses from legislators and legislative leaders who are defending their votes opposing the Republican Party voters and platform calls for school choice. This one is from: House Education Chairman Jimmy Don Aycock:
“Vouchers– I have consistently voted against turning money over to private schools unless there is accountability required. First vote was a similar amendment in 2007. Why would we require a $100 million dollar per year testing program for public schools, control their curriculum, require all kinds of credentials and regulations and then tell private schools that we don’t care how they spend the money or what results they get. Would you be willing to fund a private school at the Muslim Community Center on hiway 195 south of Killeen? The vote was 105 and included folks like Tom Craddick. There is nothing conservative about spending taxpayer money with no accountability attached.
“CSCOPE– there have been senate hearings and a bill by Sen. Patrick is moving to the House to correct the problems with cscope. It will probably be brought under the SBOE as well as making other corrections. Unless those corrections are made the program will almost certainly be terminated. I would prefer a correction to termination. If terminated several hundred school districts will have to reestablish curriculum departments costing many millions of dollars. There have been major problems with the cscope project and these must be corrected. You should also know that some of the loudest critics of cscope are folks who had lucrative curriculum development contracts that were displaced when the Regional Service Centers formed the cscope consortium. The bigger issue is the development of curriculum by private companies (Apple for example) that are making lesson plans available for free. While the problems with cscope arose largely from inadequate review, we are entering a situation in which there may soon be NO control. I believe it will become increasingly difficult in this digital age to know or control what an individual teacher uses as a lesson plan.
“Relating to both issues, I have problems following some of the logic. On one hand there is distress about a curriculum developed by a group subject to state review, open records, and potential termination. At the same time they would send state money to any religious or extremist group over which is NO control or review process.”
State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (Chairman, House Public Education Committee)
House District 54
School Choice: Make no doubt about it, a parent’s right to choose their child’s school is at the heart of any textbook war, and at the heart of CSCOPE. Parents care about what their kids are taught and will reject efforts to indoctrinate their children.
Republican voters were asked if they wanted the dollars to follow the child to the school the parents believe their child has the greatest opportunity to succeed – public or private. Over 84% of the Texas Republican primary voters said “YES”. They didn’t say “unless the private schools don’t have the same accountability.
Second, the legislature has reduced public school accountability – they are reducing the “high stakes tests” and doing precisely what the education lobby wants – to allow public schools to be less accountable for their students’ performance.
Third, are not parents the ultimate in accountability? They are making the decisions for their own children – and that is what freedom is all about. They direct their children’s education, as we conservatives want. Will we each agree with decisions parents make? No, but we must value freedom more than government control. Denying poor parents with the opportunities that wealthier parents have (Rep Abel Herrero sponsored the amendment which denied any funding for school choice, but he admitted to sending some of his kids to private school. He may as well as said “let them eat cake” to the parents who do not have the mobility to move to better school districts, or the means to homeschool or send their kids to private schools.) Here is a list of legislators who voted against freedom and against the 315,000 kids in failing schools in Texas: Rotten Apple Award Winners.
Regarding CSCOPE, ISD’s should not have to “rent” any curriculum or lesson plans and pay per child and per year. This is a gravy train for the Regional Education Service Centers – and the ISD’s funded the service centers to create CSCOPE. We can’t fix common core material – and it appears CSCOPE is based on common core standards.
We will hear all sorts of explanations from elected officials. It will be up to the voters and the grassroots to hold THEM accountable. It is ironic to hear an elected official use accountability as an excuse to vote against the wishes of their constituents.
What can you do?
- Contact your school board and ask if your school district uses CSCOPE
- If your ISD uses CSCOPE, tell them you want to review the content (or contact your Regional Education Service Center)
- Contact your local media and let them know about CSCOPE and your concerns
- Contact your legislator
- Contact your elected State Board of Education Member