Positive Developments Today on the Texas SBOE's CSCOPE Review

In addition to passing a resolution today opposing private school vouchers, the Texas State Board of Education also passed a resolution dealing with its review of the CSCOPE curriculum management system. We noted some serious concerns regarding that review yesterday. What we heard during the CSCOPE discussion today, however, was encouraging.

Most importantly, a number of state board members — including Martha Dominguez, D-El Paso; Marisa Perez, D-San Antonio; and Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant — insisted that the upcoming CSCOPE review be completely transparent. Their comments came just two days after some board members — including Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo, the chair of the board’s special committee reviewing CSCOPE — suggested that they might oppose making public the names of the volunteer reviewers (folks appointed from around the state). But today Rowley said that, following discussions with Texas Education Agency staff, he would recommend that the names of the reviewers be made public on request and that they be subject to rules designed to protect them from outside influence.

Rowley’s proposal is entirely reasonable and matches what the state board has done with textbook reviews in the past. We encourage the review committee to accept his recommendation, which would reinforce the credibility of the review and ensure that political activists aren’t allowed to smear the educators behind CSCOPE under the cover of anonymous reviews.

Additional comments by Rowley also reassured us that he wants to keep the CSCOPE review from turning into a political circus. Still, as we noted on Thursday, the criteria reviewers apparently will use in examining CSCOPE includes the kinds of highly subjective standards that have turned past textbook reviews by the state board into hyper-political battlegrounds. That’s troubling particularly because CSCOPE’s critics have spent months making outrageous, unsubstantiated claims. Among those claims are that the current and retired Texas teachers who have worked on CSCOPE’s lessons are trying to “indoctrinate” students with pro-Marxist and pro-Islamic propaganda. Those absurd charges have overshadowed legitimate issues there might be with the program’s materials (such as how quickly real errors are caught and fixed).

Moreover, some board members clearly intend to keep using CSCOPE as a political punching bad. Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, for example, kept complaining today that the board’s resolution — by noting (accurately) that CSCOPE officials had volunteered to put their program under review by the state board — put CSCOPE in a “positive” light. We expect Mercer will continue his petulant criticism regardless of what the review committee does.

So while we were encouraged by comments from Rowley and other board members today, we remain wary. As we’ve said before, the political activists who have pushed the anti-CSCOPE witch hunt won’t be satisfied until they’ve burned someone at the stake (or at least destroyed some reputations and careers).