What Monday's CSCOPE Decision Means for Texas School Districts

“I felt like the best course of action would have been to have an open, public, transparent review of CSCOPE lessons, and allow smaller districts who use them to make the determination of whether they want to continue using the lessons or not. It’s essentially deprived school districts of the ability to make that decision.”

That’s Texas State Board of Education member Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo, responding to Monday’s announcement by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, that the state’s Education Service Centers will no longer be providing lessons in its CSCOPE curriculum management system.

We have always had concerns about giving the state board authority over CSCOPE because the board itself has been such a politically divisive battleground on curriculum issues. But Rowley’s concerns about what this decision means for local school districts have a lot of merit. Hundreds of those small and mid-size districts lacked the resources to develop curriculum plans to cover the state’s lengthy, overly complicated and detailed curriculum standards. CSCOPE filled that need for them. But the absurd witch hunt in which critics claimed CSCOPE used “Nazi mind control” techniques to indoctrinate Texas students into Marxism and Islam has now succeeded in gutting those curriculum plans.

Many school district officials around the state have reacted with dismay after watching political bullying wreck a resource they found valuable in their classrooms. Some examples:

From the Amarillo Globe-News:

[Canyon Independent School District] executive director of curriculum and professional development Justin Richardson said social studies lessons have the potential for more “sensitive topics,” as opposed to math lessons.

“It has not been our experience in using CSCOPE lessons that we’ve found agendas hidden within them,” he said. “Quite honestly, our teachers have always had the flexibility to make good decisions for students and make sure their lessons reflect the values of the community and district.”

From KTRE-TV News in East Texas:

Corrigan-Camden High School has been using the cost saving curriculum lesson plans for the past two years.

“For Dan Patrick to be deciding what’s going to be in our curriculum is all at the heart of the problem for me,” [Corrigan-Camden ISD superintendent Tom] Bowman said. “I trust our local community and our local school board. I’ll take my chances with my community and with my school board when it comes to making decisions about what we’re teaching and how effectively we’re teaching it.”

Hudson ISD superintendent Mary Ann Whiteker said CSCOPE is a quality program that has been attacked based on lessons taken out of context. She is saddened the lesson plans will be removed and feels it is not fair for beginning teachers. She feels the legislature feels the need to monitor and control lesson plans.

From the Longview News-Journal:

“I’m already getting emails from superintendents and teachers at my districts saying, ‘Now, what?’ ” said Thomas Ratliff, the State Board of Education member for Northeast Texas. “There were 1,600 lessons in that thing. That’s not easily replaceable. … For some districts, they are a small, optional part. For other districts, it was a lifeline. It’s a sad day for small school districts and the state, and it’s all because of politics.”

From the San Antonio Express-News:

“Since we are a small district, we don’t have the resources to hire specialized people in that area,” said Somerset Independent School District Superintendent Saul Hinojosa, who credits CSCOPE with helping the district raise its test scores.

Somerset spent roughly $27,000 for CSCOPE lessons last year and had received no complaints about them, Hinojosa said, questioning how the state could prohbit its use.

At least five Bexar County school districts rely on CSCOPE to some degree, including Lackland ISD, which serves the children of U.S. military personnel. Its superintendent, Burnie Roper, called the claims of anti-Americanism “ridiculous.”

“I hate the way that it came about because I think, in the end, it makes it difficult for the small districts,” he said.

From the Graham Leader:

Graham’s school board president said the news is disappointing.

“I was surprised by the suddenness of CSCOPE’s reported decision to stop providing sample lessons,” said Win Graham. “This will dramatically increase our teacher workload over the summer.”

GISD began implementing portions of CSCOPE in 2010 with full implementation the following year. With three years learning the “new” system, it’s back to the drawing board.

“What we hope is we can maintain a high quality through the transition,” said Graham. “You can’t change a curriculum every three years and expect to move forward. Every time you change you take a step back.”

From KXXV-TV News in Waco:

Waco ISD’s public information officer Dale Caffey says, “Waco ISD will no longer have that as a source for lesson plans that are particularly used by the younger teachers.  The first and second year teachers just now entering the field sometimes need a helping hand in creating a lesson plan.”

Caffey says they will do whatever they can to help with lesson plans moving forward.  Current staff members and teacher groups will be utilized.

From EverythingLubbock.com:

Lisa Leach, Lubbock ISD Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, said LISD is planning to keep the curriculum portion of CSCOPE but finding new lesson plans could cost the district money.

“Everything costs money and because this was developed by non profit education services centers the cost is relatively low. So if we have a commercial product we are probably going to have to look at paying additional funds but that’s something we’re just going to have to investigate.”

From Channel 10 News in Amarillo:

“It’s always been nice to be able to go pull up a lesson, and get an idea of what your instruction should look like,” says Angie Watson, the curriculum director at Bushland ISD. “Now that we aren’t going to have those lessons, we’re going to have to find other resources to do that with.”

23 thoughts on “What Monday's CSCOPE Decision Means for Texas School Districts

  1. The complaints I heard from parents primarily focused on their inability to know what curriculum objectives their children were learning. Parents cannot help their students with learning if kids have no homework, no textbooks, and a curriculum that is cloaked behind a brick wall. How did the right-wingers get their sights on it? Teachers were not permitted to tell parents anything about the curriculum. Nonsense!!!

  2. CScope held many public meetings this spring to show parents curriculum. At the biggest one in Austin, 13 employees were there and no one else showed up. This was Tea Party politics. The districts who relied on Cscope are really in a tough spot now. It will be nearly impossible to get a new curriculum in place by August…Texas spent millions and millions and millions of dollars developing a comprehensive, aligned k-12 curriculum and it was scrapped over a few world cultures lessons. All I can say is vote this people out!!!

  3. Now hundreds of small Texas school districts will begin to feel the effects of the wacko radical-right Republican politicization of public education. As I pointed out in previous comments, CSCOPE was developed at state expense for the use of Texas schools. Alternatives to CSCOPE from private publishers of curriculum instructional materials will be much more expensive. My local (and wealthy with oil money) Midland ISD has been developing their own curriculum materials so they don’t care about the loss of CSCOPE, but hundreds of other Texas districts with hundreds of thousands of students do. The loss of CSCOPE lessons will be an educational disaster for the state–exactly what a reactionary such as Dan Patrick would concoct. Right-wing Republicans have been trying to damage public education in Texas for years so parents will embrace private religious charter and parochial schools instead. Eliminating CSCOPE is just another part of their dangerously duplicitous and seditious agenda.

    I want to also point out the wide support in Texas for CSCOPE among schools and teachers as reported in the news clippings in the TFN column. This puts the lie to those who claim that teachers don’t like it. CSCOPE was meant to be used as a supplement to help teachers cope with the long, detailed, and confusing TEKS with which Texas schools are saddled by our highly-politicized, agenda-driven SBOE. CSCOPE lessons were never meant to be used exclusively with no teacher creativity and input. In districts in which that is the case, I would agree that teachers would hate CSCOPE. I would also be unhappy but would direct my disgust at school administrators rather than at CSCOPE.

    1. I don’t know, Steve,every teacher I’ve EVER talked to has hated CSCOPE right down to the ground. Every administrator has loved it. There is a difference. CSCOPE made things a bit easier (sometimes) on teachers who really didn’t want to come up with their own ways of teaching a concept; I suppose most teachers I know are of the opinion that we are professionals, we can be trusted to come up with our own lessons and schedules based on our own areas of expertise, and we don’t need or want a system like this strangling what we do.

      1. Heath, another teacher expressed exactly the same sentiment as you. He said EVERY teacher hated CSCOPE. Assuming that the CSCOPE TEKS-alignment and tracking tools are acceptable, which seems to be the case from public comments, that means the 1,600 lessons were hated. But why would teachers hate lessons that are optional and supplemental? Here are two comments from a Texas Tribune article several days ago:

        Terri Gray
        “Many teachers hated CSCOPE because they didn’t know how to use it. It offers an alignment document and scope and sequence that are effective curriculum tools. The lessons were optional. If you have not used CSCOPE properly and in the way it was designed – refrain from making judgements – that’s what the TX Leg did.”

        James Sanderson
        “C-Scope offers some good tools to use such as the Year-at-a-Glance or the Instructional Focus Document. These could help the teacher know the supporting and readiness TEKS which MAY be tested on the STAAR. But, it should never have been a source for lesson plans. Those belong most properly with the teacher in the classroom who understands the needs of the student. To have required or directed teachers to follow it strictly was wrong, even idiotic.”

        My own understanding of the use of CSCOPE is in agreement with the two teachers’ comments above. As I wrote, I would have hated CSCOPE, too, if I was forced to use it exclusively by school administrators, but that was not how it was supposed to be used. Teachers were free to choose the lessons they wanted to supplement their own curriculum. The teacher who objected to my claim, just as you did, said that indeed administrators were forcing teachers to use only CSCOPE lessons (for whatever reason, probably to have 100% accountability with the state when when it ranks your school to protect your ass). That’s really sad. I am a teacher, too, and I agree with you that teachers are professionals who can write their own lessons and other curriculum materials. CSCOPE was never meant to be a yoke but a helpful classroom tool.

        I really think many thousands of teachers are going to miss CSCOPE and are really going to resent the extra unpaid time they will now have to endure to choose new curriculum materials. And the administrators are going to resent having to pay for the new expensive materials out of their limited funds. And I really hope the parents are going to resent the pain the idiot reactionary Republicans are putting their children’s teachers and school administrators through to satisfy the blood lust of a small but vocal minority of ignorant and stupid right-wing Texas Tea Party radicals. This group of malicious citizens are the true terrorists since they are destroying public education in our state. Don’t citizens realize they can stop the terrorism, stupidity, and craziness by voting the reactionary Republicans out of office?

        1. I don’t know, James. This might be a case of two people just honestly approaching things from a different angle…but most teachers I know, including myself, don’t resent coming up with our own curriculum material: we WANT to. That’s what we do, and we just want to be free to do it. I notice that most of the articles quoting educators lamenting the loss of CSCOPE are administrators, curriculum directors, etc. You’re right, though: as an optional tool, CSCOPE would be worth it…but it’s usually not optional. And administrators are very up-front about that; last summer, as I was interviewing for a new position, every administrator (all in the Metroplex-area)made it clear that if I wasn’t following CSCOPE, day by day, lesson by lesson, I wouldn’t be welcome. “CSCOPE is great,” one principal told me. “If a kid moves in from the Valley or somewhere, they’ve missed nothing! Every class in the state is on the same page, doing the same assignments!” I frowned (and didn’t get the job); honestly, they tell us that every student learns differently and we have to differentiate instruction, but when it comes to teachers, that mentality apparently doesn’t hold true. We apparently aren’t individual professionals with different approaches and different strengths. It all has to be standardized. All of it. Want to pause to talk about some current event that your kids are curious about? Not with CSCOPE you don’t, or, at least, not in most districts that use CSCOPE as a teacher-collar. Honestly, this is probably NOT CSCOPE’s fault…but I don’t lament it’s absence at all (only that it’s come about due to a totally bogus right-wing witch hunt). One principal I knew had been given a free Ipad loaded with CSCOPE evaluation materials; it told him what each teacher SHOULD be teaching that day, and how, and if you weren’t on that page, whether the students were engaged or not, you got a bad evaluation mark.

          1. Heath describes an appalling situation and he is right to be angry. But the problem here is the administrators, not CSCOPE. Most of my career was spent teaching Earth and life sciences at colleges and universities, but I taught science classes for a year as a full-time substitute at two local high schools for the experience. The demands on a K-12 teacher’s time are incredible. I often had to rely on prepared curriculum materials (labs, course worksheets, textbook author-prepared exercises, etc.) to get by. I still believe that most teachers would be grateful for supplemental course materials that perfectly matched the Texas curriculum standards (TEKS). And CSCOPE provided such lessons very inexpensively since they were designed and written at state expense for non-profit Texas school use and not sold by a for-profit education/textbook/course instructional materials corporation. But it is obviously an egregiously bad idea (“idiotic” was a good adjective) for any principal to force all school or district teachers to use specific CSCOPE lessons on a daily schedule. More flexibility is necessary. As TFN and I have repeatedly pointed out, one effect of doing away with CSCOPE is enriching the for-profit education corporations. I hope that the CSCOPE materials will continue to be made available at the inexpensive costs to school districts, most of which in Texas don’t have the funds for anything more expensive.

            BTW, most European and, I believe, Asian countries have state-mandated curriculum standards used throughout each country on a highly-regulated daily schedule (so there is no “catching-up” necessary if a student changes classrooms or schools). Such a strict curriculum system is workable but is obviously not feasible in the U.S. with its 50 independent state curricula and highly-mobile population. I may wish for such a highly-structured curricular system but I know that wishful thinking is not the same as critical thinking.

          2. I have to speak up because I think that the crux of the whole problem has been miscommunication. Many teachers in the district in which I teach thought just as you did. When their administrators said you must follow CScope, teachers thought they meant you must use each of the exemplar lessons each day, when in actuality they meant they must follow the “what and when”, meaning everyone must be teaching these standards or skills at this time, but the “how” has always been left up to them. That was the message my district worked very hard to convey, but it took several all day staff developments to make the message clear.

            The exemplar lessons were never intended to be anything more than what their name suggests, example lessons. Most of the teachers who were the most vocal about not crowding their creative process in lesson designing were secondary teachers, who most commonly have 1 to 2 preps and in many cases built-in planning time to their schedules. Elementary teachers who have at least 5 classes to plan for everyday without the luxury of planning times built into their schedules appreciated those exemplary lessons from which to guide their planning. Now, they have nothing but out of date textbooks because some obscure secondary social studies lesson was enough to set off some very reactionary type people who know nothing about this curriculum. I think it is a shame…and will refrain from saying anything snide to those same teachers who did not want their creativity stifled when they begin the campaign to purchase lesson resources because they have no time to come up with things on their own. Because mark my words, it will happen. But I am sure, however, the state will make sure that no resources will be allowed to be purchased unless they are willing to hand it over free of charge to Dan Patrick and the rest of his party to ensure that those elementary math lessons aren’t subliminally suggesting that we all become comrades. This is absolutely embarrassing for our state. In my opinion…

  4. Thanks to all commenters for providing clarity and analysis of this situation. Now I can’t help think that eradicating CSCOPE was just the TX Tea Party and Religious Right Maniacs displaying their “take no prisoners” approach to getting the voucher system they lust for. As if kids in Texas public schools aren’t shackled enough as it is, now a helpful OPTIONAL tool for their teachers to use is jettisoned. This state is indeed headed in a bad direction. Maybe we should lower the voting age to 9 and get some maturity displayed on election days.

  5. The wingnuts are not going to get any long-term rewards for this because the course of human history and valuation of the truth are not on their side. They are just going to raise some hell now, die whatever death has been appointed to them, and have sensible people run things thereafter. Ecclesiastes says it best: “All is vanity.”

  6. If you like your child praying to allah and being taught that America is evil and the cause of all the world problems, then you will probably love this socialist , anti-American curriculum. I guess some people need a dictatorial government to tell them how to live, as for me I prefer total freedom.

    1. Absolutely amazing! Most of the commentary here is directed toward people like you. Guess you’ve missed all the statements that contain “supplemental”, “optional”, etc. I defy you to find examples that promote “allah” or “America is evil”. Before you respond, read the entire lesson and see if you could ever embrace critical thinking skills.

      1. The accusations of bias, indoctrination, etc, are totally bogus…but CSCOPE, while said to be optional, is usually not in many districts. Most ISD’s I know use it as a creativity-killing teacher-collar.

        1. Dear Heath,

          I can tell you’re not a teacher. CSCOPE has nothing to do with “collaring” teachers, rather, it takes the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) created by the ultra conservative (and largely under educated) State Board of Education and bundles them into teachable parts. CSOPE makes a teacher’s life easier by grouping related topics together. The hype being created by the islamophobes is just that…hype. It is pure ignorant crap. But, what else should we expect from our legislature?



          1. Well…I am a teacher, and have been for a decade. I agree with Sandra, who just recently posted. There seems to be a divide between teachers who WANT to create their own materials, based on their own professional experience and knowledge, and those who don’t.

  7. Promoting ignorance is no way to prepare our children for globalization. U.S. Army soldiers study Islam in addition to other world religions. That does not turn them in to radicals. It prepares them to understand and interact with other cultures more effectively. You can be certain that the business community values the same skill set. Groups that testify under the guise of ordinary Texan’s will tell you they represent various organizations such as “American’s for Prosperity,” but most of the people that hear their them will never know the narrow agenda they really represent. It is a shame our political leaders are either ignorant, or hired guns for these special interests. We need to do a better job exposing these people for what the really are, and educating the public. They are harming our education process, and in effect, the education profession, our children, and our ability to compete nationally, as well as globally. The next election should be a referendum on this debacle. God knows they’ve given us enough ammunition.

    1. Well said! Perhaps Andy Mack Taylor will read your comments and engage in a little reflection.

  8. as a high school math/science teacher, I think C-Scope has a lot to offer. I am certainly not a teacher who “hates” it. It has great integration and good lessons to help students tie concepts together. This is certainly not an anti-American curriculum… unless teaching out children that America is not perfect is considered anti-American an pro-Islam. These people are nuts…

    1. We need to focus also on the manner that the cscope curriculum was rolled out-secrecy, illegal non profit status, fuzzy reporting as to fiscal issues. These elements make many suspect and beg the question as to how the ESC structure goes unchecked and unaccountable and washes huge amounts of public money with no oversight.

  9. I created my own lesson plans for 3 years before I was forced to start using CSCOPE. It was not an option; it was forced on me. At one point, we were being forced to teach it to the day and as scripted as we possibly could. I hated it and the kids hated it. My own material was far superior. The ELAR material is low-level, scattered, and quite a bit of it is just downright incorrect. I felt that I was cheating my students and tried to fit in “real teaching” whenever possible. I have yet to meet another teacher who actually likes anything about it. Perhaps new teachers who don’t recognize quality curriculum or administrators who just want a quick fix do.

  10. You can all you want about Cscope! But the truth is This program is not allowed to be brought home, parents aren’t allowed to go to school and watch their kids take the program, the teachers aren’t allow to bring it home for fear of being fired! Parents need to do their research about the program. The State Board of education can’t control the program because its not an curriculum. This program is back by The Muslim Brotherhood- A terrorist group! That hates all Americans. This program indoctrinates your children and turns them away from their parents, it pries into your home life- how much money you make, where you bank, shop, attend church etc… Wake up people! Boycott the Public Schools that are too lazy to teach American history, American Language, American ways of life, USA Government, God! Not some eastern religion, like Allah!

    1. Are you trying to be funny or are you really serious? It’s hard to tell the difference these days!