What Monday's CSCOPE Decision Means for Texas School Districtsby
“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:
[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.”
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.
“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.”
“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.
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.”
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.
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.”
“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.”