A committee of the State Board of Education met in Austin recently to hear testimony on the CSCOPE curriculum-management system that has been the subject of so much controversy and criticism this year. Judging by the testimony, the controversy has been exaggerated, and only a handful of critics showed up to speak. Most testimony (especially from educators) stressed the usefulness of CSCOPE despite its admitted imperfections.
Dewhurst says that he supported a bill in the legislature that would put the CSCOPE lesson plans under the Texas State Board of Education’s review and corrections process. The SBOE currently has a strong conservative majority. But somehow, as the bill moved through the legislature, there was an unauthorized agreement made to stop his bill and then post all of CSCOPE’s uncorrected lesson plans on the Internet. That has proved to be a really bad idea, but that’s another story.
Approximately 897 school districts out of 1200 are planning on using CSCOPE this year. Dewhurst says he is applying his business background to fix the problems. And there are several problems:
+ Lack of transparency. The CSCOPE material was created with no public oversight. It is in violation of state law to deny parents access to lesson plans.
+ The curriculum has been accused of including material used to indoctrinate children. Some say it contains anti-American, anti-free market and anti-Christian content. Teachers have said that the lesson plans contain errors or not enough information.
+ It may follow Common Core Standards in the Race to the Top program and which were rejected by Texas.
Testimony from educator witnesses support what Texas AFT and other teacher advocacy groups have heard from their own members. Ideological complaints heralded by anti-CSCOPE activists, concerning alleged liberal or Islamist bias in CSCOPE lesson plans, have not been validated or confirmed among educators. A close look at the complaints and the groups behind them indicate bias because of extreme conservative agendas for Texas schools. An online search will reveal who the most vocal critics are, and one only needs to connect the dots in order to see why.
A common misconception is that CSCOPE is the source of the subject matter that is being taught. Though CSCOPE does offer materials and content that support specific lessons, it is primarily a tool that keeps districts and teachers on a schedule that is aligned with the state TEKS, or the essential skills and knowledge standards for each subject.
It appears that flaws in the implementation of CSCOPE at the district level have been the biggest cause for complaint, as some districts have required teachers to follow CSCOPE instructional sequences and lesson plans rigidly. However, while many teachers have withered under such creativity-killing constraints, others have found some CSCOPE materials helpful, especially in smaller districts that lack their own curriculum specialists to help bridge the gap between the state curriculum guidelines (TEKS-Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) and day-to-day instruction. Austin Catholic schools and other private schools in the area use CSCOPE for similar reasons.
When used as a tool to enhance instruction and guide new teachers, it is a wonderful resource. But when used as the know all and end all for all lesson planning, it is limited at best. The idea of CSCOPE as a liberal attempt to brainwash Texas children and bring them to the left is ludicrous. Public education (and especially the classroom teachers) have increasingly become the scapegoat for all the ills of the world.
Perhaps we should stop vilifying the very people who hold the keys to the kingdom. Education is the key to the future. Public education cannot be privatized, cannot be hijacked by extremists to carry forth their ill- conceived agendas, or dissected by people who know absolutely nothing about teaching children.
Let the schools have CSCOPE if it is a resource that can help them teach kids. Give teachers whatever they need and give them the space, trust, and respect to do their jobs without interference (and micromanaging things like content). Silence those who jeopardize what is best for the education of our youth. Let students decide what is truth or fiction by using their own analysis and independent thinking skills. If CSCOPE goes away, it will only be replaced by a new curriculum behemoth. There is too much money to be made with curriculum and testing to let that monster sleep.