Cscope Under the Microscope

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 ‘Curriculum management’ system under scrutiny from lawmakers, parents

By Dave Mundy/
Posted November 28, 2012 – 1:10pm

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a three-part series examining the CScope curriculum management system being used in several area school districts. The second part of this series will examine how and why the system was developed and the third part will concentrate on how local schools and districts view the success or shortcomings of the program.

Stan Hartzler has authored and co-authored math textbooks, taught college mathematics for 14 years as an assistant and associate professor, helped implement a math program in Oklahoma City schools which dramatically closed the achievement gap between white and minority students in just two years, and has made more than 500 presentations on teaching mathematics in 48 states, several Canadian provinces, Puerto Rico and Mexico. He has a doctor’s of philosophy degree in math education from the University of Texas at Austin.
And he’s now a teacher in the Luling ISD.
“It appeared nobody wanted a grumpy old man until Luling,” Hatzell said.“Luling has had some excellent math education priorities, and it was just an ideal location.”
Hartzler said he and several other “grumpy old men” were brought on-board to help the district reverse its fortunes after low scores brought the district under Texas Education Agency supervision. The problem, he says, is that the district won’t let them teach the way their experience has proven works.
“We’ve been told to not add anything to CScope so it can be properly evaluated,” Hartzler said. “We’ve actually been given mixed signals. Now we are adding lots, but not on regular class time.  I studied a little administration, but nothing like that.
“CScope is a hollow curriculum.”
The CScope system is being used by more than 70 percent of school districts in Texas — including Luling ISD, Gonzales ISD, Yoakum ISD, Cuero ISD, and Nixon-Smiley CISD.
Hartzler and other long-time teachers have expressed so many concerns over CScope — a curriculum management system developed by the Region XIII Education Service Center — that the Texas Board of Education took up discussion of the system at its Nov. 15 meeting.
Among the state board’s concerns: CScope materials are not made available to parents, teachers have been issued a “gag order” against speaking about the program, and many of those developing CScope materials have specific political agendas. One SBOE member said he’d attempted to attend a regional CScope conference but has been told he was specifically excluded.
During the Nov. 15 meeting, in fact, one lesson plan was reviewed in which the participants in the Boston Tea Party, an important event leading up to the American Revolution, are described as “terrorists.”
Another concern was raised over a lesson plan which praised Islam as a culturally significant religion but referred to Christianity as a “cult.” Yet another promotes a United Nations-sponsored agenda for “zero population growth.”
That testimony prompted a response on Nov. 20 from Wade N. Labay, EdD, the director of the state’s CScope program.
In a letter to participating school districts, Labay said the lesson plan on the Boston Tea Party had been changed.
“The CScope World History content on Islam and the Boston Tea Party presented at the November 15 SBOE meeting (and referenced in recent messages by CScope detractors) is associated with the previous (and now outdated) SBOE adopted Social Studies standards. None of the World History content referenced in this messaging exists in the current CScope system.”
Labay’s letter said the history lesson was “taken out of context,” thus “creating an inaccurate portrayal of lesson design and intent. Drawing conclusions based on isolated portions of CScope content is not recommended.”
During the SBOE hearing, educators from around the state as well as board members said the problem is that CScope is advertised as a fix-all curriculum system that is instead being applied as curriculum.
“For 40-plus years, the only people who told me how to teach were my students,” Hartzler told the SBOE. “The professional is interested in student learning. CScope wants teachers to be interested in CScope’s interpretations of TAKS scores. The unit tests don’t match the CScope lessons. CScope exams put students in a hole, from which CScope alone can provide the way up.”
Much of the critique from parents centers around the fact that CScope materials are not made available to parents in contravention of state law which specifies that all instructional material MUST be available to parents.
One parent notes: “Since they had decided to end the use of textbooks, I asked to have access to the CScope website so I could help my kids study at home … The parent portal is absolutely worthless, as I’m sure you know. I’ve asked many times to see what exactly the teachers are using to prepare their lessons, and they say they cannot allow access to that portion of the curriculum.”
Hartzler said he had written the TEA and SBOE on Oct. 20 expressing his concerns and received a response from the TEA’s Monica Martinez.
Hartzler said he was told by the TEA representative that “While the SBOE has authority to review and adopt textbooks, the SBOE and TEA do not have statutory authority to review curriculum management systems such as CScope … By state law, the SBOE may not adopt rules that designate the methodology used by a teacher or the time spent by a teacher or a student on a particular task or subject.”
In other words, the State Board of Education has no authority over a “curriculum management system” that is electronic in nature and has replaced textbooks.
The evasion is noted in a Nov. 25 in the online World News Daily by reporter John Griffin:
CScope is not subjected to the same rigorous standards of review as are textbooks, Griffin’s report notes, because CScope considers itself a private venture. It operates under the umbrella of the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC), independent of the SBOE and TEA.
However, a move is afoot to remedy that situation, Griffin writes.
“The Texas Attorney General’s office ruled on April 4 that CScope is agovernmental body and falls within the scope of Gov. Code 552.003(1)(A)(xii) concerning public disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act (PIA).
“In theory, this means that CScope is subject to some degree of accountability and transparency. And yet, Section 552.104 (Gov. Code) carries an exception if following the PIA would give competitors an advantage in the development of similar products. CScope has evaded any disclosure via this loophole.”
Hartzler’s critique is echoed by a number of Texas teachers, many of whom post anonymously for fear of retribution, and parents at the Texas CScope Review website operated by retired teacher Janice Van Cleave.
State Rep. Debbie Riddle (R-SH 150) is among the most outspoken critics of CScope.
“We are outsourcing the rearing, education, parenting, and discipline of our children; stick the kid in front of the TV or give them an iPad. This takes away from teacher-student interaction, and removes the Socratic method from classrooms,” she told Griffin.
“If the goal is to create sheeple, then this works and is right on target. If the goal is [to] create, critical, problem-solving participating citizens, then [CScope] fails miserably.”

NEXT: CScope’s development and purpose

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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 30, 2012 – 3:26pm.

Teachers who spoke against CSCOPE at the Nov. 15, 2012 SBOE meeting received an email from Cindy Hamilton, the CSCOPE director at Region 13 as well as state CSCOPE director, Wade Lebay.
Both of these emails were sent to every teacher in the school, but only the schools of the testifying teachers.

Cindy’s email contained a link to the 6 hours webcast of the SBOE CSCOPE meeting. Thus, every teacher in the school had an opportunity to identify the teacher in their school who testified against CSCOPE.

Wade’s email made reference to some, including teachers, who gave false reports about CSCOPE.

For exact words in these two emails, See:

Parents–Teachers–Concerned Texans, please help us fight for the education of Texas children. Check the website of schools with CSCOPE. If your school is on the list, ask why? Ask your school board, your superintendent why they purchased something that has never been approved and that the state board of education never evaluated. Why would such a product be purchased and why are superintendents defended it?
Janice VanCleave

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