CSCOPE: SBOE Instruction Committee

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Dr. Stan Hartzler’s Notes:
SBOE Committee on Instruction-CSCOPE 11/15/2012

SBOE member, Patricia Hardy of Forth Worth spoke in favor of CSCOPE.

For her, one of the CSCOPE positives is that STAAR test questions are very close to CSCOPE unit exam questions. If true, this helps explain two things:

The popularity of CSCOPE with superintendents.
2. The disparity between the CSCOPE exams and the weak, disorganized curriculum expected to prepare students for exams.

Her (Patricia Hardy) thoughts inspire a possible scenario to explain CSCOPE:

  • CSCOPE was organized by someone seeking a peek at the STAAR exam for profit.
  • Regional Education Service Center consultants may have such peeking access.
  • One or more (ESC consultants) were enlisted to write exams that provided advantageous STAAR test practice. A testing timetable was developed so that by the CSCOPE exams, exposure to all tested exam objectives and format would occur before the exam date.
  •  CSCOPE exams not all available.  Possible explanation
  1.  All first-year algebra CSCOPE exams except the last four are made available on line early. With the final four in limbo, latitude is thus possible for last-minute adjustments for at least one pre-STAAR CSCOPE exam. The adjustments might reflect the newest version of the STAAR test.
  2. Thus, CSCOPE is to provide information about the STAAR via the CSCOPE assessments. To help the scheme look innocent, lessons were developed to make a curriculum. The lessons were touted as the real reasons for CSCOPE success. The lessons offered these features:
    • Group learning, involving peer tutoring
    • Superficial engagement
    • Discovery strategy
    • Hands-on activity
    • Simplified content

Such “exemplary” lessons were readily available to Education Service Center (ESC) consultants. ESC consultants have time to find ideas from education professors, or on line, or at conferences, or when visiting schools.

 Collecting activities around course themes would not constitute smooth curricular learning experiences expected in textbooks. Smoothing might be attained by a few supplemental lessons. But collecting activities around course themes would not provide ongoing review of basic TEKS objectives needed to make the activities meaningful. Cover for this might be provided by declaring the units to be rigorous, and by cosmetic success on the STAAR exam.

The forgoing would constitute hollow curriculum. Students would pass but not get an education, and would score low on such as ASVAC and college board exams. Upon graduation from high school, students would need to spend time and money with leveling courses to get to where a real education would allow them to go. The education industry would welcome the business thus generated. 

POSSIBILITY THE ESCs HAVE INVESTMENTS IN SUCH EDUCATION INDUSTRIES.

 And voila! A successful, popular, and commercially viable product emerges. The hollowness is hidden until it is too late, for the program is purchased by district administrators and school boards before teachers have a chance to examine and provide input.

The hollowness would be noted by the dedicated, veteran teachers. Their concerns would be muted by accusations of inertia and entrenchment, even though the current generation of veteran teachers has made adjustments to countless innovations: word processors, Power Point, on-line attendance, internet resources, calculators, smart boards, table-top projection, and so on. If the silly accusation of entrenchment is made early, veteran teachers are put on the defensive.

 THE ESCs HAVE TRAINED ADMINISTRATORS TO BEWARE OF VETERAN TEACHERS. VETERAN TEACHERS ARE CONSIDERED TO BE NEGATIVE. 

That non-teachers are responsible for the content (OF CSCOPE) would help explain several “features” of at least one well-defined high school course. These features suggest that the writer has not been in the classroom recently, and then for not enough years.

The evidence for such a suggestion includes omission of important details and error in time-honored directions, known to any teacher of but a few years’ experience. A newer teacher’s students would stumble badly following the CSCOPE directions verbatim.

Further evidence is seen where foundation concepts and vocabulary are only included incidentally. This may be enough, perhaps, to inspire CSCOPE marketers to claim that all TEKS objectives are “covered”, but is not enough for students to understand the course material and be ready for subsequent learning, or for life after high school.

STAN REFERS TO ALGEBRA I. I CAN TESTIFY TO ALGEBRA II HAVING THE SAME PROBLEMS. 

 Certainly a scheme of some kind appears to be afoot.

That CSCOPE materials are to be kept at school, that parent questions are to be referred to principals, and that teachers must sign a related gag order are part of a secrecy aspect.

A claim (FROM CSCOPE DIRECTORS) has been made that CSCOPE ideas are desired by competing publishers of STAAR test preparation materials, and must therefore be kept from plagiarizing eyes.

Secrecy was lamented by one SBOE board member who attempted to attend a CSCOPE conference in his district. He was told that he specifically was prohibited from attending. Others bemoaned the paradox of public school curriculum material being kept from public eyes.

 This claim (FROM CSCOPE DIRECTORS) would only be valid if, as Patricia Hardy has suggested, CSCOPE exams reveal something about the STAAR exam.

Dr. Hartzer said, “To this writer’s eyes, CSCOPE materials have little originality and nothing worth copying.” I CONFIRM THIS AND ONLY PUBLICALY EVALUATE CSCOPE BECAUSE OF THE INSIDIOUS SCHEME TO KEEP ITS CONTENT FROM PUBLIC SCRUTINY. 

The fear of plagiarism may be born of a slight revision of an old cliché: it takes a guilty one to suspect others of the same guilt. Veterans of both programs assert that CSCOPE exercises appear to be inspired by, if not plagiarized from, material from Texas A&M, or that both the latter and CSCOPE are inspired (or worse) from the same third source.

I HAVE SEEN AND REPORTED CSCOPE LESSONS WITH INFORMATION DIRECTLY COPIED FROM DIFFERENT WEBSITES. WHEN REPORTED, THE LESSONS WERE IMMEDIATEDLY REMOVED FROM THE CSCOPE WEBSITE.

 At least two ways exist for helping disadvantaged students succeed on exams. One way, described above (WHICH IS TO CONSTRUCT ASSESSMENTS THAT GIVE UNFAIR ADVANTAGE ON THE STAAR TESTS).

Another way is to provide a rich education for students, one that prepares them for an ever-changing technical life after high school as well as unexpected exam questions. The evidence that such can be done will be presented here in two forms: anecdote plus learning principle, and anecdote plus statistics.

RECALL PRACTICE

Simply stated, to help any students succeed, students should work on what they are expected to do. If students are to recall what they learn, therefore, they must practice recalling when recall is difficult. The international community of Ph.D. students in science and mathematics at Southern University – Baton Rouge asserted that a routine of fifteen minutes of ongoing review was a daily class opener for all grade levels and disciplines almost anywhere outside of the USA. That is one example of a routine of recall practice.

The payoff is more than mere recall ability and a more complete picture of what the teacher wants to communicate. Also included is concept formation.

WHY ARE THE ESCs and TASA (SUPERINTENDENTS ASSOCIATION) FORCING TEACHERS TO USE A TEACHING PHILOSOPHY THAT HAS NO EVIDENCE OF BEING SUCCESSFUL? 

CONCEPT FORMATION

When a student regularly practices an extensive routine of varied mathematics topics, then concepts of number, fraction, place value, order, function, and so on are developed naturally by the proximity of varied aspects of these ideas to one another in the daily routine.

The manifestation of these synthesized concept formations (associative networks) is widely reported by teachers whose students experience extensive salads of review each day in the essential experience of achievement and confidence: end-of-year summative evaluation.

A TEACHER ‘S REPORT

The story that follows is perhaps more amusing than others, but is typical of what dozens of teachers have reported.

Paulette Olivier, an assistant principal in Lafayette, LA, appreciated what ongoing review did for her students’ achievement, enjoyment, and confidence throughout her first year of teaching from a mathematics book with dedicated routines of recall and synthesis.

With high hopes for student success, she read over their shoulders on the standardized achievement test that spring. She was horrified to discover that almost none of the test items had been encountered by the students during the year.

Ms. Olivier remembers going home that evening, taking a bottle of wine out to her swimming pool, and crying through the entire bottle (2000).

The outcomes, of course, showed that the students did very well on the test. Their associative networks had built up daily, item by connection, and they were ready for more successful adventures than they could appreciate themselves.

Confidence is another outcome. After several days’ struggle with one example per day of a particularly difficult word problemS, students have been overheard to say to one another, “Can you remember when we thought these were hard?”

Put any other mountain in front of me, and I’ll conquer it as well. Confidence.

The evidence is supplied by 40,000 students in Oklahoma City before and after using a teacher-written ongoing-review program, Daily Assorted Review Exercise Sets (DARES).
(See www.classappcogsci.com .) The exam they took was the California Achievement Test, revised in the last year shown on the graph, in which the above-average achievement showed even greater gains.

 The anecdote part was supplied by this writer’s son, then a third-grader whose teacher was using the DARES each day at that level. Evidently he was impressed by the learning he obtained by the DARES routine, for he asked if I had been responsible for writing DARES. When I acknowledged that I had, he asked, “Then why aren’t we rich?”

I responded that I wasn’t alone in writing DARES, and that the teachers contributed their help not to make money but to help disadvantaged students have a chance to learn. I added that I was saddened by people getting rich because of the weaknesses of students and school programs.

I asked him if he understood. He said yes.

The CSCOPE people might take note. Many present-day third graders will eventually know that CSCOPE people got rich because they were weak, and CSCOPE did little more to help them that create a treacherous illusion of success.

TEACHERS AT SBOE MEETING

Teacher testimony at the SBOE meeting trended to CSCOPE approval for language arts teachers, and against for teachers of science, social science, and mathematics.

One science teacher noted that her son’s CSCOPE science program was insipid. A hands-on experience led to the conclusion that dirt was “dirty.”

An excerpt from a social studies unit on Islam was shown by another witness. The favorability toward Islam over Judaism and Christianity was noted. The curriculum includes quotes from the Koran, but none from the Christian Bible or the Torah.

Another CSCOPE unit abstractly described a historical act, leading to student discussion of the question, “Was this an act of terror?” It turns out that the incident discussed was the Boston Tea Party.

One series of CSCOPE mathematics exams showed verbatim repetition of questions from one exam to another. The year’s work showed a lack of cohesive organization where cohesion should have been prominent. Worksheets were laid out poorly. Much other evidence of sloppiness inspired doubts about the writers’ respect for student opportunity.

Teachers and board members expressed concern that CSCOPE nullified teacher experience and freedom to flexibly meet the varied needs of students. This writer penned these words during the testimony: “For 40+ years, the only people who told me how to teach were my students.”

Teachers and board members expressed doubts that CSCOPE’s teacher feedback opportunity was sincere. “Why should CSCOPE improve? They’ll still make a big profit.”

And “The professional is interested in student learning. CSCOPE wants teachers to be interested in CSCOPE’s interpretation of TAKS scores.”

And “Grading usually involved assigning a one or a zero. At times, a zero is assigned in spite of good work shown. At other times, a one is assigned in spite of no work shown.”

And “CSCOPE exams put students in a hole, from which CSCOPE alone can provide the way up — or so they say.”

And “CSCOPE advertises more rigor. What is provided is neither more thought-provoking nor inspiring of creativity, but is instead more advanced topics – – material from courses not yet taken.”

I CAN CONFIRM THIS. 

 

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