Williams’ CSCOPE Expose Part I

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Kids Price Per HeadPounding square CSCOPES into round holes: Part I (1134 words)

Joel Williams
joel@brenhambanner.com

How much is your child’s education worth? Plenty!

CSCOPE is the 21st century’s answer to curriculum design and
implementation for public schools across Texas. CSCOPE announces on its
site that it “is a customizable, online curriculum management system aligned
with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)” in the four core
content areas. It is also raking in more than $21-million a year from Texas
schools.

Of course, the amount is strictly conjecture based on the service charge per
student, the number of districts using CSCOPE and the number of students
attending these schools. The exact figure is a mystery because CSCOPE, for
now, is not required to reveal how much they take in and what they do with
it.

CSCOPE will solve everything

The idea was to have a curriculum, a plan for each of the four major subjects
taught from elementary through high school, that would align horizontally
and vertically. Horizontal alignment refers to assessments (tests) matching
the standards. In this case the standards are the TAKS and STAAR tests.

Vertical alignment is the supposed logical, consistent order for teaching
content in a subject from one grade level to the next. This sounds very
simple as, of course, a seventh grade science should prepare students for
taking science in the eighth grade just as Algebra I should prepare students
for Algebra II.

No school district will ever openly advocate “teaching to the test,” or simply
preparing students for the TAKS or STAAR exams. To admit doing so
would imply the system is incapable of preparing students for life after
high school in addition to the benchmark exams and End of Course (EOC)
assessments.

The cold, hard truth is that in large part district superintendents and school
principals are judged (and rewarded) on these test scores. Teachers are
considered exemplary teachers when they achieve a 100-percent passing rate
on these tests. Teachers in some districts failing to score a passing ration
above 95-percent are in danger of not having their contract renewed.

However, on their site CSCOPE is very open with their claims on
conquering state tests. “CSCOPE’s high quality curriculum, assesment, and
instructional components assist schools in meeting the high standard of rigor
and relevance required in the TEKS and STAAR assessments.”

If you are someone who enjoys catching misprints in the media you are to
be congratulated if you caught the “assessment” in the paragraph above.
This mistake is still on the home page of CSCOPE at http://www.cscope.us/.
Even more amusing is the word is spelled correctly the second time it is used
in the same paragraph.

Again the home site touts, “CSCOPE is developed by the Texas Education
Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC) which is comprised of
20 Education Service Centers (ESC) that serve Texas schools. The purpose
of the TESCCC is to provide high quality curriculum components and
resources to help school districts ensure that all students meet rigorous
academic achievement standards in efficient and economical ways.”

The Burton and Brenham ISDs belongs to ESC Region VI, which is
headquartered in Huntsville.

Initial CSCOPE development began during the 2005-06 school year, with
the following school year the first year of implementation. During that first
year there were 182 active CSCOPE districts in Texas, now there are 875
which is 70% of the districts in Texas.

Representatives from regional ESCs would present to school boards across
the state a new model. “This curriculum,” they would tell their audience, “is
a comprehensive, customized, user-friendly curriculum support system,”
and “based on best practice models from top researchers.” Lessons are all
aligned with the TEKS/TAKS and each lesson meets the highest standards
of rigor and relevance.

And this was most likely the biggest selling point. CSCOPE will get TAKS
(and now STAAR) test results up. School boards believed they would
achieve their goal of successfully overseeing an archaic curriculum and
provide students the materials they need to successfully pass their
benchmark tests.

But the presenters for CSCOPE had even more to offer. Not only was it a
curriculum, they gushed, CSCOPE supplied the resources for
implementation as well as monitoring the curriculum. Then, they would add.
the program also “establishes an accountability process to ensure a quality
implementation.”

Just a few, minor bones of contention:

Part of the problem was CSCOPE was presented as an entity separate from
ESCs. Each ESC that has schools using the program contributes a portion of
the CSCOPE fees collected from districts to cover centralized statewide
functions for CSCOPE development, technology, and administrative
delivery and oversight costs. The remaining funds are used for CSCOPE
training, support, and technical assistance.

Therein lays the rub. Regional ESCs contribute personnel, time and
materials to TESCCC, and in turn TESCCC developed CSCOPE. ESCs then
present CSCOPE to school boards as the greatest thing since sliced bread in
developing curriculum horizontally as well as vertically. All the while
focusing on those pesky TEKS students need to learn.

Some see CSCOPE as the ESCs method to develop a program they can sell
and keep a large amount of money spent on curriculum development in
house. The ESCs operated by the Texas Education Agency are closely
aligned with the U.S. Department of Education, which is prohibited by law
from creating curriculum, and having TESCCC develop CSCOPE seems a
way to circumvent those laws.

OOPS! TESCCC was a front–there was no such business except on paper?
Comment by Janice VanCleave

Fees collected from approved vendor partners comprise only 6-percent of
the revenue collected through the TESCCC for CSCOPE. Guess where the
other 94-percent goes.

According to Dr. Wade N. Labay, the director of CSCOPE, the cost of the
program depends on the size of the district and the number of campuses.
The majority of districts pay $7 per student as well as a “minimal
technology fee” based on the number of campuses that use CSCOPE. The
example he gave was based on a district with six campuses and 2,900
students paying a total of $24,200 for a year-long license.

There is also a one-time technology set-up fee in the first year of
implementation. The district then pays the local ESC for access to the
CSCOPE system. ESCs pitch and sell the program to districts which costs
TESCC nothing.

“Back in the early- and mid-2000’s, cottage industries were making huge
amounts of money selling TAKS-related curriculum and benchmark tests to
Texas public schools,” writes former teacher Janice Van Cleave on her
txcscopereview.com website. She believes TEA saw a way to cut itself in on
the millions being spent yearly with the result developing into CSCOPE and
its method of presentation to school districts.

On the CSCOPE site is the notation: The TESCCC is not funded by any
special interest group/organization or any federal or state agency.

Last year Brenham ISD paid CSCOPE $49,046.

Next: The SBOE rides to the rescue–Part II

Part III

 

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