Pounding square CSCOPES into round holes: Part II (1483 words) Joel Williams
The SBOE rides to the rescue
In April of 2012, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that because
TESCCC was formed by government agencies, the regional ESCs, it is also a government agency and subject to the Public Information Act (PIA).
Requiring it to make public its curriculum, tax returns, check register, and
In part of his ruling Abbott noted…
… upon, review we conclude that the collaborative is funded through
public funds, and the collaborative is governed by governmental bodies,
namely the member ESCs through its governing board…Accordingly, we
body” under section 552.003(1)(A)(xii) of the Government Code.
So far TESCCC has resisted even the release of meeting minutes, claiming…
…when read as a whole, the minutes TESCCC seeks to withhold offer
insight into how the board operates …access into the inner-workings of the
organization and how it makes decisions…
That statement seems to be a real, “Well, duh!!” moment.
CSCOPE has only recently come under scrutiny of the Texas State Board
of Education (SBOE) who has authority over curriculum standards. State
Representative Steve Toth (R- The Woodlands) filed HB #760 on January
28 in a joint effort to ensure that e-learning (on-line or cloud based teaching
material) curriculum used in public schools falls under the oversight and
approval of the SBOE.
The bill concerning e-learning is aimed directly at CSCOPE. A program that
did not fall under the same oversight and approval as other printed materials
because of its digital format and, therefore, never approved by SBOE.
On a November 15, 2012, SBOE meeting notice to discuss CSCOPE
included in background information is Texas Education Code 31.002
defining instructional materials. It then lists curriculum management systems
as meeting the criteria to be defined as instructional materials and, therefore,
falling under the jurisdiction of SBOE.
A major problem many educators have with the program is that CSCOPE,
because it did not fall under the purview of SBOE, was never subjected to
the same review process the Texas textbook adoption process demands. No
public hearings where errors or opinions within the system can be discussed
and corrected or modified. CSCOPE is a typical government one size fits
all program where students keep pace with the curriculum rather than the
teacher pacing material to the class.
According to Dr. Jay McTighe, one whose work is one of the “best practice
models from top researchers” and forms the framework for the development
of CSCOPE, “Kids don’t learn at the same rate so a prescriptive curriculum,
where you will be where you are expected to be, leaves some behind.”
“CSCOPE directors were not concerned about the quality of the CSCOPE
instruction material,” believes Van Cleave. “Quantity was needed to launch
a K-12 instruction material. Lessons were never evaluated or approved by
anyone, authors are not identified and some of the lesson content has been
plagiarized–copied directly from websites with no acknowledgement for the
More bones of contention
Just a few years ago the education catch-phrase was “differentiated
learning,” where the same lesson could be taught several ways allowing
students with different learning styles the ability to learn in a method best
suited for them. CSCOPE eliminates any difference between students. Those
students who can learn a chemical compound after watching the teacher
display it on the Smartboard are taught in the same manner as those students
who learn using a more cognitive approach.
CSCOPE describes itself as having “Customizable instructional plans that
allow district resources to be integrated into the system.” This flies in the
face of the standard presentation in which CSCOPE is demonstrated as
having everything a classroom needs. Exercises that cause students to
engage, explore, explain, elaborate and then undergo an evaluation.
Educators having to use CSCOPE also complain the amount of time used
reviewing, printing and organizing the materials for each unit can take much
longer than using traditional methods many teachers had honed over the
course of their teaching career.
Experienced teachers will tell you that each lesson plan has the ability to
succeed or fail depending on the presentation and the students in the class.
For example, students in a class scheduled before their lunch period may be
bouncing off the walls and the teacher will design a class based on a series
of drills at the beginning of class to calm the students. After lunch,
especially during warm months, an activity to wake up and pique the interest
of students is called for.
They can design these lesson plans in their sleep and adjust on the fly. New
teachers are given CSCOPE and told they need only use this program.
Basically, taking the art of learning how to teach from new teachers.
Experienced teachers see their lesson plans that have succeeded for years
suddenly deemed archaic. Quaint, even. But completely unnecessary.
Dr. McTighe offered, “If they truly wish to honor the ideas of the people
listed the curriculum would not be inflexible. C-Scope is a resource built
around sources but not an inflexible curriculum. An inflexible curriculum is
an insult to creative teachers.”
“While new teachers may initially embrace the concepts, the reality of
having a class of kids that are suppose to be learning from each other is a
fantasy in the mind of the liberal that dreamed up the idea,” warns Van
Another sticking point for even new teachers is the claim by CSCOPE that it
establishes an accountability process to ensure a quality implementation.
Part of each lesson plan lists the amount of time to spend on each activity
and how long the entire unit should take. Presenters tell school boards,
superintendents, principals and teachers that using CSCOPE assures that
anyone can walk into a classroom and know not only what unit is being
taught but what lesson.
The program is ideal for those wishing to monitor what is being taught in
the classroom as CSCOPE presenters promise during a presentation you can
walk into a classroom at any time of the school year and know what is being
taught. Adds Van Cleave, “CSCOPE is a management system to monitor
Unfortunately, many administrators believe the CSCOPE claims and
teachers suffer for it. Lorinda Clark, principal at Bloomburg High School,
dropped in a lively debate being held in a social studies class after Osama
Bin Laden was killed in early May 2011. The social studies teacher had
asked his students to offer points on the reaction of the world to Bin Laden’s
death and possible future ramifications at home and abroad.
Upset that CSCOPE was obviously not in use, Clark demanded the teacher
meet in her office after school. There she reprimanded him for, “Far too
much unstructured conversation in the classroom.” For the remainder of the
school year the teacher was required DAILY to supply Clark with CSCOPE
lessons and handouts to be used in each of the five subjects he taught. The
teacher, a 10-year veteran, no longer works in education.
Van Cleave observes, “CSCOPE is considered a managing systems and it is.
It manages teachers–in fact, it micromanages teachers.”
According to Tim Savoy, Public Information Officer with HAYS ISD, “The
C-Scope lesson plans are available for their (teachers) use, but are optional
if the teacher chooses to use an equally rigorous activity in the classroom.
Our policy regarding C-Scope is the general curriculum policy. It requires
teachers to use the district adopted curriculum, which is C-Scope.”
How can CSCOPE be optional if the district “requires teachers to use the
district adopted curriculum, which is C-Scope.”
Rod Leer, Brenham ISD Director of Information Technology, explains
blindly following C-Scope to the letter is not the intended use for the
“C-Scope is a framework,” Leer says, “a vertical and horizontal framework
that teachers are in charge of.” Leer states he has attending C-Scope training
and districts attempting to force their teachers to use only C-Scope in their
classroom are missing the point and, worse, under utilizing what is supposed
to be the district’s most important asset, its teachers.
“C-Scope is a framework but teachers are in charge of the framework,” Leer
believes. “What to teach using C-Scope is left up to the teacher.”
Regardless of how CSCOPE may be advertised to school districts according
to its director, Dr. Wade N. Labay, “In all cases, the district makes the final
determination as to how CSCOPE will/may be implemented (local control).”
CSCOPE offers as one of its qualities the ability for any administrator the
opportunity to drop in a class with the full knowledge of what is being
taught that day, while also placing the responsibility on the degree of
implementation squarely on the districts. Does teacher modification to
CSCOPE allow the program to be off the hook if test scores do not improve
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