Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Flawed CSCOPE Needs SBOE Oversight says State Board of Education Member David Bradley

March 26, 2013


From:  DAVID BRADLEY, State Board of education, District 7

Contact:  Theone Bradley

         Many are asking questions about the accessibility, content and structure of CSCOPE, which is now being used in 80 percent of Texas school districts. Some call it “curriculum,” while others describe it simply as “lesson plans.” Its development began a decade ago when teachers were looking for lesson plans to align with new standards being adopted by the State Board of Education (SBOE). By law, curriculum is reviewed by the SBOE, while lesson plans are not. In essence, CSCOPE is now an online curriculum program marketed to individual school districts by members of the Regional Education Service Centers. It was not coordinated through the Texas Education Agency, and it was never reviewed or approved by the SBOE to assure conformity with Texas curriculum standards.

         Concerns regarding parental access stem from the ten-page CSCOPE contract that teachers are required to sign prior to using the curriculum. It prohibits educators from showing CSCOPE content to parents. This directly conflicts with the state law assuring parents the right to review any and all curriculum used in public schools to instruct their children. In this same vein, it took the Chairman of our Education Board six months to obtain an access password from CSCOPE developers known as the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC). The TESCCC board is comprised of the 20 executive directors of the 20 publicly funded Regional Education Service Centers in Texas. Access to their meetings and minutes was repeatedly denied until the Texas Attorney General insisted that their meetings be posted and open to the public in accordance with the Texas Open Meetings Act.

         Reports of questionable CSCOPE content range from viewing the Boston Tea Party as an act of terrorism to requiring students to design a flag for a new socialist country. One document handed out during a 2012 CSCOPE summer training session called for rigid compliance with CSCOPE content, stating that steps should be taken to ensure that “individual teachers do not have the option to disregard or replace assigned content.” Yet today, the CSCOPE website claims that CSCOPE curriculum is “customizable” and “aligned with” Texas state standards. 

         Also of concern is the fact that state employees have used public funds to develop a product and are then turning around and selling it to Texas schools. Texas taxpayers are essentially paying for the work twice. And despite protestations that the Regional Service Centers have yet to “break even on their investment,” any amount of money paid for CSCOPE multiplied by four million Texas students is a hefty sum! In my mind, there is an obvious conflict of interest when employees of the Regional Service Centers decide to market their own product to a captive audience of school districts that they are already employed to serve.

         In order to cut costs and bolster competition, SB 6 of the 2011 legislative session expanded the term, “instructional materials,” to include hardware, software, etc. Textbook money is now sent directly to individual school districts, which are no longer required to purchase SBOE-approved curriculum that has been reviewed and certified as conforming to state standards. This month, the Texas Legislature took measures to regulate CSCOPE after learning of the issues described above. Senators Dan Patrick and Donna Campbell filed SB 1406, which, if passed, would require CSCOPE to come under the authority and scrutiny of the SBOE.

         We have apparently come full circle. In the quest for taxpayer savings, we are being double-billed, and higher state standards are being set aside for online curriculum that can be changed with a simple keystroke. In the short term, SB 1406 needs our support so CSCOPE can be brought under the review of the SBOE to ensure content compliance for our Texas students. In the long term, new legislation and contracts must be developed for the new era of online education resources so we can continue to ensure Texas’ high standards of content are met.

David Bradley
State Board of Education, District 7
Representing Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Newton, Orange, Sabine, San Augustine and Tyler Counties

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