BURKBURNETT ISD LOOSENING CSCOPE REQUIREMENTS
1.24.13 — Comments from Donna Garner:
I trust that Burkburnett ISD is going to seek a refund of taxpayers’ dollars from CSCOPE since teachers are no longer required to use the entire program. (Please see Times Record-News article by Ann Work posted below.)
Example of cost: Ector County ISD just paid CSCOPE $1.7 Million for this school year. Burkburnett ISD has undoubtedly paid similar high costs. A refund from CSCOPE is in order.
(I have heard from teachers that districts are spending thousands and thousands of dollars to Xerox the CSCOPE lessons since there are no student textbooks. The taxpayers are picking up these costs that are outside the cost of purchasing CSCOPE.)
In actuality, CSCOPE is not needed by any school districts in Texas. Teachers when given enough time are perfectly capable of setting their own goals as to how they are going to teach the new TEKS (curriculum standards).
The difference in the new TEKS (tied to STAAR/End-of-Course tests) and the old TEKS (tied to TAKS tests) is that the new TEKS are specific for each grade level and emphasize fact-based learning – a return to teaching the badly needed basics before unrealistically expecting students to be able to do higher-level-thinking.
Instead of purchasing CSCOPE, districts should allow teachers to meet by grade levels and departments and to share ideas on how to bundle various TEKS elements together and form units (thus covering the TEKS in total). Individual teachers can then decide in what order they want to present the bundled lessons, making sure that students are ready for the new STAAR/EOC’s when given.
For instance, let’s look at the way an English I teacher could bundle various TEKS together to create a good teaching unit on persuasive reading/writing/speaking.
(Link to English I TEKS: http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter110/ch110c.html#110.31 )
An English I teacher could create a unit in which his students (1) read persuasive pieces (both fiction and nonfiction), (2) recognize analogies, (3) analyze inferences, (4) compare persuasive texts with various viewpoints, (5) study the etymology and denotative/connotative meanings of various vocabulary words, (6) use a dictionary/glossary/thesaurus, (7) consider graphical sources used in the persuasive literary piece (e.g., newspaper commentary using a pie chart), (8) distinguish the formality of the tone of different persuasive literary pieces, (9) learn about the thesis/counter-arguments, (10) discover how to use research sources to gather data, (11) understand the meaning of plagiarism, (12) learn how to paraphrase and cite sources, (13) go through the five-step writing process, and (14) use correct grammar/mechanics/spelling.
After evaluating the persuasive compositions for content/style/organization and also for grammar/mechanics/spelling, the teacher should conduct a writing conference with the student to discuss the paper. In this conference, the teacher needs to make sure that students understand how to correct their grammar/mechanics/spelling mistakes.
Once the students have corrected their persuasive papers, teachers should teach students good listening/speaking skills and have them present persuasive speeches to the class.
Please notice how many of the English I TEKS can be covered in just one unit! This is the way that teachers can indeed cover all of the new TEKS in a year’s time.
Teachers do not need CSCOPE and its “robotic” planning requirements that do not allow teachers the time they need to make sure their students are achieving mastery.
Teachers can design their own creative teaching units using the new TEKS as the guide to tell them what to teach but not how to teach it.
1.24.13 — Wichita Falls Times Record News
Burkburnett ISD Loosens Lesson Guidelines: Teachers Can Skip Exemplar Lessons
by Ann Work
Burkburnett ISD lifted its requirements on teachers who use its CSCOPE curriculum, telling them they are no longer required to use its exemplar lessons.
They are still required to follow CSCOPE’s planning documents and present subject matter according to the CSCOPE sequence, but they may substitute their own lessons for CSCOPE’s, according to Missy Mayfield, Burkburnett ISD curriculum specialist.
The announcement came in early December, shortly before Christmas break, and was presented as “an early Christmas present from your administrative team,” Mayfield said Tuesday.
The decree came after loosening the guidelines a little bit in August, she said.
Burkburnett teachers have used CSCOPE for four years.
“Our teachers know the state standards well enough now; they can write their own lessons to meet state standards,” Mayfield said.
CSCOPE is an online curriculum designed to help teachers fit all the state’s requirements into their teaching so that they adequately prepare students for state tests.
More than 800 of the state’s 1,036 school districts adopted the CSCOPE product since it was introduced by the state’s regional service centers in 2006.
All Region 9 school districts except City View ISD lease CSCOPE for about $7 per student annually.
Teachers told Mayfield they felt the pressure of fitting in all of CSCOPE’s lessons.
“The lessons are very full, very packed,” Mayfield said. Even though CSCOPE may recommend that a lesson last five days, there is usually enough material to fill three weeks of class time, especially with the slow learners, she said.
“There’s always time pressure. We felt that stress could be lifted,” she said.
CSCOPE has come under fire recently for the secrecy it demands of teachers, who are prohibited from showing CSCOPE classroom documents to anyone.
Others have complained about its controversial teaching approaches and lessons, “exemplar” lessons that some say are actually weak, poor correlation between lessons and tests, and lessons that favor Islam and portray Christianity incorrectly.
Even though districts bought the product with the guarantee
it would give teachers all they need to help students pass state tests, there has been no outside oversight of the product or proof of such claims.
One current report on CSCOPE was completed in November but has not yet been released by state CSCOPE Director Wade Labay.
Other concerns revolve around the financial web of the original CSCOPE product and how it was allowed to pass from a state product of the regional service centers into its current status as a nonprofit, private corporation.
Mayfield was part of the state leadership team who trained more than 3,000 teachers on CSCOPE when it was introduced, she said.
CSCOPE grew out of a perfect storm of problems confronting administrators then, she said.
The Texas State Board of Education had just rewritten all the state’s requirements and added so much to them that teachers were overwhelmed at the breadth of requirements they were now held accountable for teaching.
Meanwhile, test scores were sinking, a new test with increasing rigor was on the horizon, and accountability standards were on the rise.
“Administrators first saw CSCOPE and said, ‘This is what we’ve been looking for. It will organize and map the TEKS (state requirements) out in a logical manner,'” she said.
Administrators incorrectly saw CSCOPE then as “all we will ever need again,” Mayfield said.
Lessons were later added to the sequencing flow chart.
“It took two to three years (using CSCOPE) to say, ‘Maybe that’s not the silver bullet,'” Mayfield said.
She remembers training 200 teachers on CSCOPE a mere three days before they were supposed to begin using it in the classroom. “I remember saying, ‘There is no silver bullet.’ But a lot of teams saw it as a silver bullet. It’s not,” she said.
It was merely the first time anyone had assembled and presented all the TEKS into a manageable framework, she said.
The flaw, she believes, is with the vast number of state standards that teachers must cover. “CSCOPE was the first curriculum to put it in your face,” she said.
It left no time for reteaching or working with the slower student. A school’s own intervention program must be strong to address that, she said.
“I still use it to guide my lesson,” said Jamie Smith, a fifth-grade English Language Arts teacher in Burkburnett. “I may change the activity.”
“I always felt free to supplement,” said Leslie Coble, who teaches algebra I and II and a math TAKS class. “Now we have the official go-ahead.”