CSCOPE: Texas Teachers Given Gag Order
[The November newsletter from Texas Eagle Forum will carry an article on CSCOPE also.]
Many Texas public school superintendents have thrown aside textbooks and have bought, at great expense to the local taxpayers, an unproven curriculum called CSCOPE.
Each Texas teacher in a CSCOPE district had to sign a contract with CSCOPE — a full page of legal descriptions binding the teacher not to reveal the content of CSCOPE to anyone outside the school. The teachers were not allowed to copy the contract nor secure legal counsel to interpret the content. The consensus among teachers across Texas is that they dislike CSCOPE intensely because it does not prepare their students academically for the new STAAR/End-of-Course tests.
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.
The Texas Education Service Centers (ESC’s) decided they wanted a “piece of the pie” and selected ESC-Region 13 (Austin) to write CSCOPE as an alternative to those of the cottage industry vendors.
CSCOPE started out to be a supplementary program. On the CSCOPE website, the program is advertised as a “curriculum management system.” However through careful marketing tricks by the ESC’s, CSCOPE’s lessons have become an all-in-one comprehensive curriculum used to direct instruction K through Grade 12.
Approximately 80% of public schools in Texas have purchased CSCOPE, using taxpayers’ dollars.
The ESC in Austin copyrighted CSCOPE in 2006 and marketed it through ESC newsletters, administrator/school board/teacher conferences. Then in 2009, the TESCCC (Texas Educational Service Centers Curriculum) was set up as a 501(c)(3) organization, and CSCOPE was copyrighted. TESCCC has 19 members on its board, and they just “happen” to be 19 of the 20 directors of the ESC’s.
CSCOPE – A CONFLICT OF INTEREST
The Texas Attorney General’s office ruled on 4.4.12 (Opinion #449557– https://www.oag.state.tx.us/opinions/openrecords/50abbott/orl/2012/pdf/or201204869.pdf — that CSCOPE (TESCCC) is a governmental body and does fall within the scope of Gov. Code – 552.003(1)(A)(xii). This means that CSCOPE (TESCCC) is subject to the Public Information Act (PIA) and should be required to make public its curriculum, tax returns, check register, and bylaws.
However, because of Section 552.104 (Gov. Code) which makes an exception that protects a governmental body (such as TESCCC) from following the PIA if doing so would give competitors a demonstrable advantage by allowing them to develop similar products and harm the marketplace advantages of CSCOPE, the Texas Attorney General has ruled that CSCOPE (TESCCC) does not have to follow all the PIA requirements.
The lawyers who originally set up the TESCCC corporation undoubtedly knew exactly how to get around the PIA laws.
As a retired teacher stated recently, “The TESCCC has created CSCOPE and is selling it to Texas public school districts. Am I correct that this would be like employees for Dow Chemical, on company time, producing a product and then selling the product to Dow Chemical, pocketing the money for themselves?”
As another educator put it:
In other words, the ESC’s [i.e., TESCCC] are making a fortune built upon bogus marketing strategies that are not grounded in any independent research. Because the ESC’s are selling it across the state, the easily influenced administrators (who haven’t taught in classrooms in eons if ever) automatically practice cronyism and go along with the ESC’s by using taxpayers’ dollars to buy C-SCOPE. The marketing is done ‘free of charge’ through the ESC’s who pass the word among themselves and to all those educators who come to the ESC’s for training.
CSCOPE NEVER SCRUTINIZED BY SBOE
Another problem is that CSCOPE was never approved by our elected members of the Texas State Board of Education who have authority over curriculum standards. These SBOE members are also charged with making sure that instructional materials bought with taxpayers’ funds prepare students by following the SBOE-adopted curriculum standards.
To this date, CSCOPE (including its lessons and learning activities) has never gone through the intense Texas textbook adoption process in which public hearings are held and factual errors are documented, discussed, and verified. Neither has there been any follow-up to make sure that the errors in CSCOPE lessons and learning activities have been corrected.
As importantly, there has been no independent review of CSCOPE to make sure that its lessons and learning activities align with the new SBOE-adopted curriculum standards (ELAR, Science, Social Studies, Math).
Starting in May 2008, the SBOE made a gigantic step forward by changing the direction of the English/Language Arts/Reading, Science, Social Studies, and Math curriculum standards (i.e., TEKS).
The “old” curriculum standards and the “old” TAKS tests — many of them highly subjective and hard for both teachers and students to follow — were discarded. In their place, new, fact-based, academic, clearly worded, grade-level-specific (course-specific), and objectively tested TEKS and new STAAR/End-of-Course tests were implemented, starting with the 9th graders of 2011-12.
CSCOPE USING “OLD UNITS” BUILT UPON “OLD STANDARDS”
According to teachers in the field, CSCOPE’s lessons and learning activities are not aligned with the “new” curriculum standards and tests developed since May 2008. Many teachers in the field have reported that CSCOPE is aligned with the “old” standards/tests (CSCOPE originally written in 2006) and does not prepare their students well for the new curriculum requirements (adopted since May 2008) and for the new STAAR/End-of-Course Tests (first administered in Spring 2012).
WHY THE LACK OF TRANSPARENCY
What is in the CSCOPE lessons and learning activities that warrants teachers being gagged not to reveal them to parents or anybody else?
Science teachers have reported frequent scientific errors in the CSCOPE lessons and learning activities. Other teachers have objected to the over-emphasis on pro-Islam/anti-Christian/anti-Judeo content. English teachers have complained about the lack of CSCOPE’s sequential instruction of phonemic awareness, phonics, grammar, usage, correct spelling, cursive, expository/persuasive writing, and research techniques.
Many teachers believe that the present CSCOPE is actually the 2006 version of CSCOPE with bits and pieces from the new curriculum standards (TEKS) and new tests (STAAR/EOC’s) pasted in to give the appearance of legitimacy. Teachers say that the problem for the students is that they are being held to two different standards – one going back to the 2006 version of CSCOPE (based upon the 1997 TEKS curriculum standards) and the other based upon the new curriculum standards/tests adopted since May 2008. Instead of CSCOPE helping to get students ready to pass the STAAR/EOC’s so that they can graduate, CSCOPE adds confusion to their classrooms.
LEGISLATION OPENED DOOR
SB 6 (passed in the last legislative session) along with HB 4294 (passed on 5.19.09) have given public school administrators the clearance to order digitized textbooks (i.e., instructional materials) for students instead of hardcover textbooks.
Because many public school children now have only digitized instructional materials, unless parents can see their children’s CSCOPE lessons and learning activities, the parents will have no idea what their children are being taught.
PARENTS BEING WEDGED OUT
How can parents be involved in the education of their children if not allowed to see their children’s homework materials each evening?
Are parents even allowed to visit their children’s classrooms to view the CSCOPE materials? How many parents have the time to spend each day observing the CSCOPE lessons being presented? Why all the secrecy behind CSCOPE?
How can parents monitor what their children are being taught by the public schools if not allowed free access to instructional materials that their taxpayers’ dollars have purchased?
Is the objective of CSCOPE to wedge parents out of personal involvement with their own children?
Do public school superintendents have the legal right to prohibit teachers from revealing the lesson content of CSCOPE? Shouldn’t CSCOPE materials be treated in the same way that copyrighted textbooks are treated whereby everyone is free to see them and utilize the content so long as attribution, anti-plagiarism, and copyright laws are followed?
By law it is the local school administrators who are held accountable to make sure that the instructional materials used in their districts cover the SBOE-adopted curriculum standards and the tests based upon them (STAAR/End-of-Course). Who is making sure that CSCOPE’s lessons and learning activities are in alignment with the new requirements? Who is making sure that these local school administrators are held accountable for their choice to buy CSCOPE?
Has there been any public scrutiny of TESCCC’s non-profit status as a 501(c)(3) organization and their tax-exempt status?
LEGISLATIVE ACTION NEEDED
It is past time to call for transparency of CSCOPE. Parents and taxpayers deserve to have these questions answered.