Changes in Store for CSCOPE, Under Legislative Pressure

Sen. Dan Patrick, chair of the Texas Senate Education Committee, announced today that a consortium of regional educational service centers has agreed to a menu of significant changes in their CSCOPE curriculum-management system. CSCOPE is used by hundreds of school districts to bridge the gap between state curriculum standards and actual classroom lessons designed to meet those standards. But the program has been fraught with problems, including rigidly prescriptive use of sample CSCOPE lesson plans by many districts, leaving little room for the exercise of professional judgment by classroom teachers. CSCOPE also came in for criticism at a recent hearing of Sen. Patrick’s committee for restricting parental access to CSCOPE materials. Some ideologically motivated critics and senators sympathetic to their views also attacked a handful of CSCOPE sample lessons for being insufficiently patriotic or too generous in their treatment of Islam.

Under a deal between Sen. Patrick and CSCOPE, as described in Patrick’s press release today, CSCOPE will make the following changes, among others:

–CSCOPE will notify all school districts using the system that its lessons are not intended to be used verbatim and generally should be used solely as a resource.
–CSCOPE lessons, beginning with social studies, will be reviewed through a collaborative process with the State Board of Education, involving parents, teachers, school administrators, SBOE members, and CSCOPE board members.
–CSCOPE will publish lesson content on its public Web site, will alter all user agreements to remove penalties for release of CSCOPE content, and will clarify that all teachers and districts may post any and all CSCOPE lessons that they deem necessary.
–CSCOPE board meetings henceforth will be public and will meet notice requirements.

Texans familiar with the mess that far-right-wing SBOE members recently made of the state’s social-studies guidelines—earning rebukes from conservative scholars as well as progressives for importing their personal biases into the curriculum guidelines—may be forgiven for wondering whether SBOE members have any business editing lesson plans. Lawmakers mindful of this concern may want to have a say in the matter, rather than leave it to a deal between Sen. Patrick and the CSCOPE vendor (the consortium of regional service centers).