CSCOPE is definitely a "hot" topic for teachers. Most of you reading this have either heard of it, or you are living it in your classroom every single day. Here is what the CSCOPE website defines it as:
"The Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC) includes a team of Education Service Centers that represents all areas of the state.The collaborative's goal is to provide a quality curriculum support system to Texas K-12 schools. TESCCC has developed CSCOPE, a comprehensive, customized, user-friendly curriculum support system. In addition to the curriculum, CSCOPE encompasses resources for the implementation, monitors the curriculum and establishes an accountability process to ensure a quality implementation. The curriculum component of CSCOPE is based on best practice models from top researchers. Lessons are all aligned with the TEKS/TAKS and each lesson meets the highest standards of rigor and relevance."
As those who are being forced to adhere to this program, I hope you are asking questions - and the right ones. These questions are based on information provided by teachers from all over the state who have personal knowledge of the program as it is used in their specific districts.
- Does this curriculum provide teachers with enough leeway and freedom to teach beyond a minimum skills test? (Does it promote creativity in teacher and student alike?)
- Does it allow teachers to re-arrange the lessons to accommodate the uniqueness of their students?
- Whose "best practices" does it employ? If they are coming from inner-city, low-income schools, is it appropriate for all schools?
- Are teachers who are currently working in Texas schools instrumental in developing, designing, and amending this program?
- Are teachers allowed to use the state adopted textbooks with CSCOPE?
- Does it mesh with other programs, such as Balanced Literacy?
- Is it cost effective? Have we seen a breakdown of cost per student for all parts of the program, including paper use, ancillary materials (i.e. math kits, social studies kits), and cost for substitutes needed when teachers are attending "roll-out" days at the ESC?
- Does it have diversity of lessons for various grade levels?
- Who is turning a profit from this program?
- Since its inception, is there any evidence that SAT and ACT (and TAKS) scores have improved so much that it justifies the expense?
- Since teachers are just "facilitators" with this program, are the kids getting too much discovery learning and not enough teacher instruction?
- Do parents really understand the curriculum and how it works?
- Are seniors graduating college- or career-ready with this curriculum?
- Does this curriculum address the needs of gifted and talented students?
- Is the state really going to mandate CSCOPE for use in all schools across the state?
If you are not asking these questions, you should. If we are going to use this program, then everyone involved should know how it works - or if it works. The idea that one administrator announced to a group of teachers that anyone off the street could come in and teach this curriculum, tells me all I need to know about the quality of the product and the reason it exists. Are we willing to sacrifice a solid education for a minimal skills test score while watching master teachers pushed into closets so that they don't taint the waters with their "antiquated" ideas about teaching (which, by the way, still work)?
I have had many opportunities to speak with college professors about what they are seeing in the freshmen classes, and the picture is not only dreary; it is embarrassing. I have also had many opportunities to speak with local business owners who are appalled at the lack of basic reading and math skills of young, part-time workers who are currently enrolled in our public high schools. And don't get me started about their inability to count back change, read and fill out a basic form for employment, or write an intelligible sentence, much less a paragraph. We are settling for mediocrity for all so that we can continue to receive state and federal funding.
No doubt, some schools are better than others, especially the ones that encourage creativity in teachers and kids and allow them to push for the top. That means using more classtime for teaching and learning and less for benchmarking and assessment. We must stop this insane march into mediocrity, and it starts with asking a few pertinent questions about the programs our schools are purchasing at whopping taxpayer expense.