Upon seeing the number of complaints building from various TCTA members about the CSCOPE curriculum management program, TCTA initiated a meeting with the state CSCOPE Director and Implementation Coordinator. During the lengthy meeting, TCTA outlined the major categories of concern expressed by our membership, including concerns with the actual substance of some of the CSCOPE curriculum pieces, particularly in certain subject areas; lack of corresponding instructional materials; and overly burdensome requirements for detailed and scripted lesson plans.

After a thorough discussion of each of these main categories of concerns (see summary below), state CSCOPE officials provided the information TCTA gave them to their CSCOPE Leadership Team, which, in response, formed an Implementation Support Committee to explore how the participating regional education service centers can help enhance district implementation. The Committee’s first meeting is scheduled for January, and the information provided by TCTA will be used to begin the discussion for improvements in the future.  We appreciate the staff involved for their willingness to listen to our concerns and take steps to remedy them.

During the meeting with state CSCOPE officials, TCTA first presented a number of subject-specific curriculum concerns. State CSCOPE officials responded that for each complaint they hear in this area, they receive as many or more compliments from teachers. However, they did direct our attention to a collaborative feedback mechanism within the CSCOPE curriculum system for each unit in a given curriculum area that a participating teacher can use to share concerns and suggestions. Apparently, this feedback is actively monitored by the state CSCOPE office (housed at the Region 13 Education Service Center), responses are provided to each, and the feedback is used as part of a continuous improvement process in which corresponding modifications are made to the curriculum if merited. 

Aside from these subject-specific programmatic concerns, it was clear during our discussion that the majority of the concerns we’d heard from our members were prompted by how the program was being implemented at the local level. In response to this, state CSCOPE officials provided us with an overall schematic of CSCOPE and its three main components: Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction. As explained in other documents accompanying the schematic, it is the Vertical Alignment column of the Curriculum section that state CSCOPE overseers consider “non-negotiable” and to which participating districts must strictly adhere. Use of the other two columns under Curriculum (Year at a Glance/TEKS Verification Matrix, and Instructional Focus Document), as well as the other two CSCOPE components, Assessment and Instruction, is discretionary.

One of the main themes that we have heard from members has to do with teachers feeling that they were having to abandon everything they had been doing instructionally, whether successful or not, and adhere strictly to a formulaic instructional approach all the way down to, in some cases, scripted lesson plans.  In response, state CSCOPE directors explained that they have repeatedly stressed to participating districts that the exemplar lesson plans are just examples to be used as needed, and a requirement to follow them strictly may only be appropriate for some struggling teachers. 

We discussed member concerns about district/school requirements to recopy lesson plans.  In response, state CSCOPE officials pointed out that the very reason the lesson plans are available online is so that recopying them is not necessary.  We further discussed the possibility of emphasizing this and addressing other such issues in a FAQ to be developed by the state CSCOPE office.  (Please note that depending upon the specific facts of cases like this involving burdensome paperwork requirements, TCTA has advised some members that such requirements potentially violate state paperwork reduction laws.)

Regarding the last category of complaints, lack of corresponding instructional materials, we noted that many of our members’ concerns in this area had more to do with the lack of resources for students and parents than with the lack of availability for their own use.  CSCOPE officials responded that they have tried addressing this by working with the publishing companies to identify possible corresponding materials, but due to the huge amount of materials available it is a daunting endeavor.  However, they intend to continue pursuing ways to address this concern.

With this initial headway made in helping to address member CSCOPE concerns, TCTA plans to continue to actively monitor and report on developments at the state level as they occur.