The lesson plans portion of the CSCOPE curriculum management system used by 875 Texas school districts will not be available after Aug. 31, 2013, according to an announcement made May 20, 2013. In a news conference, Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick said that due to an agreement with the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative, which developed CSCOPE, the group would no longer offer or develop lesson plans.

A letter signed by all 20 members of TESCCC released May 20 stated that CSCOPE would return to the “original business plan of providing a management tool for teachers to stay on schedule regarding the teaching of the required Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.”

CSCOPE controversy

In March 2013, State Board of Education Chair Barbara Cargill appointed an ad hoc committee of SBOE members to review CSCOPE content. While the system’s lesson plans, like all lesson plans, are not under SBOE authority, the Texas Education Agency reported that legislative leaders had asked the SBOE to review CSCOPE content due to growing public concerns.

Some of those concerns, which put CSCOPE in the national spotlight in 2012 when discussed on a popular conservative talk show, center around some groups’ beliefs that the lesson plans promote a “progressive pro-Islamic curriculum” and that there’s a lack of transparency in the system.

TCTA has cited concerns of a different nature. In January 2013, TCTA’s Holly Eaton testified before the Senate Education Committee about the increasing number of teacher complaints about CSCOPE. She said concerns generally fall within several broad categories:

  • the actual substance of some CSCOPE curriculum pieces, especially in certain subject areas
  • lack of corresponding instructional materials
  • burdensome requirements for detailed and scripted lesson plans

“One of the main themes we have heard has to do with teachers feeling they must abandon everything they have 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,” Eaton told Senate Education Committee members.

What’s next for CSCOPE

Patrick announced in the news conference that he will notify the SBOE that its ad hoc committee no longer needs to review the 1,600 CSCOPE lesson plans, but also stated:

“What the last several months have proven is that the state will have to create a plan to monitor all online material in the future so that our schools and classroom remain completely transparent to parents and the Legislature knows what is being taught in our classrooms in Texas.”

SBOE member Thomas Ratliff released a statement in response to Patrick’s comments that said his proposal “looks like a slippery slope to Internet filters, censorship, and other limitations on teachers in the classroom. I support parents being able to see 100 percent of what their kids are being taught, but putting the SBOE and the Texas Legislature in every classroom in Texas is government control overkill.”

While CSCOPE will no longer offer lesson plans, districts may continue to use other aspects of the system, which includes a curriculum framework for grades K-12 in all foundational academic subject areas aligned to the state curriculum, the TEKS.

SB 1474, TCTA’s bill that would require districts to get significant input from teachers and the community before adopting curriculum initiatives such as CSCOPE, has passed the House and Senate and is headed to the governor’s desk.