Members of the Texas Senate Committee on Education have asked representatives of the controversial "curriculum management system" called CSCOPE to explain why they targeted private citizens who have been critical of the program in a multi-media presentation delivered to superintendents and teachers in the state.
The Texas attorney general previously found that CSCOPE is a public entity, despite its organization as a non-profit, since it is composed of government-funded and government-organized Education Service Centers.
The centers previously held microfilm and videos for lease by classroom personnel around the state, and were slated to be defunded until CSCOPE arrived and gave them new roles.
State lawmakers said they wanted to know why a Powerpoint presentation given to educators across the state identified individual citizens who had expressed criticism of CSCOPE.
The presentation was given to CSCOPE schools in advance of a conference, highlighting those who are critics, an issue that now also is being argued before the attorney general.
Critics say since the individuals identified in the presentation were "witnesses," the state law against "witness intimidation" should apply.
The presentation also spoke of a "shut-off" switch to address leaked lesson and other material that finds its way into public hands.
Meanwhile, studies presented by those giving testimony before the Senate committee showed CSCOPE's own officers have doubts about CSCOPE's viability and whether or not CSCOPE is working. A study conducted by Dawn Schuenemann, head of Education Service Center for Region No. 2, concluded that there were "no significant differences" between the progress of CSCOPE schools in Texas and non-CSCOPE schools. Schuenemann's research shows that CSCOPE has had no impact on academic performance.
And a new study by the American Federation of Teachers, focusing on one independent school district in Texas, revealed that 75 percent of teachers surveyed felt that their students were not adequately prepared for the next grade.
Other reports indicate that teachers in CSCOPE schools are now holding students back from promotion due to CSCOPE's impact on in-class performance.
CSCOPE Q&A fact sheets admit to the fact that CSCOPE "common assessments" and CSCOPE lessons will not match up, and assign teachers the task of identifying which questions are not aligned to the lessons.
According to CSCOPE, "Because the CSCOPE assessments have not matched 100 percent with the lessons, there have been questions that students have missed. Teachers are to identify questions that are not relevant to the lesson and remove them from the test. Students should never be responsible for information that has not been presented to them. If students do not understand the material that was taught, re-teaching should occur."
Kara Sands, mother of the student who was given a test that allegedly blamed American foreign policy for 9/11, was also present at the hearing, and gave an exclusive interview to WND.
After the test incident several weeks ago, Sands demanded a meeting with regional CSCOPE officials. She reported CSCOPE officials began to "pitch"their product, Sands told WND. She said, "Dawn Schuenemann said that problems with CSCOPE are the State Board of Education's fault."
According to Sands, "They were really trying to guilt me, make me feel bad, saying things like, 'What's going to happen if CSCOPE just disappears?'"
CSCOPE argued that "schools would fail," Sands noted.
Sands explained that she knows plenty of schools that are not failing and that do not use CSCOPE. Sands asked CSCOPE officials present, "If that were true [schools would fail without CSCOPE], then why is CSCOPE trying to get into schools which aren't failing? Why are we marketing to schools that are okay."
Sands met with CSCOPE officials four hours straight, and said she was told, "The State Board of Education created guidelines that were impossible to follow, and if it weren't for us, teachers would be in trouble."
"I was told by CSCOPE officials that, 'We were asked by teachers.' 'There was an outcry from teachers, and we saw the need,' they said."
Sands said she has never met any tenured or veteran educators who like CSCOPE or believe it is needed.
"Young teachers may support it, but certainly no teacher who remembers a time before CSCOPE would endorse that product," Sands remarked.
"My son brings home worksheets and they make no sense. The math does not show students how to get from A to B."
Sands contends that students are having to redo worksheets, tests and most assignments because they are asked to begin working without source material, e.g. textbooks.
"I asked my son why he was having to do his math homework without a textbook. He replied that, 'I have to do it that way.'"
Mary Bowen, a 30-year veteran teacher, curriculum expert and CSCOPE critic, remembers a time before CSCOPE. Bowen told WND that "without the lessons plans, CSCOPE is simply a calendar."
"Why should Texas schools pay millions of dollars for a calendar that teachers used to compile?"
Bowen sent a sworn affidavit to the Senate committee in which she said, "The 'curricular management' aspect of CSCOPE designs a rigid timeline to be followed irregardless of student need. The intention is to control teachers from a management standpoint. Teachers report not being allowed to slow down or reteach because administrators use the scope and sequence to check for compliance. This is bad for students."
CSCOPE, which has described terrorists as freedom fighters, is used by 80 percent of Texas public schools. It has faced heavy criticism by parents, teachers and legislators, culminating in hearings that revealed serious academic deficiencies in CSCOPE in the areas of math, science and English, as well as what many critics believe is an agenda-driven bias in social studies content that promotes a negative view of America.
WND has reported on lessons claiming the Boston Tea Party was a terrorist act, and lessons requiring students to design flags for a new communist country.
Also raised as concerns:
- Lessons are often not matched to grade level; a ninth-grade lesson asks students to circle capital letters in a sentence.
- One social studies lesson teaches that capitalism is obsolete and communism is the best economic system, using a diagram that shows a man climbing a ladder towards communism.
- A third-grade lesson defines American "equality" as "fair share." Competing definitions that include "equality under the law" or "equal opportunity" are not discussed.
- Muhammad is portrayed as a social justice crusader: "Caravan manager from Mecca, rich trading city and host to many religious shrines (Ka'bah); married to a rich widow; became disillusioned with the corruption in the city and the growing gap between the urban dwellers and the Bedouins (nomadic herders)." There is no mention of his marriage to a young girl or his beheading of indigenous population groups.
- Political parties are taught from what critics claim is a subjective and left-leaning perspective, e.g. Democrats "benefit each individual" while Republicans "favor big business."
In addition to its controversial lesson content, CSCOPE has come under fire for secrecy and lack of transparency. CSCOPE has required teachers and districts to sign "User Agreements" that expose educators to litigation if lesson content or other instructional materials are shared with parents and the public.
CSCOPE also has refused to give parents direct access to CSCOPE content, saying: "We believe that this would actually undercut teachers' ability to customize a lesson to best serve the students in their classrooms. The teacher should always be a parent's primary contact in discovering what resources are being used in the learning environment."
Last week, State Board of Education Chairwoman Barbara Cargill released a statement announcing a new ad hoc review panel that would take charge of CSCOPE lesson review in the short term until actual oversight legislation can be passed into law.
Other teachers reported a test for "Social Studies World Geography Unit 08: North Africa and Southwest Asia 2012-2013" inserts a perspective into nearly every question and fails to pass even a basic objectivity test.
For example, one test asked: "Why would the U.S. government consider the democratic movements taking place in North Africa and Southwest Asia as a positive change, even if they cause revolution or war?"
The answer? "It considers democracy better for the people of the region than most of the current forms of government there."
Critics point out that "democracy" has not supplanted dictatorial regimes, but rather "theocracy" grounded in Shariah, the Islamic legal and religious code that demands amputation for petty theft, stoning for adultery, crucifixion for highway robbery and death for homosexuals.