CSCOPE, a controversial school curriculum management system in Texas that once included a description of the Boston Tea Party as an act of terror and has called Islamic terrorists freedom fighters, is withdrawing its lesson plans for schools.
But state lawmakers still are insisting on close oversight, because they are uncertain exactly how much of the remaining services will be resurrected.
“The era of CSCOPE lesson plans has come to an end,” confirmed state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who had demanded more openness from the organization running the curriculum, lately insisting that the group open its financial records.
A letter signed by all 20 members of the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC) executive board – the nonprofit entity that owns and manages CSCOPE with state tax dollars – has committed to eliminate CSCOPE lesson plans from Texas classrooms within a 90-day period.
The Texas House of Representatives initially told the public that CSCOPE oversight legislation would be withdrawn, since it was thought that without lessons in classrooms, there would be nothing to regulate.
But the House later passed the CSCOPE oversight legislation with a two-thirds majority.
This was done after communications were discovered by State Rep. Steve Toth between CSCOPE officials and school districts asking them to download, print and salvage lesson content as the online platform carrying the content was deconstructed.
State Board of Education Chair Barbara Cargill is holding that the oversight provided by SB 1406 is necessary, since CSCOPE “assessments” still will be used in classrooms, which critics say makes recent developments immaterial.
Cargill issued an “Action Alert” following the passage of oversight legislation in the Texas House, making a case for that monitoring.
“Even though CSCOPE has promised to remove their lesson plans, it is possible that they will continue to offer the assessments. I have found many problems in the CSCOPE tests,” she said.
Cargill gives several examples of “bias” on CSCOPE exams. She said, for example, a fourth-grade exam asks: “Which of the following modifications to the land destroyed habitats and the natural beauty of the East Texas landscape?”
The answer choices were: “A the building of hundreds of oil derricks surrounding the town B trucks carrying barrels of oil in and out of the area every day C oil spills when gushers came in
D all of these.”
Cargill said, “Another test question lists the major themes for four different speakers at an event. Speaker 2 is listed as: ‘My family members have been Democrats for generations, and so am I.’
“Speakers 1, 3, and 4 are not designated as belonging to a particular party. Only the Democratic Party is mentioned. This is another example of bias,” says Cargill.
Education resource expert Mary Bowen said she believes the “paper trail” has been removed without actually changing the reality for teachers in the classroom.
“Eliminating lesson plans from classrooms without eliminating the tests and without eliminating the CSCOPE administrative role in districts amounts to cosmetic change in the place of real improvements,” said Bowen.
“All we have done is to get rid of any paper trail. The lessons were the paper trail of CSCOPE malfeasance. Without a genuine change, CSCOPE will continue to pose a threat to the children of Texas.”
“Moreover,” Bowen added, “since CSCOPE has made it clear to teachers that it is not going anywhere, the widely announced death of CSOPE is premature at best, and calculated at worst.”
Letters from CSCOPE officials to districts may be at odds with recent reports, say critics. In particular, the following sentences are of concern to those who oppose CSCOPE:
“The TESCCC feels that this action is in the best interest of school districts and Education Service Centers to ensure the long-term viability of CSCOPE. Please be assured, all current contractual agreements will be respected, curriculum alignment documents will remain unaltered….”
Critics point out that if CSCOPE were truly going away, the words “long-term viability” would seem inconsistent.
WND reached out to Patrick on the controversy, and he praised WND coverage of the issue.
“Without WND and its persistent and honest coverage of CSCOPE, this victory would never have been possible. WND is one of only a few remaining outposts of true journalism,” he said.
On CSCOPE, he said, “The grassroots asked me to end the lesson plans. If you had asked me several months ago, that the CSCOPE board would step forward and do that, I would have said, ‘That’s a long shot.'”
When asked about the discussion of letters going out to school districts admonishing them to save lessons, and asserting a continued a vital role for CSCOPE in schools, Patrick contended, “Rogue schools need to be dealt with by parents and local school boards, because the lesson plans are gone.”
CSCOPE has faced heavy criticism by parents, teachers and legislators, culminating in legislative hearings that revealed serious academic deficiencies 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. The latter lesson was created in October 2012.
Teachers also have told WND:
- Lessons are 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 toward 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. 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.”
WND has also recently acquired lessons covering the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, teaching students that “medicine” and “food” are “rights,” and not a matter of personal responsibility.
Students who do not answer that “medicine” and “food” are “rights” have their answers marked as incorrect, sources report.
Other controversial lesson content includes a science lesson that instructs students to set things on fire in the middle of class and also lessons that promote anorexia and mercy death, according to Bowen.
CSCOPE also has come under fire for its secrecy and lack of transparency, forcing teachers and districts to sign “user agreements” – what whistleblowers say amount to “gag orders.”
Teachers are exposed to legal liability if they share lesson content or other class materials with the general public, and threats of termination have been reported by teachers who attempt to engage parents about controversial CSCOPE content.