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Sen. Duncan Files Request With TX AG Abbott

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Texas Attorney General Abbott and Texas Sen. Robert Duncan

Re:  RQ-1140-GA – TESCCC/ESC/CSCOPE

Date:  7.26.13

From:  Donna Garner

Texas Sen. Robert Duncan filed RQ-1140-GA with the Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on July 23, 2013. Please see link to read Sen. Duncan’s request of the TAG for a ruling on TESCCC/ESC/CSCOPE: http://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/opinions/opinions/50abbott/rq/2013/pdf/RQ1140GA.pdf

I appreciate Sen. Duncan’s filing this request in an attempt to clarify the issues surrounding CSCOPE and its lessons produced before Aug. 31, 2013.  However, I take exception with the following statement in Sen. Duncan’s request to the TAG:

During the 2005-06 school year, in response to widespread requests from school districts for assistance in implementing the state’s curriculum requirements (known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or “TEKS”), four of the regional ESCs began to work together to create a curriculum management system. While the state’s larger districts typically have their own curriculum departments to develop scope and sequencing documents and the instructional materials, resources and professional development needed to properly implement the TEKS, it often is cost prohibitive for smaller districts to develop these resources by themselves. By working together, the member ESCs were able to pool their resources-both financial and intellectual-to provide an efficient, cost-effective, and high quality curriculum management program (now known as “CSCOPE”) to assist these districts in implementing the TEKS and in meeting the State’s rigorous academic achievement standards.

I know of no quantitative data that proves CSCOPE is a “high quality curriculum management program” and helped to meet “the State’s rigorous academic achievement standards.”  In fact, the only data that exists to indicate the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of CSCOPE in preparing students for the STAAR/End-of-Course tests (based upon the new “rigorous academic achievement standards” TEKS) indicates that schools which used CSCOPE did quite poorly on those tests.

I also want to make Sen. Duncan and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott are aware that the new and more rigorous Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS — Texas’ curriculum standards) did not emerge until May 2008 when the first of four core subjects (English / Language Arts / Reading TEKS) were adopted by the Texas State Board of Education.  Thereafter, new TEKS were adopted in Science, Social Studies, and Math.  

During the 2005-06 time period in which CSCOPE was developed, slews of TAKS (the tests built upon the 1997-adopted TEKS) instructional materials proliferated our Texas public schools; and the reason the Texas State Board of Education adopted new TEKS, starting in May 2008, is that the old TEKS/TAKS adopted in 1997 were considered to lack rigor and did not set appropriate goals for each grade level K-12.   

Therefore, whenever CSCOPE was developed in 2005-06, it certainly was not needed by large, small, or medium-sized school districts because TAKS instructional materials produced by cottage industries “were everywhere.”  Because there were so many TAKS vendors, it was they who screamed the loudest when the SBOE decided to adopt new and more vigorous TEKS/TAKS. These with vested interests in the old TEKS/TAKS did not want to lose their money-making products.

Part of CSCOPE’s problem is that its lessons were written and developed to meet the “old” 1997 TEKS; and when the SBOE adopted all new, very different, and more rigorous curriculum standards starting in May 2008, the CSCOPE lessons were no longer aligned.   

Instead of throwing them away and starting all over with instructional materials that matched the new TEKS, CSCOPE simply tried to “glue patches” on lessons to try to make them appear to be aligned with the new curriculum standards. 

For classroom teachers who were charged with teaching the CSCOPE lessons, the lessons were not cognitively connected; and students were caught in huge gaps in between lessons that caused confusion and disorganization in classrooms.

The new TEKS demanded that phonemic awareness/phonics/grammar/usage/spelling/cursive writing be taught in a well-scoped and sequenced progression and that math concepts and facts be taught systematically.  

However, CSCOPE lessons were disjointed and emphasized whole language/holistic writing/lack of attention to detail/lack of emphasis on the automaticity of phonics and math facts rather than being aligned with the new SBOE-adopted TEKS.  

It is not only the objectionable lessons found in CSCOPE’s social studies and science lessons (e.g., Boston Tea Party “terrorists,” Communist flag project, lessons full of errors, etc.) that has raised the ire of teachers and parents alike.  It is the lack of a consistent presentation of well-scoped and sequenced lessons closely aligned with the new 2008 TEKS.

By law school administrators are to purchase instructional materials that are aligned with the SBOE-adopted TEKS.  Since CSCOPE is not aligned with the new TEKS and there is no quantitative evidence that students’ academic achievement has improved in CSCOPE schools, it is vitally important that CSCOPE be removed from our Texas public schools.  CSCOPE is out of compliance with the TEA – SB 6:

 (d) Requires a school district, each year, to use the district’s allotment under this section to purchase, in the following order:

(1) instructional materials necessary to permit the district to certify that the district has instructional materials that cover all elements of the TEKS of the required curriculum, other than physical education, for each grade level as required by Section 28.002; and

(2) any other instructional materials or technological equipment as determined by the district.

Please rule in favor of the legislature’s intent which was to ban CSCOPE lessons from our Texas public schools and to make sure that only instructional materials that are closely aligned with the new SBOE-adopted TEKS are utilized in our Texas classrooms.  “Children only come this way once.”  If we adults make the wrong decisions, our children will pay the price.

 

Opinion Of the Texas Attorney General

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