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TEXAS TRIBUNE – CSCOPE LESSON PLANS LIVE

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By Donna Garner 

Now the public can see for themselves why teachers and their students are so frustrated with CSCOPE. The Texas Tribune has posted the CSCOPE lessons on their website, and people can do an interactive search to see what it is that CSCOPE teachers are presenting to their students.

Please follow me as I try to demonstrate why it is that CSCOPE students are doing so poorly on their STAAR/End-of-Course tests and why CSCOPE is dragging students’ academic skills down.

First of all, I have posted as an attachment the Noun packet  NOUNS-1.24.05 that I gave to each of my 9thgrade students.  I wrote this packet myself (along with the other grammar packets), and each summer I would go back and perfect/change/reword whatever needed to be clarified. I basically “piloted” my packets on my students, trying to improve the packets each year so that the next year’s students could benefit.

I started out the first semester giving each of my English I students his/her own packet,  starting with the Preposition packet, then proceeding to the five-part Verb packet, and ending up the first semester with the Conjunction/Clause packet. This took us nearly all of the first semester.  Of course, I interspersed the study of grammar/usage with spelling, vocabulary, literature, language arts, library/research activities, and composition units.

When the second semester began, we worked on the Noun packet (attached).  Normally it took us about three weeks to finish it; and then we went on to the Pronoun and Adjective/Adverb packets.  In all, we spent about eight months in a steady progression of grammar/usage study.

After a grammar/usage concept was taught, I held my students accountable in their speaking and writing to use the concept correctly and rewarded/penalized students appropriately.

Now let’s look at what CSCOPE teaches about Nouns.

Please go to the following link — http://www.texastribune.org/interactive/search-cscope-lesson-plans/ — and do an interactive search for English I.  Or click here- 13_EE10101_Capitalization Expectations.  It is the first lesson listed under English I.

I am totally appalled at the lack of depth displayed in this lesson and am more concerned than ever about the inferiority of the CSCOPE lessons. This one “thin” sheet of capitalization rules is evidently supposed to prepare students for the many nuances of the English language!

Contrast this shallow presentation of capitalization with the in-depth instruction my English I students experienced.  First of all, each one of them had his/her own hard copy of the Noun packet (plus all of the other grammar packets that they had completed during the first semester).

My students could go back and reference past packets; they could study what they had written down and corrected, remembering the class discussions we had had over the various sentence examples. They could prompt their memories by glancing over past concepts and grammar content.  They had accessibility to their materials 24/7 as did their parents.

With CSCOPE, it seems that students are basically given slews of disconnected, random graphic organizers on various topics; and students are expected to learn the concepts almost by “osmosis” which is simply not going to happen.

Please scan through my Noun packet and see all of the many rules, explanations, and examples that my English I students had right at their fingertips.  I wrote my packets so that all of the grammar/usage packets were tied together, each one relying upon the content of previous packets.

Each question in an exercise was built upon past concepts from all of the other preceding grammar/usage packets.  This meant that students continually were reviewing concepts and using them over and over in ever-more complex structures.

The exercises in the packets were not lengthy, but each sentence had been carefully groomed by me to review past concepts which caused student learning to spiral upward in depth and complexity over time.

If we expect students to move a concept from short-term memory into their long-term memory, we must  stimulate their brains through cognitive progression where concepts are tied together and deepened. I see none of that happening with CSCOPE.

What I see with CSCOPE is something similar to a scatter-shot approach.  “Just throw a wad of mud on the wall and see what sticks.”  Just throw the students a grammar concept (e.g., capitalization), give them a graphic organizer with a few shallow examples, perhaps do some sort of random group activity, and students are supposed “to live happily every after.”

Of course, the brain does not work that way. What we remember in long-term memory is based upon the progressive steps (i.e., concepts) that we took along the way, ever deepening and widening the achievement level.  CSCOPE has none of that.

My heart goes out to the teachers and students who fill their days with the frustration that these nonsensical, meaningless, disconnected CSCOPE lessons represent; and from what has been publicly shared by courageous teachers and students, we know that the CSCOPE assessments follow that same random, disconnected format in which students are tested over concepts they have not even had yet.

Please listen to Jessica, a 10th grade CSCOPE student share her frustrations in this podcast of the Communication Team Conference Call hosted by Alice Linahan with WomenOnTheWall.org.

As if that were not bad enough, I found countless grammatical/usage errors in the CSCOPE lessons by doing a cursory scan through a few of the lessons posted on the Texas Tribune site.   (Ex. The book that you just choose is a best seller.” – 13_EE10101_Clauses, example #1)

I would document more of them except for the fact that because CSCOPE is not formatted in WORD, I cannot cut/copy/paste the verbiage in question and affix it to a page where I can show my corrections.  How will the public be able to display, document, and share their concerns over quoted passages without being able to cut/copy/paste from the CSCOPE lessons?  Of course, that is probably the original plan behind CSCOPE.  That way it is hard-to-impossible for parents and the general public to alert other people about the poor quality of the CSCOPE lessons.  It is also difficult to prove plagiarism without the public’s being able to cut/copy/paste the examples in question.

I don’t know whether the Texas Tribune meant to do us a favor by publishing the CSCOPE lessons; but I believe that when parents and the public see how difficult to use, how shallow, how error-filled, and how disorganized the CSCOPE lessons actually are, there will be an even bigger push to force school administrators to quit wasting our children’s/grandchildren’s precious years on CSCOPE.  “Children only come this way once.”

I also believe there will be an outcry by the public to protest the use of our hard-earned taxpayers’ dollars to purchase CSCOPE – some $15 Million just in 2013 alone!

(For many years, I have shared my grammar packets free of charge with anyone who wants to use them to teach English proficiency.  I do not offer a “key” to the packets because the answers to the questions are found within the packets themselves.  Teachers who choose to use the grammar packets will enhance their own abilities if they will work through the packets themselves, building the “keys” as they go.]

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