Forced to Go CSCOPE-Free, Rural Districts Want Out of State Accountability

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In the weeks since Senate Education chair Dan Patrick proudly announced that “the era of CSCOPE lesson plans has come to an end,” defenders and apologists for the state-backed curriculum management system—and tea party bugaboo—have been on a tear, complaining that this political grandstanding will only make life harder for teachers.

State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant) called it a “21st century book burning,” and the Texas Tribune reported earlier this month that small, rural districts are at a loss for how to replace all these lessons in just a couple months. That story mentioned a coalition of rural districts that might either seek an injunction against the state to keep access to the CSCOPE lessons, or waivers from the state’s accountability system. Small districts, the reasoning goes, can’t be held responsible for their struggles after losing such a major classroom resource with so little notice.

Hutto ISD, a district of almost 5,700 students northeast of Austin, became one of the first to seek a waiver, in a letter sent to Education Commissioner Michael Williams on Thursday. “It is impossible for Hutto ISD to create K-12 core curriculum documents in 2.5 months,” Superintendent Douglas Killian writes. “Replacing this curriculum will far exceed the funds we have available.”

Hutto officials don’t sound madly in love with CSCOPE’s lessons—but they don’t like having to scramble to replace them in such a hurry. “Our teachers are not bound to CSCOPE. They are bound to our curriculum,” assistant superintendent Steve Snell told his school board this week, quoted in the Hutto News. “The problem is when you pull all of them at once, it becomes very difficult to replace those.”

Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe says three school districts have already filed similar waiver requests: Madisonville CISD, Port Aransas ISD and Rice CISD. Those three are still pending.

Patrick had suggested last month that, without CSCOPE, smaller districts could work together or get help from bigger districts—which was, of course, the whole point when CSCOPE was developed in the ’90s—or buy lessons from an outside company.

In his waiver request for Hutto, Killian lists reasons why Patrick’s first suggestion isn’t workable—like access to another district’s online system, and new training his teachers would need. A growing district like Hutto, quickly turning more suburban than rural, can’t afford a commercial package of lessons either, he writes. “CSCOPE offered a quality curriculum for less than the cost of a teacher. Replacing this curriculum will far exceed the funds we have available.”

Patrick Michels is a reporter for the Texas Observer and a former legislative intern. He has been a staff writer and web editor at the Dallas Observer, and a former editor of the Texas Independent. He has a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern University, a master's in photojournalism from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a competitive eating enthusiast.

  • LeAnn Lipps Robertson

    How absolutely moronic. I worked in a district that wrote its own curriculum in 8 days. Make the teachers develop their own lesson plans from the scope and sequence. That’s what we did.

  • Janice VanCleave

    According to Mason Moses, CSCOPE director at Region 13, school districts who are registered CSCOPE users may download and copy the CSCOPE lessons and use them after Aug. 31, 2013. Bargara Cargill, Chair of the SBOE confirms this. So why Dr. Killian complaining? OH! I get it. He wants a waver so his school is not evaluated.

    HELLO!!! Senator Patrick’s deal has only removed the CSCOPE lessons from the ESC files and websites.

    Schools are downloading the CSCOPE lessons and saving them for use after the ESCs no longer provide them. The ESCs are dancing and singing about this. They don’t have to be responsible for the CSCOPE lessons content–have the lessons reviewed or revised–and school districts are falling over themselves to get the CSCOPE lessons before Aug. 31, 2013. Do these school districts have concerns about the content of the lesson? Obviously now.

  • Tracy Brownlee

    How embarrassing for our state and children to be represented by such MORONS! I can say that C-Scope NEVER stopped me from being a productive teacher. Our state listened to the TEA PARTY, Glen Beck, and Alex Jones- What a laughing stock Texas appears to the NATION. Senator Patrick, Greg Abbott, and the Extreme SBOE members are responsible for purposely attempting to dictate our education system with HATE and IGNORANCE!

    • Soapie

      Glad to read a comment from someone down in the trenches that actually KNOWS the truth about CScope. This should be a huge wake up call for good conservative voters in the state of Texas. We live in a Red State (that I hope always stays RED) but, if we continue to allow ignorance and Tea Party extremists to hijack our entire educational system and other areas, this could soon change. Conservatives stand for LESS GOVERNMENT interference, not more! Educators in Texas have enough of a challenge (over 50 languages in our district), and now they have to deal with finding a new way of meeting the standards with no additional funding??? All because of a few questionable and erroneous lessons that made their way into the system. Wake up Texas….we are being Tea-Partied and it’s shameful. Our kids deserve better from us. Get read for the big bill ahead of us….I wonder which big educational company has sucked up to the Tea Party? We need to know to which we can write the check.