The State Board of Education (SBOE) ad hoc committee established to review CSCOPE, the controversial curriculum used by more than 800 Texas public school districts and private schools, had its first meeting Friday at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel.
The committee is tasked with assembling a series of citizen panels to review CSCOPE lessons and assessments with the panels’ collaborative findings to then be collated and submitted to the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC), the governing board composed of the 20 Education Service Center (ESC) executive directors and created to oversee the CSCOPE program. Social Studies will be the first curriculum area reviewed.
Though SB 1406, filed by Sens. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and Donna Campbell, R- New Braunfels, seeks to give the SBOE “oversight of the regional education service center services and products concerning student curriculum,” SBOE does not currently have direct authority in monitoring curriculum management systems like CSCOPE. With that, the committee will submit the panel feedback to TESCCC who will then determine and report back to the committee how or if the recommendations will be used.
Billed as an organizational meeting, the committee of four SBOE members and three ESC executive directors spent about three hours discussing its upcoming task in terms of scope and timeline. Other agenda topics included the structure and selection of citizen review panels as well as the content and formatting of the panel reports. Project funding options were also identified.
The firmness of these dates is unknown, but based on the discussed timeline, the application process for potential review panel members could start as early as April 9 and run through April 29 with panels identified by late May.
The committee will select panels comprising parents, classroom teachers, curriculum specialists, school administrators and other stakeholders in Texas education based on submitted applications and SBOE member nominations.
Panels of three to nine members will review both lessons and assessments for Grades K-6 along with Grade 7 Texas History, Grade 8 Early American History, World Geography, U.S. History Studies since 1877, World History Studies, U.S. Government and Economics with Emphasis on the Free Enterprise System and Its Benefits.
As coordinating revisions for the 2013-14 school year creates a short timeline, the curriculum’s first 12 weeks of material will be reviewed in June with the remaining 24 weeks completed by late July.
The need for this to be an open and transparent process was emphasized in multiple discussions so additional information is anticipated in upcoming weeks. Key dates related to the CSCOPE oversight process include an April 2 hearing on SB 1406, an April 8 TESCCC meeting and a May 16 CSCOPE ad hoc committee meeting to assign panels and formalize review instructions.
The CSCOPE ad hoc committee was formed in response to a Jan. 31 hearing before the Texas Senate Committee on Education which generated controversial testimony leading Education Committee Chair Patrick to at a point tell program administrators “they’d be grounded if they were an airline.”
That hearing was scheduled based on frustrations of parents and other concerned citizens viewing CSCOPE as a program created and administered at taxpayer expense yet under the control of management seemingly unwilling to operate with any degree of transparency. A series of repeated concerns quietly expressed by teachers additionally fueled the debate over this publicly-funded program.
Controversy surrounding CSCOPE includes concerns over the curriculum’s alleged anti-American tone, poorly written materials, lack of oversight through taxpayer-accountable public education channels and lack of transparency with regard to the program’s development, administration and organizational structure.
Some critics believe CSCOPE lessons parallel Common Core, the curriculum being forced on states by the Obama administration that Texas has rejected.
The CSCOPE ad hoc committee is chaired by SBOE member Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo. SBOE members Mavis Knight, D-Dallas; Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth; and Tom Maynard, R-Florence also serve on the committee along with three members of the TESCCC – John Bass, Region 16 in Amarillo, Clyde Steelman, Region 11 in Fort Worth and Elizabeth Abernethy, Region 7 in Kilgore.
SBOE Chair Barbara Cargill and TESCCC Chair Anne Poplin also participated in Friday’s meeting.