By Rodney K. Hays
Many school districts will be scrambling for new teaching aids after political pressure put an end to a controversial curriculum aid used by about 80 percent of public schools called CSCOPE.
The curriculum guide, used by public and some private schools — including Prosper ISD until last year — first started coming under fire last year. Critics were upset with the curriculum for supposedly promoting Islam and being "anti-American." Supporters of the curriculum guide say it was essential for helping teachers prepare for the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) test, which is the required state test given to students in all public and charter schools.
Prosper ISD superintendent Drew Watkins said the district had starting moving away from CSCOPE before it become a political hot button issue.
"PISD decided to move away from CSCOPE months ago because it was not meeting the needs of PISD, so this most recent legislation does not affect PISD."
Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, is the chairman of the Senate Education Committee and an outspoken critic of CSCOPE made an announcement on May 20 saying that the Education Service Centers in Texas would no longer distribute the curriculum guide, calling it "the best move for the state."
But some disagree.
Texas Board of Education member and vice-chairman of the board Thomas Ratliff from Mt. Pleasant released a statement saying school leaders were already calling him asking what they should do now. "Good question," Ratliff said.
Sen. Patrick said in his state that he hopes larger districts would work with smaller districts to help. But Ratliff said that was the job of the regional service centers that were distributing the CSCOPE material.
"School districts of various sizes combined efforts to save money and make a better product and because ESCs are subdivisions of the Texas Education Agency, the state was taking an active role in helping small districts. This looks exactly like what the Senator said he wants, but he just had a press conference celebrating its death. This is confusing to say the least."
Ratliff said the decision seems like a move for the state to usurp the local-level control over school district.
Earlier in the session, lawmakers had asked the CSCOPE leaders to submit their plans for review to the state board of education. The board was in the process of reviewing the curriculum guide when the decision was announced to discontinue it.
Mary Ann Whiteker, superintendent of Hudson ISD in East Texas, told the New York Times that the decision is "starting back from ground zero."
The Hudson district has about 2,600 students and limited resources to work on writing a new curriculum before school starts back in August.
But most districts will have to go back to the drawing board or find another curriculum that is approved by the state.
Prosper, fortunately, is ahead of that curve. Watkins said PISD is already using district personnel in "developing the scope and sequence along with associated lessons in-house."