The Strange Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth of CSCOPE
CSCOPE is an Internet-based curriculum developed for Texas schools and teachers by state-funded education service centers. The reason it was created is that many small school districts do not have the expertise to develop their own curricula. CSCOPE fills that void. It became controversial because some elements of the curriculum aroused the opposition of tea party groups–and no wonder: The people who wrote it must have been hopelessly naive. One of the elements, for example, was to consider whether, from the perspective of the British, at the time of the American Revolution, the colonists were terrorists. (The point of this exercise was to have students look at the situation from the differering perspectives of the two sides.) Another lesson plan called for students to create a flag for a socialist country. There were also concerns from black-helicopter types that CSCOPE advanced Islamist values. This is the sort of thing that politicians can latch onto, and one who did was Senate education chairman Dan Patrick.
In May, Patrick reached an agreement with the education service centers to discontinue the use of the CSCOPE lesson plans, which number around 1,600. He declared CSCOPE to be dead. But if CSCOPE were dead, then what would the 875 or so school districts that relied on it use to replace it? It was too late to start over and develop a new curriculum, with the start of the 2013-2014 school year rapidly approaching. Many districts had already requested waivers from state accountability standards.
As events transpired, the situation resolved itself. At the July meeting of the State Board of Education, SBOE general counsel David Anderson and education commissioner Michael Williams determined that (1) There was no state law or intellectual property issue that prohibited districts from using CSCOPE and (2) CSCOPE’S lesson plans, as a result of their widespread use, are now in the public domain. It is a matter of local control. School districts may choose to use CSCOPE materials or not. So CSCOPE survives after all. Not surprisingly, Patrick is not giving up the fight. He has asked the state auditor to review the operations of the board that governs the program, citing in part that the group failed to comply with laws related to the bidding process for state contracts. Asked whether he believed the use of the lesson plans were a matter of local control, Patrick responded: “I disagree with that analysis, but I am looking into that issue further.”