Out near Longview: Small district defense of CSCOPE and good lesson plans

May 10, 2013

The nasty kerfuffle over a Texas lesson-planning aide, a comprehensive program called CSCOPE, may have evaded your radar.

Heck, most people in Texas aren’t even aware of this money-wasting teapot tempest.

CSCOPE Parent Portal logo

CSCOPE Parent Portal logo for a Texas school district. Click to see one way Grand Prairie ISD gives parents access to what’s going on in classrooms.

But the state’s attorney general (campaigning for U.S. Senate, hoping to please the Tea Party Commissars) makes threatening gestures towards CSCOPE from time to time, our leading Black Shirt member of the State Senate pushes bills to gut the lesson planning tools, and Texas’s education overseeing ministry, the Texas Education Agency, is conducting a three-month “review” of CSCOPE to make sure it’s politically correct and properly condemning of Islam, Catholicism, Mormonism, Hinduism, agnosticism and atheism (if any can be found).  CSCOPE critics hope that the review will delay updating materials just long enough that school districts across the state will abandon it in favor of . . . um, well, kids can learn if they got books . . . er, um, well — “they shouldn’t be learning about Islam at all” (never mind the state standards that require that course unit).

Out of the east, near Longview, three brave school district officials from two school districts put up their hands to ask why the CSCOPE critics are standing naked.  It’s not much, but it’s about the toughest defense of CSCOPE put up by school officials — and of course, they risk investigation by the Attorney General Abbott merely by speaking out, according to CSCOPE critic harpies.

Dear Reader, you can learn a lot from this opposite-editorial page article in the Longview News-Journal (I’ve added links for your convenience):

CSCOPE and Carthage ISD

Posted: Friday, April 19, 2013 5:46 pm

It is sometimes mindboggling how some controversies begin. Certainly, the wildfire that has swept across Texas concerning the CSCOPE curriculum has our heads spinning. Misinformation has spread rampantly and the truth backed by factual information has been difficult to get out in front of the folks that are taking small excerpts and lessons out of context. In some cases, the CSCOPE curriculum has been attacked with reckless, unsubstantiated accusations.

The shame is that CSCOPE should be a success story of how 870 public school districts, average enrollment of 2000 students, working together with the twenty Education Service Centers (ESCs) created a 21st century curriculum based on the state mandated Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Prior to selecting this curriculum for CISD, an extensive investigation was conducted to assure that it was a good fit for our district.

CSCOPE curriculum/lesson plans were created by master “Texas” teachers, not a textbook company, not a testing company, and not a private, for-profit vendor. Multiple resources, including digital resources, were integrated into the curriculum, with suggested lessons that proved to be extremely beneficial to less experienced teachers. The framework allowed districts and staff to integrate localized lessons within the scope and sequence of the system. Approximately 50% of the charter schools (i.e. KIPP Academy, UT Charter School, Bannockburn Christian Academy and the Texas School for the Deaf) also use CSCOPE. Private schools, such as Catholic Diocese of Austin, Wichita Christian, Hyde Park Baptist and Cornerstone Christian Academy use CSCOPE.

What is my point? CSCOPE and our ESCs have been accused of promoting non-Christian and unpatriotic values based on a couple of lessons that were taken out of context, the targeted lessons were based on state standards created and approved by the State Board of Education. Due to several districts refusing to purchase another “new” curriculum, the creators of this “new curriculum” began a mass media blitz misrepresenting two lessons that addressed the state required curriculum standards.

Districts are mandated to teach the major religions of the worlds and the beliefs of those religions. Districts are mandated to teach heroism and terrorism. CSCOPE curriculum units have designed lessons that explore these standards, allowing students to investigate, compare/contrast, and analyze perspectives based on cultural influences. Example, the Boston Tea Party was perceived as an act of heroism from an American’s point of view; however, patriots of England considered this an act of terrorism. Islam, one of the major religions of the world, believes their God is the only God. These are the two excerpts taken out of context of the instructional units that have resulted in mass social media messages from those wanting to sell “their curriculum”, accusing the writers of CSCOPE and the ESCs of treason and promoting the Islam religion! Recently, a superintendent received threatening emails because the district was using CSCOPE.

Carthage ISD was not one of the first districts to embrace the curriculum; however, the revised state standards and new state assessment system demanded a new curriculum. CSCOPE offers a well-designed curriculum framework that is vertically aligned to the state standards (NOT the Federal Core Standards as inaccurately reported), the state assessment system and 21st century life-long learning goals.

CSCOPE insures the appropriate skills are taught in specific grades using multiple resources. The instructional focus is college and career readiness at all levels. School districts have the flexibility of using the curriculum as a sole source or as an alignment framework – CSCOPE lessons/units optional. Skills such as spelling, cursive handwriting, and math facts are found aligned in CSCOPE. Teachers have the flexibility to adjust the amount of time spent practicing these skills.

CSCOPE is a learning curve for classroom instruction. It is not driven by one textbook or worksheets. It embraces multiple resources, integration of technology and higher order thinking skills.

Similar to purchased curriculum there are mistakes within the lessons, those are reported and corrected. An internal system exists where teachers are asked for input on any element of CSCOPE. It is a proprietary curriculum and shares the same protection as other vendors’ products one must purchase to access the content. Districts sign affidavits, comparable to those required by the state for STAAR testing, to protect the integrity of the system, not unlike copyright laws. The cost is based on the enrollment of the district.

Parents can view the content of a lesson at a parent meeting; however, giving parents free access to the lesson plans and tests would destroy the validity of the assessments and negatively impact the intent of the instructional lessons.

The attack against the supporters and users of CSCOPE may well become the first step toward the state assuming total control of all curriculum and lesson plans for all districts. A bill has been filed to begin this process. That would be another attack on local control by the state.

Article by:

Glenn Hambrick, Ed.D., Superintendent, Carthage ISD

Donna Porter, Ed.D., Asst. Superintendent, Carthage ISD

Mary Ann Whitaker, M.Ed., Superintendent, Hudson ISD

More: 

Longview is under the green star, map from Sperling's BestPlaces

Longview is under the green star, map from Sperling’s BestPlaces


CSCOPE chart Glenn Beck doesn’t want you to see

April 2, 2013

. . . because he screwed it up.

Thanks to Morgan Freeberg over at House of Eratosthenes — shows he’s a fair player (I doubt he’s got much sympathy with the CSCOPE project).

Here’s the chart Glenn Beck, or perhaps his partner-in-calumny David Barton, appears to have mis-identified, the one that no one else who joined his witch-hunt bandwagon bothered to read:

CSCOPE chart on economics

CSCOPE chart on rise of economic systems in the 19th century that critics claim, erroneously, promotes socialism and Marxism. This is copyrighted material, posted here in the interests of correcting false claims. Will CSCOPE complain?

I’m not sure which episode of “The Blaze” this appeared on in the fuzzy version in my earlier post (anyone know?); but it’s clear that it’s been grotesquely mischaracterized by CSCOPE critics.  Think about a Texas high school kid; the readings say communism prohibits private property ownership.  Given that, how do you think a Texas high school student — generally a sophomore for  world history —  would answer the questions in the “Communism” box:

What about Private Property?

How much government control?

(Say it ain’t so, Glenn Beck:  Did David Barton really complain that Texas’s curriculum puts the family at the the foundation of our culture, and our government?  (Yes, he did.)  He fought to get that in; is Barton on drugs, or depressed, or drunk?  If so, get him help.  If not, he’s corrupt.)

More, from the rational world:

More from the irrational world, the Wall of Shameful reporting:

English: Cropped from a photo of a group of pr...

Cropped from a photo of a group of predominantly anti-Glenn Beck protesters holding home-made placards in Beck’s hometown of Mt. Vernon, Washington, outside the venue where Beck received the ceremonial key to the town. Even his home town people don’t believe him. Photo via Wikipedia


More unintentional humor from Texas conservatives: Can’t read charts on economic systems

April 1, 2013

Mural in Adams Building of Library of Congress, Jefferson on Education

Mural in the Adams Building of the Library of Congress,m with Thomas Jefferson’s views on education, and education’s importance to liberty. (Click for larger version)

Under the standards for social studies the Texas State Board of Education promulgates, Texas high school kids must learn to read charts and extract information from them.

In the criticism of the small-school curriculum planning system, CSCOPE, conservative critics demonstrate both that they are not as smart as a Texas high school kid, OR they don’t know feces in economics.

Note the chart; it’s a fuzzy picture, but it shows an arrow indicating which economic systems have more government involvement, or control, or “interference” in Texas conservative talk; and note the comments:

So, in other words, the conservatives worry because a chart shows that socialism and communism have “more government control and planning,” and the conservatives come unglued.  They read the chart incorrectly; generally conservatives can be counted on to favor less government control in economic matters, which this chart shows is a virtue of free market economics systems.

Let me repeat:  They read the chart incorrectly.

Worse, there’s a guy who professes to teach economics in a California college who says he doesn’t teach this stuff.

What do they want, what does he teach?  That communism offers more economic freedom from government regulation than free enterprise?

Clearly they didn’t bother to read the chart.  These critics are the epitome of knee-jerk reactionaries:  If there is a word about something they don’t like, they assume the entire piece is tainted and biased against them.  If you said, “We say the Pledge of Allegiance every day as a defense against communism,” they’d claim you’re teaching communism.

BUT, this sort of criticism got Texas Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Mars, to call for an investigation, a witch-hunt, of the group that works to provide curriculum helps especially to smaller districts who don’t have curriculum planning staffs; SBOE and the directors of the Regional Education Centers agreed.  Directors of the Regional Education Centers have bent over backwards to be open about what goes into CSCOPE, and how each lesson and each unit, and each test is aligned with Texas standards, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

Yeah, I know:  The chart could have been done differently.  But this is EXACTLY the sort of stuff the Texas Education Agency favors on standardized tests students must pass to advance and graduate, to make sure students read the questions, and the charts.

Are you as smart as a Texas high school student?  Then you’re smarter than the critics of CSCOPE, at least in this case.

Still, CSCOPE, in an well-intentioned effort to be open about the curriculum materials they provide, and whether there is any bias in them, released this statement on their support of free enterprise:

CSCOPE Response to Lesson Regarding Economic Systems

CSCOPE strongly believes in the greatness of the free enterprise system and how it has helped build our country into the envy of all other nations. Free markets are a critical part of our American way of life. It is important to note that the activity in question is in a high school course and not in a grade 6 lesson. This twenty-minute activity is part of a six-day lesson on various economic systems at the high school level that are state required teaching standards set forth by the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education requires students to learn the following economic systems in World History:

  • WH.18: Economics. The student understands the historical origins of contemporary economic systems and the benefits of free enterprise in world history. The student is expected to:
    • WH.18A: Identify the historical origins and characteristics of the free enterprise system, including the contributions of Adam Smith, especially the influence of his ideas found in The Wealth of Nations.
    • WH.18B: Identify the historic origins and characteristics of communism, including the influences of Karl Marx.
    • WH.18C: Identify the historical origins and characteristics of socialism.

Furthermore, the State Board of Education establishes student expectations that focus on social studies skills. For the World History unit referenced above, the following social studies skills are included:

  • WH.30: Economics: The student communicates in written, oral, and visual forms. The student is expected to:
  • WH.30C: Interpret and create written, oral, and visual presentations of social studies information.

The goal of this activity is to address the content and skills standards that have been adopted by the State Board of Education, and it is absolutely not promoting a way of life contrary to what we value as Americans. In this activity, students examine four different flags, beginning with the US flag, and analyze the colors, the design, and the graphics as symbols of each country’s characteristics and economic systems. Students then design a flag to demonstrate their understanding of the characteristics of socialism, as the standard requires (WH.18C).

CSCOPE has a significant emphasis on the free enterprise system. The other economic systems are only addressed as required by State Board of Education. Additionally, every lesson and activity in our system is customizable. The teacher in the classroom is the final authority on whether or not the lesson should be customized for his or her students and community.

CSCOPE would also like to reassure parents and community members that there is a comparable activity in the lesson that focuses on free markets where students are asked to read about characteristics of free enterprise in The Wealth of Nations, complete an analysis chart, and discuss with their classmates the characteristics and benefits of the free enterprise system. In addition, in Texas History, World History, US History, and US Government courses, students are engaged extensively in studying the principles of the US free enterprise system and the role it plays in American society. Furthermore, Texas graduation requirements specify that students take an economics course, and this course focuses entirely on the American free market system.

CSCOPE staff takes great pride in helping educators teach the standards established by the State Board of Education. This dedicated staff works each day to ensure that teachers have the best resources available to help Texas school children succeed, and they continually focus on improving the system for the districts they serve. We are committed to helping every parent and community member better understand CSCOPE. Please contact CSCOPE through the http://www.cscope.us site if you have further questions or concerns.

The exercise with flag making is pretty lame, to me — with no note of irony that CSCOPE nor their critics would notice, it offers the grand opportunity to read all sorts of symbolism into the U.S. flag that was never intended by the flag’s designers, nor by any tradition.  That’s a pro-free enterprise bias if it occurs, however, and not a pro-communist or socialist bias.

One may wonder if the references to Adam Smith and Wealth of Nations threw the critics; more than once I’ve been confronted by a yahoo at a meeting in Texas who argues that we in the U.S. don’t need any foreign influences in our laws or economy, like that “socialist” Adam Smith!  (To be fair, he published in England . . .)

The charges from “Sharon” can’t help but remind you of that famous political smear campaign against then-U.S. Sen. Claude Pepper, of Florida, in which his opponent called him “Red” Pepper, and accused him of ::GASP!!:: matriculating while a student in college — and not just matriculating, but matriculating in public!

Yes, this is an attempted political smear of CSCOPE, Texas teachers, and Texas education.

P.S.:  I’d love to have a copy of that chart in a readable form; if you have access to the chart, especially to information that indicates where it really comes from (it looks like CSCOPE, but it’s fuzzy here), please send me a copy.  Thanks.

More:

Comments from people and groups who appear not as smart as a Texas high  school student:

And the original?  Screen shot from Glenn Beck’s show:


Top 10 real estate deals that made America

July 25, 2010

Smithsonian put together a solid list of the history of the expansion of the United States, from 13 colonies to a nation spanning the North American Continent and reaching out across the Pacific Ocean.

Eminently usable in class, I think.  My only concern:  It should also include the annexation of Hawaii in 1898, and the acquisition of territories from the Spanish-American War that same year, including especially Puerto Rico.  Expand it to a dozen, and it’s a great list for study in U.S. history, and it contains some surprises.

How much do you know about the Greenland Proffer?


Especially Texans: Please stand up for high-quality, non-political education

May 13, 2010

I get e-mail, this time from the Texas Freedom Network:

The State Board of Education meeting is next week, and we need YOU to make a difference.

“Am I a religious fanatic? Absolutely. You’d have to be to do what I do.”
– State Board of Education member Don McLeroy

Don't White Out our education - Texas Freedom Network

Don't White Out Our History! - Texas Freedom Network

Is this who you want to decide what Texas schoolchildren learn? Or would you rather entrust that task to someone who believes public education is a “tool of perversion,” as board member Cynthia Dunbar believes? Or maybe any one of the board members who believe the separation of church and state is a myth?

If this is not what you want for Texas children, NOW is the critical time to take a stand.

The controversial social studies curriculum process is coming to an end. Public testimony will be heard at the State Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, May 19, and we expect a vote on these standards to take place the following day. We need you to stand up to the State Board of Education by attending our rally on Wednesday, May 19. Or testifying in front of the board. Or both!

“Don’t White-Out Our History”  Rally
Wednesday, May 19 at 1:00 p.m.
William B. Travis building (where the state board meets).
Click here to sign up to attend the rally
.

Also on Wednesday, the State Board of Education will hear public testimony on the social studies curriculum standards. Since you are already planning to be at the William B. Travis building for the rally, you can also sign up to testify! Read below for more information on registering to testify with the Texas Education Agency. (Testimony will begin in the morning and likely stretch into the evening — so if you wish to testify, be prepared for a long day.)

We look forward to seeing you next week. If you have any questions, e-mail Judie or call us at 512-322-0545.



Winds of change at Texas education board — in 2011

March 26, 2010

George Clayton pulled a dramatic upset in the March primary elections, for one of Dallas’s two seats on the Texas State Board of Education.  He defeated incumbent, long-time conservative-but-not-always-crazily-so Geraldine Miller.

With no Democratic opposition in November, he just has to wait until January to take his seat.

He’s promising change in the sharp political divisiveness that has marked board actions over the past decade, according to the Texas Tribune.

Unfortunately, the surgery-without-anesthetic on the state’s social studies standards is still scheduled for May 2010.


Stand up for good history in Texas

December 17, 2009

Here’s an education and Texas issue I’ve not done justice to:  The Texas State Board of Education is working to gut social studies curricula in Texas, with a special vent on history, which they appear to think is not fundamentalist Christian enough, and economics, where they think “capitalism” is, somehow, a dirty word.

Do I exaggerate?   Very little, if at all.  Really.

There’s a lot to say.  I may have another post on it this week.  In the meantime, the indefatigable Texas Freedom Network works to organize for the hearing on the issue in January.  SBOE hopes it will be a quiet, non-confrontational meeting, and they will do whatever they can to prevent Texans from telling them to have good history standards that make great students.  So it’s important that you speak up — especially if you’re a Texan.  Here’s what TFN said in an e-mail alert:

Make Your Voice Heard at January Public Hearing

The process of revising social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools is moving into a critical stage. And a public hearing the board has scheduled for January may be the only opportunity for you to speak out against the far right’s efforts to corrupt standards for history, government and other social studies classes.

The final drafts of the proposed standards prepared by writing teams made up of teachers, academics and other community members are reflective of mainstream academic scholarship in the various subject areas. It is clear that members of these writing teams largely resisted intense political pressure from far right, rejecting attempts to remove key civil rights figures and make other politically motivated revisions. (See the Background section at the bottom of this e-mail for a more detailed account of the politicization of this curriculum process.)

But as with science and language arts, far-right SBOE members are already plotting to undo the work of the writing teams of social studies.

Take Action

The State Board of Education so far has scheduled only one public hearing on the proposed standards. That hearing is likely to occur either on January 13 or January 14 in Austin.

If you are interested in speaking at the hearing, please click here. TFN will help you register to speak before the board and be an effective voice against efforts to politicize our children’s classrooms.

This may be the only opportunity the board provides for Texans to speak out on the proposed standards. If we are to prevent far-right SBOE members from turning social studies classrooms into tools for promoting political agendas, then it’s critical that the board hears from people like you! Click here to sign up for more information on how to testify in January.

___________________________________________________

Background on Social Studies Review Process to Date

Earlier this year, TFN exposed and derailed several attempts by the far right to hijack the social studies curriculum revision process. Members of the state board – or their appointees to review panels and writing teams – tried at various times to:

  • Remove civil rights champions like César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall from the standards, calling them poor examples of citizenship
  • Turn Joseph McCarthy – who discredited himself and dishonored Congress with his infamous Red-baiting smear campaign in the 1950s – into an American hero
  • Rewrite history and portray America’s Founders as intending to establish a Christian nation with laws based on a fundamentalist reading of the Bible

Members of the writing teams largely rejected these fringe ideas in the final drafts of the standards they submitted to the board. Chávez and Marshall remain in the curriculum. The American history standards do not whitewash the damaging history of McCarthyism. And under the proposed standards students would still learn that the Founders created a nation in which all people are free to worship – or not – as they choose without coercion or interference by government.

We must ensure that the board adopts curriculum standards that reflect mainstream academic scholarship in social studies. This is vitally important because the results of this decision will be reflected in the next generation of social studies textbooks around the country.

Click here to let TFN know you are willing to testify at the state board.

Spread the word even farther — help save history, in Texas:

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