CScope is not the spawn of Satan. It is not evil. It is a tool. I am a middle school social studies teacher who has used CScope since its inception. It is a tool just as a gun is a tool, and you’ve all heard the expression, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” It is the same with CScope. In the right hands, CScope can be an effective tool, but in the wrong hands…well, you know about guns.
I understand there has been a lot of chatter on Facebook lately about CScope. Parents are concerned. Good. I am glad parents are concerned about their children’s education and are discussing it. I do, however, think they are attacking a phantom while the real monster lurks in the shadows.
First, let me address some of the concerns I have heard: CScope as curriculum. CScope does not set curriculum for students in Texas. Content found in CScope lesson plans comes from the Texas TEKS, or Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. The TEKS are THE curriculum for Texas school children, and the TEKS are set by the Texas legislature (State Board of Education). These TEKS are readily available for all to see online at the Texas Education Agency website (Google it). CScope has taken these TEKS and aligned then vertically, from kindergarten through grade twelve, and designed units and lessons to HELP teachers teach them in a cohesive way. Therefore, if you don’t like the fact that Christmas has been cut from the curriculum, complain to your senators and representatives, not to TESCCC (owners of CScope).
Transparency. Why, parents ask, can’t we log in to see lesson plans, etc.? This, to me, is pretty eacy to understand. First, CScope is purchased and only those who have paid for the content have access to it. Second, compare CScope to the teacher’s guide and teaching materials of a traditional textbook-based system. A student would not be issued a teacher’s guide or would not have access to other instructional materials, including tests, nor would a parent expect him to have access to these materials. On the other hand, if a parent wanted to visit with the teacher to view teaching materials, I do not know of a teacher who would deny them access, and CScope had never requested that we sign any kind of confidentiality agreement. Some school districts may require that of their teachers, but ours never has.
Oppressive working conditions of teachers. I do know that some school districts that require their teachers to teach CScope lessons verbatim and to spend only (and exactly) how much time CScope allows for each lesson. None of the CScope trainers I have ever encountered at Region XVI has ever told me to teach the lessons exactly as is. Ever. Quite the contrary. They have emphasized time and again the CScope is only a tool, one tool that educators may have in their arsenal. The lessons are designed to HELP teachers get started – use them, don’t use them, modify them, etc. The scope and sequence is of much greater value, the theory being that if all teachers in a school district, at all levels, in any particular subject, followed the scope and sequence, there would be no gap in the children’s education. Therefore, if teachers find themselves forced to follow CScope lessons verbatim, to teach a lesson exactly as written for exactly a certain number of days, I would say that directive is coming from their local administration, not CScope personnel. Remember what happens when a gun gets into the wrong hands?
Is CScope perfect? No. No system of this nature is. No textbook, no online curriculum. Not one. To me, CScope’s greatest weakness is the pace of the lessons/units. I think it is highly unrealistic. I have heard CScope personnel emphasize the need to forge ahead, even if students have not mastered current material. I strongly disagree with this reasoning. To paraphrase Bill Page, one of my educational gurus, children cannot make sense of nonsense, and no learning is taking place in that situation. Again, My school district has never required us to follow CScope so closely. Nor have I ever been monitored by anyone, district or CScope, to see that I am doing so. I do, however, think that many teachers fear this could be required in the future.
I have found CScope to be a very useful tool in my classroom. Honestly, one of the aspects I have found particularly useful since the advent of STAAR (last year) has been the CScope assessments. As anyone who has seen it will attest, the eighth grade social studies STAAR test is a doozy! The eighth grade CScope social studies assessments are quite rigorous. They definitely demand a higher level of thinking than the TAKS tests of old. I have been very pleased overall with the performance of the majority of my students on these assessments this year. I sincerely believe the rigor of these assessments has benefited all of my studnes. They have been forced to truly stretch mentally, and it is so rewarding to see them do so!
Public education in Texas (and possibly the whole country) is broken. CScope, in my opinion, is certainly not THE problem. It may be a problem, and it definitely has its own problems. But I do not think it is THE problem. The real monster is the Texas legislature. We are testing students excessively and inappropriately (STAAR) – again in my opinion – and those mandates come from Austin. And, like it or not, the testing is driving what educators are doing (and using) in the classroom. Education loves to throw around words like “differentiation,” but every kid still has to jump through the same hoops (STAAR) to succeed. Until we can fix that and truly education children as the individuals that they are, give them the education that they as individuals need, and stop forcing them to all fit into the same mold (STAAR), public education will remain broken.
So, please, keep expressing your concern. But let’s take it to the next level. Let’s bombard our representatives with letters and faxes and emails and tweets! Let’s tell them what we as parents, and educators, want for our kids. And le’t back up our complaints and requests with votes! If you don’t like legislated educational mandates, vote out the people passing them! Quit re-electing the very folks who are cutting educational funding or supporting high-stakes testing. Let’s attack the real monster together and maybe make a real difference for our kids. Remember, it’s not the gun’s fault; it’s the person who pulls the trigger.
(signature on file)
P.S. Christmas is included in the sixth grade social studies TEKS – 6.19B, to exact. Easter is there, too