OPINION COLUMNS

CSCOPE is not a four-letter word

By Danielle Scroggins | Published Saturday, May 11, 2013

{{{*}}}CSCOPE – a curriculum program Decatur ISD has been using for the past four years – has become a four-letter word around this town.

It’s time we washed our mouths out with soap.

There have been many conversations, Facebook posts, blog comments and articles discussing this curriculum. Some of those conversations have been heated and emotional, while others have been calm and factual. We need to gather all that emotion, information and vision and guide it into a common goal.

There are many misconceptions out there as to the intent and implementation of CSCOPE. The intent is to vertically and horizontally align the state standards and provide a scope and sequence for teaching those standards. Any school district has to be aligned, so that all teachers within a grade level teach the same standards for the same length of time and to the same depth. This sets the same level of expectation for every teacher, in every classroom, and ensures an equal education for all students.

Decatur’s size does not afford us the luxury of employing a curriculum staff to design all this for us. This is what CSCOPE provides. In addition, it gives sample lessons and assessments – both optional for teachers to use in the classroom. Six-weeks assessments are written from this resource because of the rigor of the questions provided. Teachers write those assessments and have the option to use other resources or write their own questions.

Teachers also have the flexibility to bend the sequence of instruction or use alternate resources for their lessons. While the lessons in CSCOPE are written in a scripted format, they are not intended to be read as such. It is a very detailed, living document – one that is updated constantly – and it is designed to be used as a resource for teachers to begin the lesson planning process. It is a web-based program that does not have hardback resources. It’s designed that way to make it more affordable to school districts.

And CSCOPE is not our only resource. In my fifth grade classroom, I also use Stemscopes, Simple Science, Sciencesaurus and other materials bought with classroom budget money to supplement my lessons. And when I can’t find exactly what I want or need, I Google. I Tweet. I Edmodo.

To say that all teachers open CSCOPE, read from the script, distribute handouts, and throw up their hands is not only inaccurate, it’s insulting.

I understand that the investigations into CSCOPE’s funding and copyright protection give the curriculum a shady reputation, but CSCOPE was born out of a state funding shortage. Because it is web-based, distributing its contents freely would open the product to plagiarism and copyright violations.

The legislature has cut funding for textbooks, programs and teachers, while approving rigorous statewide testing and the TEKS that drive every curriculum, textbook and classroom in Texas. No one will dispute there is a problem with education in Texas. But that problem is the result of politicians making decisions – not an educator-written curriculum following the guidelines they have set.

No, it’s not perfect. There are flaws, misspellings and less-than-amazing lessons. Like many educational resources, it is not user-friendly. It’s the job of the educational professional to filter through any resource to find the best fit for students.

These are the facts. We are not passing the buck. These are the real dollars that drive the everyday work of our educational system – the parameters within which we work to educate children.

The TEKS are written beyond concept mastery, and CSCOPE is a tool written to address these rigorous state standards – standards that require students to infer, critique, interpret and analyze concepts. In order to prepare students for state testing at this level, we as teachers need to push them to perform at this level daily.

Does that leave out handwriting, timed math drills, and pleasure reading? It could. Are those important skills to learn? Definitely. Does learning only happen between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m? Absolutely not.

Times have changed. Standards have changed. School does not function the way it did 20 years ago, nor should it.

Amidst all this negative conversation, our school district has written a vision to prepare our students for the 21st Century. It has invested time and money in training and resources to increase the quality and rigor of daily lessons – to teach our students critical thinking and problem-solving skills to be “Ready for any Future.” Our teachers are becoming leaders in the digital educational community, and other school districts are requesting site visits to our schools to see how to implement technology, project-based-learning and flipped instruction.

These are good things to post on Facebook, to blog and to discuss.

The brand of student we are educating in the Google age is different, and therefore education is going to look and feel different. It’s hard – hard for teachers to create these authentic lessons and hard for students to think, critique and problem-solve through these lessons. It’s hard because it’s not rote, it’s not familiar, and it doesn’t reference a textbook.

We need to embrace these growing pains and support our administrators, teachers, and students in their endeavor to embrace the unknown variables in their future.

Decatur ISD recently celebrated its 100th birthday. During that time DISD has indeed educated many citizens – citizens who have found success within and outside this community, and citizens who love this community. Unfortunately, it is that love that is dividing us.

We know that love drives the craving for excellence. But children hear everything. By stating that your children aren’t receiving a good education, you are ensuring they won’t be receptive to a good education. This negativity is seeping into their minds, teacher classrooms and the town’s morale.

If not CSCOPE, then what? Any worthwhile curriculum would address the same state standards and provide the necessary rigor to prepare students for STAAR. What is the solution? Action.

Instead of discussing problems, find solutions. Parents, invest time in your schools, your teachers and your students. Follow the legislature and be informed on all levels. Positively communicate with your teachers and administrators, and work together to solve any problem. Read to your child. Practice math facts with your child. Establish learning as a lifelong skill in your home.

Administrators, hold teachers accountable, and respect their professionalism. Provide daily resources and support, and listen to reports from the front lines.

Teachers, hold yourselves accountable. Dive into your TEKS, search for lessons that provide authentic learning, and stop the blame game.

Students, aspire to your own potential. Practice skills and concepts when assigned, and take ownership of your learning.

This is a multi-faceted problem that will take a multi-faceted solution – one in which each member of the team is invested and dedicated to one final goal: the success of every single one of our students.

This piece was written by Danielle Scroggins and endorsed by fellow teachers from every grade level at Decatur’s Carson Elementary: Karen Crooks, Denise Joseph, Samantha Remington, Kristi Smyers, Stacy Williams, Brooklynn Stapleton, Carrie Greever, Jessica York, Curren Wicker, Jennifer Terrell, Stephanie Warden and Crystal Klose, as well as Erin Grifftth and Lou Hitt.

One Response to “CSCOPE is not a four-letter word”

  1. Thank you for printing this well-written piece. I am proud of our teachers and the energy they bring to their classrooms every day, which is an accomplishment in itself. I hope that we, as parents, can also be reminded that we have many opportunities to sit down with our children and promote their learning every day. Yes, the teachers are hired to teach our kids, but it’s our job as parents to support and expand on their education at home.
    Thank you teachers for working with our children!
    Valleri Sewell
    Decatur

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