Content he believed was plagiarized in the online CSCOPE curriculum documents emboldened Texas Rep. Steve Toth (Dist. 15) to file House Bill 760, which he hopes will bring oversight to e-learning curriculums, including CSCOPE.
Toth also filed an Open Records request to obtain financial statements and meeting minutes of the CSCOPE board of directors, which currently meet behind closed doors and without posting meeting dates or minutes.
He intends to track the path of taxpayer money through the CSCOPE labyrinth and review financial statements to ensure accountability, his news release said.
The CSCOPE online curriculum is a Texas-only product that directs instruction in 70 percent of Texas school districts.
In an irony not lost on Toth, CSCOPE has required its users since inception to sign nondisclosure agreements, with CSCOPE creators threatening legal penalties to anyone divulging its content for fear of copyright infringement.
“There are criminal acts of omission and criminal acts of commission. Plagiarism is an act of commission. It was done intentionally,” Toth said in a statement. “This is a blatant, willful act of using copywritten material. Teachers can’t access CSCOPE unless they sign a nondisclosure agreement. If they disobey, it can lead to prosecution or termination.”
CSCOPE insists that it is to ensure that the online curriculum is secure and ironically to discourage copyright infringement.
Toth’s news release reports that CSCOPE plagiarized some of its curriculum from textbooks and publishing companies.
He doesn’t fault online learning, but only the CSCOPE product, he said.
“The Texas Education Service Centers who created CSCOPE have given our children a product that carries no oversight, no transparency, no accountability and to make things worse contains plagiarized content, opening our state and school districts who use it to litigation. CSCOPE has shown by their decisions and policies questionable ethics and brings into question what role, if any, they should have in teaching America’s next generation.”
Despite the accusation, the Wichita Falls Independent School District continues to use and support CSCOPE, according to Tim Powers, assistant superintendent.
“If there’s plagiarism, it’s because it got past them,” Powers said after attending a two-day meeting in Dallas that addressed CSCOPE. “They’ll correct it and improve it and make it a better document. That’s the beauty of an online curriculum.”
It won’t take years to fix it like it would to amend a textbook, he said.
Locally, curriculum advisory teams cherry-pick what they believe is the best of CSCOPE and proven methods for classroom use, but teachers are expected to use CSCOPE — and continue to use it — “with fidelity,” Powers said.
“If a teacher says she doesn’t want to use CSCOPE and use a textbook? The answer is no,” Powers said. “A textbook is not a curriculum, it’s a resource. ... What business or organization have you ever gone into where you’re told, ‘Here’s your job. You do it however you want to?’ ”
Schools are facing increasing accountability, “so we better have a system of delivery by design,” he said.
In WFISD, CSCOPE’s social studies lessons have not yet been fully implemented, Poers said. He always has allowed teachers to show parents the lessons, he said.
Toth’s House bill, titled “The CSCOPE Transparency Act,” would give the State Board of Education oversight of regional education service center services and products dealing with student curriculum.
If the act gets a vote of two-thirds of all members of each house, it would take effect immediately. “We must have literally hundreds of House members sign on to this bill to get it out of the House Public Education Committee and to the House floor for a vote,” wrote CSCOPE critic Donna Garner.
CSCOPE critic Janice VanCleave, who documents teachers’ criticisms on her website www.txcscopereview.com, said she has seen plagiarism in CSCOPE.
“A teacher sent me a (CSCOPE) lesson and activity this week that was copied directly from a textbook — the same textbook that their superintendent didn’t let them use this year because they wanted them to use CSCOPE. It’s word for word,” VanCleave told the Times Record News on Monday.
CSCOPE is the same entity that last year took legal action to prevent publishing companies — listing VanCleave specifically — from viewing CSCOPE, saying that they feared she would copy it.
The 875 Texas school districts that lease CSCOPE pay about $7 per child for the online program, which sends millions of tax dollars into the unaccounted-for coffers of the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative.
CSCOPE was originally produced in 2006 by the state’s regional service centers but in 2009 was quietly transferred — without state permission or oversight — into the private nonprofit entity of TESCCC that controls it today.
However, in an unprecedented decision Feb. 8, the TESCCC agreed to relinquish its nonprofit status and open its product to the public as two of several conditions of continuing to serve Texas schools.
The TESCCC acted after being pressured into a deal by Sen. Dan Patrick, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, and State Board of Education Chairman Barbara Cargill.
CSCOPE has been growing increasingly controversial as education officials have viewed lessons that called the Boston Tea Party a terrorist act, taught Allah as God, called Christianity a cult, and praised communism as it directed students to design communist flags.
Stan Hartzler, a master math teacher who resigned in December from Luling ISD after being forced to teach CSCOPE exclusively, continued harsh criticism Tuesday for the philosophy undergirding CSCOPE, particularly its algebra course.
“Service center staff have stated that CSCOPE was written top-down, beginning with the end in mind and designed downward. Such a strategy works for planning but not for building. A house plan begins with the end in mind, but the building is (constructed) bottom up, all details being intertwined. The Service Centers would build an attic first and the foundation last, somehow tucking the plumbing and electric work in after the walls and ceilings are complete,” Hartzler wrote in an email. “Every aspect of each CSCOPE course shows the madness of trying to upend nature. Service center leaders who admit to this designing idiocy should be laughed out of the profession.”
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