The 200 community members who attended Tuesday’s Wichita Falls ISD noon work session to hear board members discuss CSCOPE sat through a meticulously long presentation that lasted long past the lunch hour.
The record attendance for the three-hour meeting caused it to be moved upstairs in the Education Center to a larger room.
By 2 p.m. most community members were still sitting patiently through Assistant Superintendent Tim Powers’ two-hour presentation of 111 detailed slides — most unreadable to audience members — giving intricate detail about CSCOPE’s structure.
The slides were targeted more to a teacher training session than to board or community members.
Such presentations are typically capped at 30-45 minutes.
Superintendent John Frossard told the audience he was “in no way, shape or form an apologist for CSCOPE.”
It was in place when he arrived in July, he said.
He conceded that some of CSCOPE’s lessons were poorly done and that the secrecy surrounding it was “a huge mistake. I understand but don’t excuse it,” he said. “This is public education, and parents must be able to examine their children’s educational materials. Period.”
WFISD has not implemented CSCOPE’s most controversial social studies curriculum yet, he said, but its curriculum council is forming now to prepare to launch it in the fall.
If teachers’ test scores are high, they will be given more freedom with CSCOPE, he said. “Autonomy must be earned. A teacher who has better achievement results will receive more freedom.”
However, with no WFISD school ranked by the Texas Education Agency as Exemplary, no campus can tap “the empowerment part” of CSCOPE and exercise flexibility, Powers said.
Meanwhile, Frossard said he believes CSCOPE should be just one of many resources used in the classroom. “I have been assured by Dr. Powers that teachers are able to pick and choose what part of CSCOPE we implement,” he said.
Such choices are made through a curriculum council that cherry-picks the best of CSCOPE and traditional methods for classroom use, then advises teachers accordingly, Powers said.
Board members’ opinions on CSCOPE appeared mixed. The Rev. Reginald Blow and Bob Payton defended CSCOPE; Kirk Wolfe and Trey Sralla criticized the program; Allyson Flack, Dale Harvey and Kevin Goldstein asked cautious questions only.
“I believe in managed curriculum and local control,” Sralla. said “My concern: When somebody has put some bad things in, where’s the trust?” The audience applauded.
“The trust comes in the fact that they do fix it,” said curriculum specialist Ward Roberts. “I was a CSCOPE writer. There are so many checks and balances,” he said as laughter rippled through the room.
“I think the trust is at the local level,” interjected Carol Marlar, curriculum director. “You have faith in your children’s teacher.”
Wolfe said all teachers he’d questioned told him they’d held some students back to help others move forward because of CSCOPE. “That’s not right,” he said.
Flack wanted to know what progress was being made to open CSCOPE to parents. For now, she was told, a parent must visit the school and ask to sit down with a teacher.
Harvey asked how the district was assessing CSCOPE’s success.
Powers said he was depending on teacher feedback, which he insisted was positive. He wasn’t leaning on test scores yet because the TAKS test so recently changed to the STAAR test.
Powers admitted no formal survey of teacher opinions about CSCOPE had been made.
Parent Carma Fisher said the presentation opened up conversation but didn’t answer her concerns about transparency or how she’d help her daughter catch up on school work if she stayed home sick for a couple of days.
MSU professor and physician Dana Mills said he teaches WFISD’s finished products. “People talk about the decline in secondary education. I’ve witnessed it firsthand. That decline is real,” he said.
He called Tuesday’s meeting, “informational without being particularly enlightening. ... They told us almost nothing about the content, which is the whole issue.”
Follow Ann Work on Twitter @AnnWork1.