CSCOPE

Panel posts reviews of controversial CSCOPE lesson plans

A four-member panel created to re-evaluate a set of controversial lesson plans has posted its work online.

State Board of Education Chair Barbara Cargill created the panel, known as the CSCOPE Ad Hoc Committee, after growing concern from parents, educators and conservative bloggers that the CSCOPE lesson plans presented an anti-American and anti-Christian bias. The panel is made up of four SBOE members, along with 140 parents, teachers and other stakeholders chosen by all SBOE members, according to the review committee’s website.

CSCOPE was an online tool created by regional education service centers to help smaller school districts adhere to the state’s education guidelines. An effort in the legislature to kill the system actually moved it into the public domain, where any district can use it., but only after a thorough public review process. It’s now known as the TEKS Resource System.

 

Capital Tonight: Dewhurst enters fight over controversial teaching tool

Months after lawmakers passed legislation doing away with CSCOPE, controversy remains over how teachers should move forward.

Monday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst joined a group of Llano residents to praise a judge’s decision regarding CSCOPE lesson plans. The judge granted a temporary restraining order that bans the use of the lesson plans in the Llano Independent School District until they’re approved by the State Board of Education.

In Monday’s show, we look at why the legal move may be the first of many, and the Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg discusses why the lieutenant governor is getting involved in the fight now.

CRIMINAL COMPLAINT

As we first reported back in June, Gov. Rick Perry is the subject of a criminal complaint over a high-profile veto threat this legislative session. A political watch-dog group claims Perry committed several crimes when he threatened to defund the Public Integrity Unit if Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg didn’t resign.

Perry eventually followed through, cutting more than $7 million from the unit. Now, the criminal complaint is making its way through the legal system. We spoke to the man responsible for the court action, Texans for Public Justice director Craig McDonald.

SENTENCING CHANGES

In a shift that could dramatically reduce the size of the U.S. prison population, Attorney General Eric Holder is proposing broad changes to the way drug crimes are prosecuted.

Holder has directed prosecutors not to include drug quantities in their indictments for low-level, non-violent offenders, in order to allow judges to sidestep mandatory minimum sentences.

The announcement drew praise from one conservative group, which has been working toward cost-cutting measures in Texas since 2007. We sat down with Vikrant Reddy of Right on Crime and the Texas Public Policy Foundation to find out more about their efforts.

Updated: Patrick invites Ratliff to CSCOPE debate in Tyler

Updated to add response from State Board of Education Vice Chair Thomas Ratliff

The stage could be set for a much-talked-about, hypothetical CSCOPE debate. Sen. Dan Patrick and State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff have been sparring over the merits of the online curriculum program through press releases and Facebook posts since July.

CSCOPE was created as an online tool to help teachers meet state education requirements. The program drew criticism from conservative groups who claimed students were being subjected to “anti-American” teachings through some of the lesson plans. Sen. Patrick led a successful effort to do away with the program last session.

SBOE Vice Chair Thomas Ratliff has been among CSCOPE’s supporters, and has encouraged teachers to download the lessons before they are taken offline. “The districts can, and should, continue to use that as one resource,” he said in a Capital Tonight interview. “It’s not the only resource, but when 80 percent of the districts are using it, they don’t have the ability to recreate a curriculum with less than six weeks until the start of school.”

Last month, Sen. Patrick issued a Facebook challenge to anyone who wanted to debate the merits of the program. Ratliff accepted his offer, saying he’d take Patrick on “anytime, anyplace.” Now, Patrick is setting a time, and a place. In a press release sent Wednesday, Patrick invited Ratliff to publicly debate the issue on August 24 in Tyler.

“I’ll give him the home field advantage, but I will not concede the high ground,” Patrick said. “The CSCOPE curriculum was an ill-conceived program, shrouded in secrecy. When I shined a light on it during the Legislative Session; it could not withstand close scrutiny.” 

Update: Ratliff told Capital Tonight this afternoon that he is willing to take Patrick up on his offer, as long as certain conditions are met. “I look forward to a substantive debate with Senator Patrick, not a political discussion with candidate Patrick,” Ratliff said. “I want to make sure it is a thoughtful, meaningful debate. Not just a bunch of soundbites.“ 

There are still details that need to be worked out, including the format. Ratliff says he is proposing a three person panel that would include an educator, a conservative and a neutral moderator, such as a journalist.

Ratliff also expressed disappointment that the debate would be held at a Tea Party event and said he wished it could take place closer to Austin. We do want to note that we at Capital Tonight offered to host this debate. Sen. Patrick declined that invitation.

Controversial online curriculum system dies amid criticism

Hundreds of Texas school districts will stop offering lesson plans created by CSCOPE. In a press conference this morning, Education Committee Chairman Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) announced that the board would inform participating clients that all lesson plans will be taken offline on August 31.

CSCOPE was created as an online tool to help teachers meet state education requirements. It is used by more than 800 school districts.

CSCOPE came under fire earlier this year amid complaints from conservative and Tea Party groups who claimed students were being subjected to “anti-American” teachings. They attacked the tool claiming it promoted pro-Islamic lessons. Some examples included plans that taught children that the Boston Tea Party was carried out by terrorists and a sixth grade assignment to design their own communist flags. In addition, parents complained that they were unable to monitor what their children were learning in school because they did not have access to the online lesson plans.

Sen. Patrick has been leading the fight against the program. In an interview with Capital Tonight in February, Patrick criticized CSCOPE for using tax payer money to set up a shell corporation. “They set up this private corporation, I believe to shield information for whatever reason. But it doesn’t make any difference what the reasons are. Parents have a right  to see what’s in the curriculum,” Patrick said.

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