Tyler ISD curriculum under scrutiny at public meeting

TYLER (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Tyler ISD administrators explained the purpose and benefits of a curriculum management system that some people have said constrains teachers and indoctrinates students.

The CSCOPE system was a topic during the board workshop Monday. Nancy Swanson, the district's executive director of curriculum and instruction, outlined the origins of the system as well as how it is used within the district.
The system, which is used by more than 70 percent of school districts statewide, has come under fire recently at the state level.

Critics have said the curriculum promotes anti-American values and prevents classroom flexibility, according to an Associated Press story.

Proponents said the program is designed by teachers, which is a strength, according to the story.

Deputy superintendent Cecil McDaniel said CSCOPE breaks up the state curriculum standards into bite-sized chunks.

All public school teachers are responsible for teaching the concepts laid out in the state's Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. The state assessments test those standards and it is what the Texas Education Agency expects students to know from elementary school through high school.

What CSCOPE does is package those standards so that school districts can know in what order to teach them, how to group them and how to assess them in a way that will mirror the state assessments, district officials said.
It gives teachers a common language and process and helps ensure that each grade level is doing its part to prepare students for the next grade level.

"It's not designed to eliminate textbooks or other instructional materials," Ms. Swanson said. "It's a tool to help us better look at textbooks and instructional materials and determine if this is something that is aligned to our instructional standards. Is this something that we want to use in our classroom?"

The system comes with several components including a Year-at-a-Glance calendar, an instructional focus document, unit assessments and example lessons.

Ms. Swanson said teachers are not required to use the CSCOPE example lessons, but they are required to teach the state standards.

Extra days are built into each six weeks so teachers can take more time on lessons when needed. And the system is designed to circle back to some concepts so that students will hear them taught multiple times in the classroom and teachers can go into more depth the second time around.

During the presentation, Ms. Swanson showed video clips of TISD teachers talking about the system and what they liked about it. Overall, the teachers, who represented a variety of grade levels, said it provided a curriculum guide, improved students' academic attainment and helped them become better teachers.

One teacher said that once it became clear that the example lesson was just a suggestion and she could exercise freedom in her teaching, it became a tool rather than something negative.

McDaniel said on the whole new teachers have been quicker to embrace it than more experienced teachers because they didn't have to change from another system.

However, he said, even without CSCOPE, teachers would still have to change their teaching methods because the state standards change regularly.

Board members questioned the content of the program as well as the availability for the public to view the lessons.

McDaniel said some of the examples that have been brought up with state legislators were in old lessons and were removed. He also said CSCOPE created a public website that will give people access to lessons this month.
That website is www.public.mycscope.us and lessons could be viewed Monday. A timeline of when all lessons will be available is on the website.

About 30 community members attended the meeting. Several of them said they came to hear about the curriculum management system because they wanted to learn more.

Tyler resident Marcia Johnson, a retired California teacher, said she is opposed to CSCOPE because she feels like it takes the teaching out of the hands of the teacher. She said students are not achieving at the levels they need to be with this system so it should be changed.

TISD parent Brenda Stratton said she came because curriculum is a priority for her. She said she was pleased with what she heard.

"We do need to have a way to keep us focused with the end goal in mind and we do need to have that framework," she said.

Superintendent Gary Mooring said the district values teachers' input and he wants to make sure they have the opportunity to give it, particularly about CSCOPE moving forward.

"There is a lot of validity in listening to the people in the trenches and getting input back from them," he said.


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