North Texas will have plenty of representation on a committee appointed by the State Board of Education to review the content of CScope, a widely used educational curriculum support system that has received considerable criticism from some teachers and parents.
Board chairwoman Barbara Cargill named fellow board members Pat Hardy of Fort Worth and Mavis Knight of Dallas to the seven-member committee, along with Clyde Steelman of Fort Worth's Region 11 Education Service Center.
Critics of the online CScope system say it promotes Islam, socialism and liberalism, and is riddled with errors.
But officials with the Regional Education Service Centers say it is based on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) state standards, and that it helps teachers prepare for assessment tests.
The original idea behind CScope, which was developed in the 2006-07 school year, was to provide a curriculum aligned with state required standards that small districts could afford, said Hardy. The regional education service centers, which are self-sustaining despite their alignment with the Texas Education Agency, provide the curriculum and charge districts for the system.
CScope adoption has grown from 182 districts its first year to 875 districts, or about 70 percent of the state's 1,247 districts.
Many parents and political conservatives contend that the CScope curriculum promotes socialist, anti-American and anti-Christian values.
Teachers have also been critical of CScope, citing the time and materials required to make hard copies of lessons from the web site. Though the curriculum is billed as being customizable, some teachers have said it is too regimented, and that too much emphasis is placed on lesson plans that decrease creativity.
New public concerns arose this year when a school district in Lumberton came under fire from parents because of pictures they say show students wearing Islamic burqas as part of a CScope class lesson. Another district has been assailed for supposedly labeling the Boston Tea Party a "terrorist act" in another lesson. On the CScope web site, the governing board posted an item on the burqa incident:
"This activity was not a part of any lesson in CScope; rather, it was a locally developed lesson in a Texas school district," read the item, accompanied by a link to a news release from the Lumberton district. A report is also included on the state standards for teaching world religions in social studies classes.
CScope administrators say the reference to the Boston Tea Party was from an out-of-date, optional lesson offered in a World History unit that promoted "critical thinking" from different perspectives, one of the objectives of state approved curriculum standards. It was removed when new social studies standards were adopted.
State Sens. Dan Patrick and Donna Campbell filed a bill last week to reform CScope.
Patrick, who is chair of the Senate Education Committee, arranged a committee hearing with CScope representatives. A release from Patrick's office said the hearing "exposed problems including a lack of management oversight, a lack of transparency, questionable lesson plans, and troubling legal documents."
Critics have been especially wary of CScope's governance.
A non-profit corporation, the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative, compiled the CScope system which they own and manage. Its 20-member board of directors includes the executive directors of each Education Service Center. CScope is funded by the fees collected from districts.
Patrick is calling for the dissolution of the organization in favor of a new CScope oversight board.
The two state board committee members from Tarrant and Dallas counties approach CScope with different perspectives.
Hardy, an educator with extensive experience in the Weatherford school district with both CScope and social studies, said CScope has improved with its frequent revisions. The second round, after revision, was better, Hardy said, and the Weatherford district began using the social studies curriculum. The district is now on all CScope for core standards.
Opinions on CScope are much quieter in Mavis Knight's district, which includes southern Dallas and eastern Tarrant counties, where no districts use CScope.