Standardized student test scores at Texas schools using the controversial CSCOPE curriculum are dropping significantly.
For the last few months, WND has provided in-depth coverage of the self-described "curriculum management system" called CSCOPE. The program, which has described terrorists as freedom fighters, is used by 80 percent of Texas public schools.
But test results show that since implementation of CSCOPE eight years ago, scores for Texas public schools have plummeted.
The percentages of students scoring "unsatisfactory" on the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness/End-Of-Course tests illustrate the problem.
For Algebra 1 students, 13.74 percent in non-CSCOPE schools scored unsatisfactorily; for students in CSCOPE schools, it was 20.35 percent. For Biology 1, those who ranked unsatisfactory in non-CSCOPE schools totaled 10.5 percent; for CSCOPE schools it was 14.86 percent.
For English Writing 1, the figures were 39. 48 percent for non-CSCOPE schools, and 46.3 percent for CSCOPE schools. For geography, 17.78 percent of students in non-CSCOPE schools were unsatisfactory and 23.30 percent of those in CSCOPE schools.
Lumberton ISD, the school district that invited ninth grade female students to wear burqas as part of a geography lesson and then forced the students to sign liability waivers after the incident was reported by WND, has decided to abandon CSCOPE after sustained protest from parents.
Irving ISD also may abandon CSCOPE, reports indicate. Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Irving was the nexus of an early discussion about alleged Islamic bias in CSCOPE.
CSCOPE has faced heavy criticism by parents, teachers and legislators, culminating in hearings that revealed serious academic deficiencies in CSCOPE in the areas of math, science and English, as well as what many critics believe is an agenda-driven bias in social studies content that promotes a negative view of America.
WND has reported on lessons claiming the Boston Tea Party was a terrorist act, and lessons requiring students to design flags for a new communist country.
Also raised as concerns:
- Lessons are often not matched to grade level; a ninth-grade lesson asks students to circle capital letters in a sentence.
- One social studies lesson teaches that capitalism is obsolete and communism is the best economic system, using a diagram that shows a man climbing a ladder towards communism.
- A third-grade lesson defines American "equality" as "fair share." Competing definitions that include "equality under the law" or "equal opportunity" are not discussed.
- Muhammad is portrayed as a social justice crusader: "Caravan manager from Mecca, rich trading city and host to many religious shrines (Ka'bah); married to a rich widow; became disillusioned with the corruption in the city and the growing gap between the urban dwellers and the Bedouins (nomadic herders)." There is no mention of his marriage to a young girl or his beheading of indigenous population groups.
- Political parties are taught from what critics claim is a subjective and left-leaning perspective, e.g. Democrats "benefit each individual" while Republicans "favor big business."
CSCOPE also reportedly does not use phonics to teach reading.
In addition to its controversial lesson content, CSCOPE has come under fire for secrecy and lack of transparency. CSCOPE has required teachers and districts to sign "User Agreements" that expose educators to litigation if lesson content or other instructional materials are shared with parents and the public.
CSCOPE also has refused to give parents direct access to CSCOPE content, saying: "We believe that this would actually undercut teachers' ability to customize a lesson to best serve the students in their classrooms. The teacher should always be a parent's primary contact in discovering what resources are being used in the learning environment."
CSCOPE representatives had committed in January to correct the issues, "effective immediately," after state lawmakers began expressing concern, but any changes apparently have yet to take effect.
Critics explain parents still do not have direct access to CSCOPE lesson content and instructional materials. CSCOPE defers to districts to decide when and under what conditions instructional materials are released. But the policy violates the Texas Education Code, Chapter 26, which gives parents the right to see any materials used by their children in class.
Last week, State Board of Education Chairwoman Barbara Cargill released a statement announcing a new ad hoc review panel that would take charge of CSCOPE lesson review in the short term until actual oversight legislation can be passed into law.
Critics complain that CSCOPE's compliance with the findings of the panel is "voluntary."
According to the release, CSCOPE has been given three seats on the review panel designated to review its materials.
Speaking to WND, veteran teacher and outspoken CSCOPE critic Mary Bowen remarked, "This is akin to giving accused criminals jury seats at their own trial."
Education research expert Colleen Vera, who has uncovered a number of financial irregularities in CSCOPE, told WND, "CSCOPE participation on the review panel is a huge conflict of interest, since CSCOPE is a product that profits the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC), which charges Texas multiple times to lease the product and again to sell it."
CSCOPE tests have also faced considerable heat in recent months. CSCOPE argues that it should not have to release its tests for review or vetting by appropriate parties, claiming the tests are protected by "intellectual property" laws and that release would harm competitiveness.
This week, Kara Sands, the mother of a student in Four Bluff ISD, posted a photo of a CSCOPE test on her Facebook page, and it was picked up by local networks.
Sands told Fox News that a CSCOPE test asked her daughter the following question: "Why might the United States be a target for terrorism?"
The students were given four choices: a) Other people just don't like Americans; b) Decisions we made in the United States have had negative effects on people elsewhere; c) Terrorists hate everyone; d) None of the above.
Students were supposed to select "b", i.e. "Decisions we made in the United States have had negative effects on people elsewhere."
Sands' Facebook post received over a thousand likes.
Other teachers reported a test for "Social Studies World Geography Unit 08: North Africa and Southwest Asia 2012-2013″ inserts a perspective into nearly every question and fails to pass even a basic objectivity test.
For example, one test asked: "Why would the U.S. government consider the democratic movements taking place in North Africa and Southwest Asia as a positive change, even if they cause revolution or war?"
The answer? "It considers democracy better for the people of the region than most of the current forms of government there."
Critics point out that "democracy" has not supplanted dictatorial regimes, but rather "theocracy" grounded in Shariah, the Islamic legal and religious code that demands amputation for petty theft, stoning for adultery, crucifixion for highway robbery and death for homosexuals.
Some have also challenged the question's premise that "democratic movements" are "taking place," since there is widespread debate about the nature and direction of the movements, often-dubbed the "Arab Spring."
For example, the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic supremacist organization that considers the destruction of the U.S. and Israel as primary objectives, now governs Egypt.
WND reported two weeks ago that students in Lumberton ISD were required to write a paper about how Egypt was harmed by American foreign policies, focusing on how the country has improved since the Muslim Brotherhood took over.
The paper was part of the lesson that encouraged students to try on Islamic garb and taught that terrorists were freedom fighters.
In Lumberton, when teachers had students wear burqas as part of a lesson on Islam in a ninth-grade high school geography class, April LeBlanc, mother of student Madelyn McLemore, said she believed the principal violated parental consent requirements by requiring students to sign waivers. LeBlanc recounted her confrontation with the LISD principal to WND.
"I asked the principal why she thought it was okay to take a written statement from my daughter without me present," LeBlanc said. "She stated to us that it is a normal procedure they do at Lumberton High School when incidents occur. They have children sign statements all the time without parents present; that it is their procedure. I told her that it was not ok and that this was not a typical 'incident' like a classroom skirmish or a disobedient student."
According to LeBlanc, "The principal eventually told me that it could have been handled better, and that she probably should have called the parents."
McLemore told WND that she felt coerced and pressured into writing the incident report. LeBlanc noted that her daughter had phoned her, crying in the restroom, saying she had been dismissed for the day in a disciplinary action.
Superintendent John Valastro defended the school's actions.
"Did we do everything right? Probably not, but we attempt to teach our students critical thinking skills so they can judge for themselves," he said. "I can honestly say, to my knowledge, Lumberton ISD has never converted a single student to Islam."
In spite of the fact that other districts are now looking at dropping CSCOPE, Friendswood Independent School District in the Houston area has just adopted it over the complaints of parents and teachers. A town hall will be held in Friendswood, Texas, March 28 to discuss FISD's decision.