School starts in three weeks and, for many school districts across Texas, there’s still some confusion over whether teachers can use a system of lesson plans. The so-called CSCOPE lesson plans drew fire over allegations they promoted anti-American ideas. During the legislative session, Republican lawmakers announced Texas teachers would no longer use the plans and the non-profit, quasi-state agency that published them would cease to.
State Board of Education leaders say the controversy surrounding CSCOPE will most likely continue into the fall.
The controversy was re-ignited last month during a State Board of Education Meeting, when Board Member Thomas Ratliff posed the following argument about the status of the lesson plans:
“When the non-profit entity that owned copyright protection disbanded, they transferred assets of non-profit to regional service center, collaborative, but the holding of copyright wasn’t transferred. Therefore, on Aug. 1, the copyright protection no longer exists," Ratliffe said.
That would mean the lesson plans become part of the public domain as of today and can be used freely. Some question whether that’s the case—can teachers use previously-downloaded CSCOPE lesson plans in the future? Lawyers with the Texas Education Agency say yes. State Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston)—one of CSCOPE’s most vocal opponents—says no, according to a post on his Facebook page.
During the second special session, Sen. Patrick filed a bill that would ban teachers and school districts from using CSCOPE plans. Patrick did not respond to multiple requests for interviews for this story. State Board of Education Member Ratliff says Patrick created this issue in the first place.
“He blew up the initial perception of the problem, he fashioned what he thought was a solution that in many people’s eyes made it worse because CSCOPE is now free and in public domain," Ratliffe said.
During that board meeting last month, Board Member Tincy Miller said the controversy needs to be answered quickly.
“I was under the impression had been taken care of, that CSCOPE was pulled down, all we have is a management issue left. And that the non-profit thing was gone. Basically the thing had been put to bed. Last thing I heard. Now, I’m hearing something different," Miller said.
Eighty percent of Texas school districts used CSCOPE lesson plans, mostly smaller districts. The lessons have been criticized for asking students to draw a flag for a new socialist nation, among other complaints. Ratliffe says many of those districts don’t have the resources or manpower to create their own lesson plans.
"The State Board of Education has created this problem by creating our standards longer and longer and more complex and trying to cram more content in to 180-day school year. Brand new teachers, they need a life raft from the first day of class to test day," Ratliffe says.
Ratliffe says, in September, the State Board of Education is planning to convene a committee to review CSCOPE lesson plans.
“If nothing else, the State Board of Education can take the lead in the state and separate myth from fact, and, once we do that, people will realize this was all a big to do over nothing and a man-made controversy to score political points," Ratliffe says.
The board needs to determine just how extensive the review will be. They could look over all of the social studies lessons—which are the most controversial—or only review the lesson plans that people object to.
In the meantime, CSCOPE public information officer Mason Moses says the company is moving forward to work with school districts in other ways.
“Things that we’ve always done as far as education service centers, professional development, that’s providing them with those instructional focus documents and other aspects of CSCOPE that districts have requested," Moses said.
The State Board of Education is scheduled to meet this morning. The board is expected to discuss implementation of new high school graduation standards approved during the most recent legislative session.