Dan Patrick Shades the Truth about His CSCOPE Witch Hunt

The right-wing witch hunt over the CSCOPE curriculum tool used in hundreds of Texas public and private schools has been filled with bizarre distortions from the beginning. But weeks after the state’s Education Service Centers bowed to political pressure and announced that they would stop writing lesson plans for school districts, state Sen. Dan Patrick — the Houston Republican who bragged that “the era of CSCOPE lessons is over” — is still distorting the facts.

Over the weekend a Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial sharply criticized Sen. Patrick, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, for overreaching in his desire to police classrooms and take down CSCOPE. The editorial came just days after the Texas Freedom Network exposed Sen. Patrick’s efforts to harass teachers and school districts that choose to continue using CSCOPE lessons that already exist. The Star-Telegram’s editorial didn’t sit well with Sen Patrick, who posted a response on his Facebook page. His post includes so many misleading statements that we thought it would be instructive to go over them here:

Sen Patrick writes:
“The non-profit overseeing CSCOPE was formed without permission of the legislature or approval by the state. Public entities cannot use taxpayer money to form for profit, or non-profit companies. CSCOPE didn’t even seek an opinion from the Attorney General, or have any written opinion on the formation of the non-profit.”

The Education Service Centers have said that they got legal advice saying they could establish a nonprofit, the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative, or TESCCC, to protect the intellectual property (the lesson plans and other materials) in CSCOPE. Whether or not that was a good idea, the service centers agreed in early February, at Sen. Patrick’s insistence, to shut down the nonprofit. So that issue was already resolved and shouldn’t have anything to do with eliminating CSCOPE’s lessons.

“The Texas Tribune reviewed all of CSCOPE’s 877 schools and found students attending schools using CSCOPE lesson plans performed worse on STAAR exams than students who didn’t attend schools who used CSCOPE lesson plans.”

Not true. The Texas Tribune conducted no such review. Perhaps Sen. Patrick is referring to a “study” conducted by a ninth-grade business/marketing class in the town of Blanket near Brownwood. So is the chairman of the Senate Education Committee relying on a “study” conducted by ninth-graders to justify bullying the Education Service Centers into eliminating lesson plans hundreds of school districts were using? Seriously?

“It was the CSCOPE Board by a vote of 18-2 that decided to take the lesson plans out of the schools, not the legislature. They did so because I believe they came to conclusion there were many problems with the lesson plans. In addition they have notified their schools that they cannot legally use the lesson plans after August.”

This statement is terribly disingenuous. The Education Service Centers agreed in February (at Sen. Patrick’s insistence) to submit their materials to the State Board of Education for review, and that review was already underway. But after continued bullying from Sen. Patrick and other politicians, the service centers said after a meeting with Sen Patrick on May 17 they they would stop writing lessons altogether. At a press conference the following Monday (May 20), Sen. Patrick was gleeful over the end of CSCOPE lessons. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott also bragged that he had helped “beat back CSCOPE.”

“Schools cannot violate a License agreement or contract and use CSCOPE lessons without permission. If a school district or campus violates any License agreement or legal contract with any company that is a potential legal issue under the AG office, not a legislative issue.”

It appears that the entity that could challenge teachers who continue using CSCOPE lesson plans doesn’t exist anymore. That’s because the Education Service Centers agreed in February — at Sen. Patrick’s insistence — to shut down the TESCCC nonprofit. Moreover, the old lessons aren’t part of the new CSCOPE service agreement. That’s because, of course, they’re no longer part of the program. In any case, neither Sen. Patrick nor the attorney general has the authority to tell teachers what lessons they may or may not use in their classrooms. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s editorial board members call Sen. Patrick’s attempts to harass those teachers with legal threats another example of his overreaching. They’re right.

“In terms of local control, the vast majority of teachers in these districts are glad to be rid of the lesson plans and contracts that subjected them to criminal penalties if they disclosed any of the lesson plans to the public.”

How can Sen. Patrick claim this is true? He hasn’t surveyed teachers around the state. To our knowledge, no one has. But we have seen plenty of educators who are frustrated over the end of CSCOPE’s lessons. At least one teacher has started an online petition critical of Sen Patrick’s actions on those lessons. Moreover, teachers testified before Sen. Patrick’s committee and a State Board of Education committee that they found CSCOPE to be a valuable tool.

Have there been teachers who didn’t like CSCOPE or the way it was implemented in their districts? Yes, no doubt. But their beef is (or should be) with their local school administrators, who made the decisions about whether and how to implement the program. That’s local control at work. Moreover, of the nearly 900 school districts using CSCOPE — nearly 80 percent of the state’s districts — none are in Patrick’s Senate district. So Sen. Patrick’s political bullying won’t affect any school districts he represents — just those elsewhere in the state. That’s hardly an example of supporting local control.

“The AG has already notified all districts if they charge parents to see the lesson plans they could be facing his office in court. There was documentation that some schools were charging parents to see the plans, which is illegal under the law. One school wanted to charge a parent over $700 to see the lesson plans.”

This is also disingenuous. CSCOPE agreed in early February (at Sen. Patrick’s insistence) to make all of its lessons available online for anyone — parents and other citizens — to review. But CSCOPE critics wanted school staff to print out the lessons — thousands of pages — and deliver them on request. Should school districts (and their taxpayers) be required to eat the cost of providing personal copies of instructional materials to anyone who requests them, even when those materials will be available online for free?

“There is a continuing review of the financial records of CSCOPE.”

What does Sen. Patrick mean here? A criminal investigation? An audit? For what? If there is credible evidence that the Education Service Centers were engaged in any financial misdeeds, then, by all means, look into it. But does Sen. Patrick have reason to think there is such evidence? If so, he should say so and explain why rather than making cryptic statements that unfairly call into question the honesty and reputations of staff members at the service centers.

“Many districts used the management tool, but not the lesson plans. Districts should call those districts and ask them how they addressed the lesson plan issue.”

Yes, larger districts have had the resources to create their own lesson plans. The Education Service Centers created CSCOPE to help smaller school districts that lacked such resources. Will Sen. Patrick support more funding for those school districts now? Don’t hold your breath.

“Teachers can write their own lesson plans.”

Many do. But many, especially younger and more inexperienced teachers, used CSCOPE lessons to supplement their own. Small and medium-sized districts decided that CSCOPE’s materials filled a need. Now Czar Patrick is issuing decrees about what local districts and their teachers should do instead. He’s a politician and a radio talk show host. What in the world does he know about teaching?

“The Texas Education Agency, TEA, provides free on-line lesson plans for most core courses. Private vendors also sell lesson plans.”

Yes, there are alternatives. But CSCOPE critics are already attacking some of them, too. Moreover, fees charged by private vendors will likely be much higher than  those charged by the Education Service Centers for CSCOPE. And none of those alternatives are currently subject to review by the State Board of Education — something Sen. Patrick and other critics attacked CSCOPE over. Besides all that, who gave Czar Patrick the authority to decree that CSCOPE isn’t an appropriate alternative for local school districts?

“We are not over-reaching in the legislature. We are responding to our parents and teachers who came to us on this issue. They are the ultimate local control in their districts.”

No, Sen. Patrick has been responding to a witch hunt generated by tea party and other right-wing activists who dishonestly attacked CSCOPE’s lessons as anti-American. And they have recklessly smeared the current and retired teachers who wrote those lessons. If Sen. Patrick really believed in local control, he would trust local school districts to decide what’s best for their students.

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21 Comments

  1. Michelle McCleery
    Posted September 13, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Here is an important point that Sen. Patrick does not comprehend….CSCOPE was the ONLY vertically aligned PreK-12 curriculum. The curriculum AND lesson plans are designed to ensure that what is taught in, just an example, 5th grade Science is built on in 6th grade Science. Additionally, this curriculum AND its lesson plans were aligned specifically with the TEKS. It provided a uniformed approach to teaching “higher level thinking skills” as REQUIRED by the new STARR. I can go on and on about the politically driven “witch hunt”, but I am only a parent, not a huge company with a check book that ensures MY interests are protected. Pearsons is upset because they are not selling much of curriculum and textbooks. Forget the fact that WE, the tax payers of this State, will pay them roughly $490,000,000, that’s right…almost 1/2 a billion dollars over the next five years, to write and grade our STARR tests. So there…Pearsons has handed out some pretty heavy campaign contributions to ensure their interests are maintained. Before this over, please mark my words, Pearsons will have the ONLY State approved curriculum and resources at a MUCH HIGHER rate than CSCOPE. Score one for Texas public school students! One last thing, I am a Republican conservative as well and I have yet to find anything appalling in a CSCOPE lesson my kids have been taught. But get ready radical conservatives….teachers will be forced to pull resources off of the Internet and you think CSCOPE was an abomination, wait until you see what starts to come out of the woodwork then. What. A. Mess. Thanks Sen. Patrick for standing up for Pearsons’ rights!

  2. Nate
    Posted June 27, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    So were all of you Ok with the CSCOPE lessons on saying the Boston Tea Party people were terrorists?? I know not all lessons were like this but really? You dont question that at all? I’m just a parent but that bothers me. I have a big problem with that. Is this untrue? Was this not a lesson? One teacher I know told me it was just showing how England may have viewed America during the Revolution. Well I dont give a crap of what England thought and I dont think we teach enough American Values in our classrooms now. Just my 2 cents if I”m wrong fine. Just trying to get to the bottom of it all. Thanks.

    • teach
      Posted June 27, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      Nate,
      Did you actually read the lesson on the Boston Tea Party? Or are you relying on hearsay? Do you even know what grade level it was intended for?

      First, NONE of these lessons are required. Second, taking one sentence out of an entire lesson plan can be construed any way someone with a hidden agenda wants it to be, just like in the Bible. Third, these lessons cover a curriculum that was voted on and MANDATED by the legislature. It has nothing to do with CSCOPE. And Fourth, teachers are actually able to make judgements as to what things in a lesson are appropriate and what things aren’t. If you search for lessons on the Boston Tea Party, you’ll find TONS of example lessons all over the internet. Teachers aren’t forced to use any lessons out of CSCOPE. It’s not like they are reading this stuff word for word to kids in a monotone voice without deviating from some script. Geez. AND, our kids can actually make judgements about what they are being taught, as well. They aren’t being “programmed” or “indoctrinated” into some cult or terrorist group.

      So, to answer your question–no, I’m not concerned in the least about this lesson or any other lesson on CSCOPE or any other curriculum management tool. My kids all go to Texas public schools–in the same district where I work–and our district uses CSCOPE. I’ve been an educator over 20 years and have used many a curriculum management tool in my day because EVERY district has had some sort of management tool for more years than I’ve been a teacher; and they will continue to have one as long as the state continues to require them to do so.

      I’ve read the lesson to which you refer long before it was used as an example by the opposition, and within the context of the questions it was asking, the whole “terrorist” thing was not how it sounds, and it was simply posing some considerations for the students to think about in terms of perspective.

      If you have a problem, please address the TEKS that are required by LAW to be taught in every grade in every public school district in Texas. If you don’t want your kids learning about religions other than Christianity, the American and French Revolutions from the perspectives of the winners and the losers as well as world history in general, talk to the people who decided it has to be taught–your legislators. NOT CSCOPE.

      As a matter of fact, CSCOPE isn’t the only curriculum management tool out on the market–there are many, many more. It just happened to be one of the first online and constantly updated tools that keeps up with the ever-changing legislative and testing mandates in our state which small districts can actually afford. In the past, they have had to literally spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every few years to buy paper versions or hire curriculum consultants to manage the overwhelming amount of curriculum across grade levels and schools. Like textbooks, there are no changes or updates to those unless you purchase them, and even then, those updates are already past helpfulness once teachers get them. I don’t want to sound like a cheerleader for CSCOPE–it isn’t perfect, but none of them are. I could care less what company makes them or which one we have as long as it does what it promises so our tax money is spent efficiently and purposefully. I don’t want to sit back and let people who don’t know anything about it blow this whole lesson plan thing way out of proportion, however. Keep in mind who benefits from the loss of CSCOPE because they might just make money serving as its replacement. This issue to them really isn’t about the kids. It really isn’t about education. It’s about money–plain and simple. The bottom line is that CSCOPE is a curriculum management tool that organizes the STATE MANDATED curriculum in a way so that all of the required subjects are taught completely by the end of the school year, like the legislature says it has to be. That’s it. That’s all.

  3. Seriously???
    Posted June 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Is anybody watching the Pearson donations to these two idiots campaigns etc.???

    • teach
      Posted June 13, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      It’s pretty well hidden because Pearson owns many subsidiaries, but I know for sure that Shapiro was big on testing and swore she had no connection to Pearson, but after she retired from the legislature, she took a “consulting” job for a home-school online curriculum firm that was a subsidiary to Pearson. Amazing how that works out. There are lots of connections to No Child Left Behind as well. It’s nice to be able to pay people to write laws that make it mandatory for every school in the state to use your product; and then they can also be used to go after your competition, too. Gravy train.

  4. teach
    Posted June 12, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    I just want to say that CSCOPE does not create curriculum. It is a curriculum management system that helps to organize state mandated curriculum (TEKS) so that all of them are taught by the end of the year and they are aligned with the grades above and below. The lessons were samples and not required. However, even if they were required, the actual content is based on the TEKS, which are the “essential knowledge and skills” required by law to be taught in all Texas schools. They are required by law–that means our esteemed legislators decided the curriculum, not CSCOPE. If there is a problem with some sort of push for Islamic fundamentalism or whatever else CSCOPE was accused of, don’t blame the lessons–blame the curriculum–which is mandated by law to be taught by the Texas Legislature. Put the blame where it belongs.

    • Swinedance
      Posted June 12, 2013 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      Teach – Thank you for adding additional clarification. The more details that come out about Patrick and Abbott, the more I fear for the future of Texas and our children. These guys are up to no good and have to be defeated at the ballot box before that becomes illegal too.

      • teach
        Posted June 13, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

        Swinedance,
        Without getting into a “conspiracy theory” mentality too much, I have a feeling that this whole battle against CSCOPE really began with some instigation by Pearson testing right around the time they came up with their own version of a curriculum management system that is all for profit and twice as expensive as CSCOPE and really just a bunch of hot air. The Pearson system is probably just made over from one of the other states in which they control the standardized testing and textbooks and made to sound like it is for Texas by replacing the name of the former state with the name of our state–very much like what happens in the textbook industry. It’s all about money and distracting people from the real issues. The only way they could get their foot in the door was to create a climate of fear about something that really isn’t true, get these politicians to jump on it because it sounded good to them, and then sit back and let the politicians do all the work destroying their competition. Pretty good strategy, and it’s worked. Until people see it for what it really is.

        • Swinedance
          Posted June 13, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

          Thanks again Teach. As with most issues, it helps to have someone knowledgeable in the conversation.

    • Juanita
      Posted June 13, 2013 at 6:47 am | Permalink

      Finally, someone has pointed the conversation in the appropriate direction. CSCOPE provides a scope and sequence just as teach said. It is the legislature who needs to be looked at if people do not like the curriculum. CSCOPEnis the first curriculum to design a scope and sequence for teachers to ensure all TEKS are covered. The problem is it became evident that all the TEKS cannot be covered and allow for re-teach when needed because of the unrealistic load in each grade level. We are not talking rigor, we are talking about a good alignment of TEKS that need to be revised. Senator Patrick and his supporters should have the nerve to tackle the TEKS like CSCOPE did.!

      • Swinedance
        Posted June 13, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        What a great dialogue on this one, but as we know Patrick is only a political hack (that’s the nicest thing I have ever said about him!) and will never tackle a real issue as long as he knows that he can get support from Abbott and Perry.

  5. Rick Bentley
    Posted June 12, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Suspect Pearson was pushing Patrick. Interestingly enough they have a for profit product ready to sell to school districts. Follow the money!

  6. Posted June 11, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    How is it that a guy with a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting thinks he knows more about education than those who spent their lifetime teaching, some with advanced degrees?

    • Swinedance
      Posted June 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      I have a BA in Journalism and my wife, who has worked in education all her life constantly tells me how little I know.

      She has told me that teachers ought to be creating lesson plans rather than relying on c-scope. So I went and did a little research. Even though teachers can take the lesson plans and use them as they are written, they are often modified by teachers for their own needs or only used as a reference when creating new lesson plans of their own.

      Patrick’s objective has always been and remains to be to de-fund public schools and make them ineffective so the funds can be redirected to his cronies in the Christian school industry. The idea that he is now in collusion with the Attorney General to criminalize learning is something every one of us in Texas should be very concerned about.

      • Rick Bentley
        Posted June 13, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        Swinedance
        Correct! Dan Patrick and others are sycophants for organizations like ALEC. They serve as conduits to the statehouse and carry water for those who want to profit on the backs of children. I do wonder what schools will do when the bottom line is the profit margin and shareholder dividends as opposed to student learning.

  7. Posted June 11, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Again…politicians using education to get air time for themselves..hey Gov nobody wants to do business in a state run by lying, idiots. TX get out of the backwoods and provide a decent education for our state.

  8. Posted June 11, 2013 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    I called the Attorney General’s office in early May and asked about the radicals’ claims that there was a criminal investigation of CSCOPE.

    The AG’s office said there is not an such an investigation. The spokesman, who was irritated at the question, also curtly told me that if there were an investigation to be done, it would not be announced first at political rallies.

    How far can we trust the word of the AG’s office?

    Someone should call again this week, perhaps.

    Dan Patrick is not in charge of any criminal investigating unit, no matter what his delusions of the moment may be.

  9. Posted June 10, 2013 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    @Jack’s Stuff, on one hand I hope that’s true, and I wonder what took em so damn long

  10. Posted June 10, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    He is a piece of work, he really takes shots at the public schools every time he can. I hear they want to boot him off the Education Committee, I will gladly provide the boot!

    • Swinedance
      Posted June 10, 2013 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

      Now I have something to pray for!

  11. Swinedance
    Posted June 10, 2013 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    And these Nazi bastards (excuse my polite euphemisms for Patrick and Abbott)complain about government overreach? Who are they kidding?

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