CSCOPE update from Sen. Dan Patrick

As posted on Sen. Dan Patrick's Facebook page

AS SESSION NEARS AN END, THE REVIEW OF CSCOPE BY MY OFFICE, THE OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, AND THE SBOE, IS ONLY JUST BEGINNING. 

The following is rather long, but it will bring you up to date on the very latest regarding CSCOPE, a recap of the last 5 months, and where we are going next regarding this program.

Once again I want to thank the courageous teachers and vigilant parents who alerted me last fall as to the problems with a program few were aware of, CSCOPE. It didn't take long for me to see their were serious problems with this program. I promised the parents and teachers that I would make this a priority in session.

In January, to the surprise of almost everyone, my first major hearing on education policy was on this relatively unknown program called CSCOPE. Today everyone is aware of CSCOPE.

In April I passed out SB 1406, 31-0, which places CSCOPE under permanent review of the SBOE. My Joint author is Senator Donna Campbell. She has been on point concerning CSCOPE since day one. We have made a good team.

Today, May 15th, 2013, the Texas House is expected to take up and pass SB 1406 by sponsor Rep. Steve Toth.

We continue to work with Attorney General Greg Abbott looking into the business practices and policies of CSCOPE. Last week he issued a letter to the TSCCC instructing them to inform all of their client school districts of the following:

May 6th, 2013

Excerpts from the General Abbott Letter:

Section 26.006 (a) of the Texas Education Code provides that parents are "entitled" to review all teaching materials, instructional materials, and other teaching aids used in the classroom of the parent's child. The Education Code also provides that school districts "shall make teaching materials and tests readily available for review by parents." A student's parent is entitled to request that the school district...allow the student to take home any instructional materials used by the student."

Notwithstanding the fact that Texas law clearly requires school districts to make educational materials accessible to parents, it is our understanding that school districts have recently attempted to charge hundreds of dollars for information related to CSCOPE-related information. Such a fee is not authorized by the Education Code.

In light of these concerns, we request that the TESCCC promptly notify school districts that information related to CSCOPE must be provided to parents in accordance with Chapter 26 of the Texas Education Code, which does not authorize the imposition of a fee. It is imperative that the TESCCC distribute the notification requested herein immediately so that parents are assured access to CSCOPE related information before the end of the school year.

Finally, be advised that failure to comply with the Education Code's disclosure requirements could result in legal action against school districts.

Sincerely,
Greg Abbott
Attorney General of Texas

End of letter -------------

Once again this is a victory for the parents, concerned citizens, and teachers who continue to send us information weekly concerning CSCOPE. I had passed on the information to the General that some parents were charged hundreds of dollars by districts for copies of the lesson plans. One district wanted to charge a parent over $700. They also said the district would have to check with the TESCCC first to be sure they could even send the material. This district not only wasn't aware that the TESCCC had already released districts to share information with parents, which they should have done from the beginning, but the district was also potentially violating the law.

Two days later:
May 8th, 2013

excerpts from the TESCCC response:

The TESCCC sent the General a letter saying they had contacted all of their school districts encouraging their districts to be in compliance with Texas law.

They go on to say that their website went live on April 8th, 2013 with CSCOPE lesson plans and as of now 73% of all plans are on line and more are added each day.

They went on to say that in their January Advisory, after our first hearing I believe, they clarified that all parents may view CSCOPE content. They added that this practice had always been the intent, but had been misinterpreted by some individuals. 

End of letter ---------------------------

A recap of the last 5 months: 

The TESCCC originally testified in our first January hearing that all was well with CSCOPE. Parents had access to the lessons through a portal, teachers had freedom to teach as they pleased, and everyone was happy with this wonderful program.

It turned out they either had no idea of what they were doing, what was in their contracts or lesson plans, or did know and were less than candid in their testimony. 

They then testified the same day that they weren't sure of what was in the teacher contracts, weren't sure what was in various lesson plans, weren't aware that parents had problems with access, couldn't explain why they formed their shell company, said their meetings were open, but then admitted they weren't, and in general couldn't answer most questions with a clear direct answer on anything.

If it seems I'm being tough on CSCOPE, I am. They are the ones who decided to take over the content of lesson plans and instructional materials in almost every district in Texas. Minutes from their meetings reflect they had plans to go nationwide with their program. In one board meeting one directors asked if they were in it for the money or for the education of students.

This is serious business. Parents take it seriously, teachers take it seriously, and I and other legislators take it seriously. The Attorney General takes it seriously. The future of our children and the future of our state are at stake. We can't allow any group, for profit, non-profit, public, or private to takeover our curriculum without oversight by the state and most importantly by parents who have a right to know what their students are being taught.

Since January I have demanded changes in their program and got them to agree in a signed letter that they would do the following:

1.Work with the SBOE and turn over their entire lesson plan package to them for review until we could hopefully pass legislation later in the session.
2.Agreed to close down their shell company.
3.Agreed to make lesson plan available to parents 
4.Agreed to change their teacher contracts removing criminal penalties to teachers who shared CSCOPE content
5.Agreed to support SB 1406. This is the bill I filed with Senator Campbell that will permanently put CSCOPE under SBOE review
6. The TESCCC and each region sent nearly 5000 financial documents to our office. I had sent a letter a few days prior that said I would ask our committee to take the unusual step of issuing a subpoena for the records if they did not comply
7. Agreed to follow General Abbott's instructions on the law after receiving his letter.

What has been most frustrating for me and others is that it seems they seldom take any proactive steps unless asked or required to do so. The same management team that over-saw a program that was dysfunctional is still in charge as far as I know. That is troubling to me as it is clear the program has been clearly mis-managed, or not managed at all.

With session coming to an end in a few weeks they need to understand that I will still be on the job as will the Attorney General.

There are some good people with CSCOPE, who were truly unaware of the problems with the program and want to try to fix it if possible. I appreciate their help, but unless the management team changes I'm not sure there will be any long term changes. I'm still not convinced some people in charge of TESCCC think there were or are any real problems.

If I had the votes to end the lesson plan program now I would for the sake of all concerned, especially the students. I do not have those votes yet. 

My recommendation to the TESCCC Board is to get out of the lesson plan business and go back to the original design of a management system for teaching the TEKS. All eyes will be on the results of the lesson plan review by the SBOE over the summer and our audit of the financial records.

 

For additional updates on CSCOPE and the session please go to   www.facebook.com/dan.patrick.texas      and like the page so you get my daily updates.

Senator Dan Patrick
Chairman of Senate Education