AUSTIN -- Members of the Senate Education Committee on Thursday grilled the creators of a curriculum system used across Texas that critics say promotes anti-American values and stifles classroom flexibility.Committee Chairman Dan Patrick, R-Houston, called it "a mess." One witness compared the system to "mind control," and an algebra teacher wept as he described quitting because he felt he was "aiding and abetting a crime" by using CSCOPE in his classroom.CSCOPE is an electronic curriculum management system that offers Web-based lesson plans and exams designed to help teachers adhere to state education requirements. It is used in 875 school districts -- more than 70 percent of districts statewide -- and is supposed to be flexible enough for teachers to alter content to meet their individual needs.A string of witnesses before the Senate Education Committee criticized the program for promoting liberal values they said are anti-Christian at best and openly socialist at worst.They also complained that it is hard for nonteachers to get a look at the program."Discontent is rampant across the state," said Peggy Venable, a frequent critic of public schools and the Texas director of Americans for Prosperity.Defending the system was Wade Lebay, director of state CSCOPE at the Region 13 Education Service Center in Austin. He said CSCOPE offers about 1,600 model lessons that districts can access for a fee of $7 per student. Additional training for teachers on how to use the system can increase the per-pupil price."It's built by teachers, designed by teachers and that's what's powerful about CSCOPE," Lebay said.Region 13 is one of 20 service centers statewide that are liaisons between school districts and the Texas Education Agency, which oversees public schools. Senators asked Lebay about complaints that some lesson plans promoted pro-Islam ideals, or described participants of the Boston Tea Party as terrorists.Lebay was even asked to read part of a sixth-grade lesson plan that showed different countries' flags and instructed students to "notice that socialist and communist countries use symbolism on their flags." It went on to ask students what symbols they would use if they were to create a flag for a new socialist country.First-term Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, asked, "Does that sound like we're sympathizing with those types of countries?" He later said he found the lesson plan "very egregious as a Texan and an American."Linda Villarreal, director of the Region 2 Education Service Center in Corpus Christi, responded, "We have 1,600 lessons, so to take just this one is ..." Taylor cut her off, asking, "Who is reviewing these 1,600 plans?"Another first-year senator, Donna Campbell, R-San Marcos, complained about the uniformity CSCOPE imposes -- though Lebay and Villarreal argued that it is to ensure that teachers adhere to complicated state curriculum requirements."Our teachers don't need to be scripted," Campbell said.
CSCOPE in area schools
In the Region 11 Education Service Center, which serves Tarrant, Cooke, Wise, Denton, Parker, Hood, Palo Pinto, Johnson, Erath and Somervell counties, 36 school districts use CSCOPE.
In Tarrant County, the Castleberry, Lake Worth, Crowley and White Settlement school districts and two charter schools, Newman Academy in Arlington and Treetops School International in Euless, use CSCOPE.