School districts adopting CSCOPE online curriculum

School districts throughout Texas are adopting a new curriculum tool aimed at improving student test scores.

Supporters describe it as a user-friendly online curriculum management system that can be customized, complete with timetables for covering required material within the school year. Instructional-unit breakdowns help teachers hit the high points, and they can use optional lesson plans to help lagging students catch up.

"Our state expects a lot of its students," said Priscilla White, CSCOPE coordinator for the Region XI Education Service Center.

The center, which serves 76 school districts in Tarrant, Cooke, Denton, Wise, Parker, Palo Pinto, Johnson, Hood, Erath and Somervell counties, began supporting CSCOPE in April. Twenty of the districts have signed on, including Crowley, Weatherford, Castleberry and Cleburne.

Statewide, 747 of the 1,051 Texas school districts have adopted CSCOPE.

It is fully aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills state curriculum standards.

The plan covers language arts, math, science and social studies, the four core subjects that make up the Texas educational standards.

CSCOPE is also designed to help districts transition from the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills accountability tests to the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness accountability program, which starts in 2012.

Crowley began implementing CSCOPE last summer. By the first day of school in August, the district was ready to roll out the curriculum. Theresa Kohler, Crowley's chief instruction officer, said a couple of developments led the district to adopt CSCOPE.

"Last fall it became evident that we were going to be looking at serious reductions in staff," she said.

The district shopped for curriculum options that required smaller staffs and fewer central administrators.

Looming STAAR standards also spurred the decision, she said.

Crowley's cost for the CSCOPE plan is $7 per student, or about $106,000 per year. "We're halfway through the third six weeks," Crowley spokesman Anthony Kirchner said. "There are still some adjustments as teachers are figuring it out."

Statewide, teacher concerns have included the substance of the curriculum in some subjects and the flexibility teachers have in how they cover material.

The Texas Classroom Teachers Association met with state CSCOPE officials about their concerns. Some were traced to the way school districts were implementing the program.

"The big misconception is that it's a scripted curriculum," White said. "The teacher is still the driver of that instruction in the classroom."

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657