Tag Archives: CSCOPE

Commissioner discusses COVID-19 issues at the June SBOE meeting

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) is holding its June meeting this week. On Monday, the board heard over 12 hours of testimony from more than 250 people on the review of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for physical education and health TEKS. The board’s discussion of these TEKS was pushed to Tuesday’s meeting.

On Tuesday, the board began with an appearance by Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath, whose comments were primarily related to education issues stemming from the current coronavirus pandemic. Because Texas lacks end-of-year student learning data, Morath pointed to an outside study on the blended learning tool “Zearn,” which showed disparate outcomes in learning between students with different wealth measures. Morath did note that data will likely be released today on Texas public school student engagement, which was gathered by teachers in the spring. Morath stressed that we cannot allow the public health crisis to become an educational crisis and discussed transitioning from crisis-mode instructional support to instruction, in order to minimize learning loss.

As we previously reported here on Teach the Vote, Morath explained that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has used its waiver authority to set up two new school finance mechanisms, which will allow districts to receive funding for either a synchronous or asynchronous remote instructional model next school year. In a later answer to a question by board member Marisa Perez-Diaz (D-Converse), Morath explained that attendance (tied to schools’ ability to receive funding) in the asynchronous method of remote learning will be specifically determined through a district’s definition of progress and engagement, which must abide by an already established framework defined by TEA. Morath stressed that it is essential to get as many children back in school as possible and as quickly as possible, but the commissioner said he understands that it may not be safe for some children to return to school.

Morath stated that the risk of COVID-19 infection, transmission, and complications in children is much lower than for adults and expressed confidence that districts can implement enough strategies and protocols so that parents feel safe sending their kids to school. This appeared to leave some board members wondering, “What about the teachers?”

Board member Ruben Cortez (D-Brownsville) later asked the commissioner to address how the agency is prepared to protect educators and deal with infected school employees who have to miss school or quarantine. Morath pointed to the agency’s provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face shields, plus guidance the agency has provided to districts suggesting screening protocols and considerations for higher levels of distancing. Similarly, member Aicha Davis (D-Dallas) later asked Morath if there was going to be any state support for teachers who are pregnant or have asthma, to which Morath responded that it will be left up to school districts to address this issue, and TEA has provided them guidance regarding staff who fall into a high-risk category. Morath suggested that there would not be any additional state financial support for districts in dealing with this issue of accommodating staff around such COVID-19 concerns.

During his presentation, the commissioner commented on the financial situation facing Texas public schools. He stated that while negative downturns in the economy will impact tax revenue, Texas has not announced cuts to public education funding and does not plan to cut funding in the coming years. Morath explained that the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund created as part of the federal CARES Act will be used to execute the “hold harmless” provision for Average Daily Attendance (ADA) that the agency recently announced. This means that cuts to funding in the coming year will not be necessary, according to the commissioner. In addition to the ESSER funds, half a billion dollars will be allocated through the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), also part of the CARES Act, which will fund 75% of schools’ coronavirus-related expenses incurred during the 2019-20 school year. Morath said the state also plans to provide PPE to every school district, fund access to broadband and digital devices through Operation Connectivity, and offer the free, optional Texas Home Learning platform and resources for districts that do not already have a learning management system (LMS) in place. The commissioner added that 24% of Texas students needed paper learning resources this spring, which is likely why connectivity and access to devices are a large focus of how the state plans to spend its emergency funds provided by Congress.

When board member Davis asked the commissioner how racial equity would be addressed in his agency’s efforts, Morath referenced the increases in funding that resulted from the legislature’s passage of House Bill 3, Operation Connectivity, and the Texas Home Learning network. Similar to his previous positions, the commissioner suggested that each district is responsible for closing the gaps and that TEA can only provide robust resources within the limits of the agency’s own funding. Member Barbara Cargill (R-Conroe) asked Morath how the Texas Home Learning network was being vetted and what was being done to ensure that it will not become the next CSCOPE. Morath responded that the new home learning resources were meant to be extremely transparent and available to the public, but the commissioner added that he would like those resources eventually to be vetted by the SBOE .

Before taking questions, Morath also commented on the reading academy requirements included in House Bill 3, stating that all requirements are still on schedule. Reading academies will be offered mostly in a blended learning form. Providers may begin offering cohorts in July. More information on reading academies can be found here.

Board member Tom Maynard (R-Florence) asked about TEA’s future plans for administering the STAAR test. Morath answered with a long-winded explanation of why assessments are important for measuring learning for diagnostic purposes and emphasizing the correlation between STAAR test scores and future outcomes for students. To provide districts some flexibility, the commissioner stated that the agency has extended the testing window for the coming school year and that there will likely be future adjustments to the A-F accountability system to compensate for not being able to calculate growth. In response to a question by board member Georgina Pérez (D-El Paso), Morath said he isn’t sure if Texas will be requesting another testing waiver from the federal government in the upcoming academic year.

Lastly, Pérez asked the commissioner to comment on charter school expansion requests and if TEA could improve its process for notifying SBOE members of charter school expansion amendment requests. (ATPE was among a coalition of education groups that asked the commissioner to impose a moratorium on granting charter school expansion requests during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to save the state money.) Morath replied that expansion requests are being processed as normal. With regard to notice requirement, Morath did not have an answer.

The SBOE will continue to meet through Thursday of this week. Find the full agenda here.

For all information and guidance that TEA has provided to districts during the pandemic, visit the TEA COVID-19 Support page. Be sure also to check out ATPE’s Coronavirus FAQ and Resources for frequently updated information for educators about issues related to COVID-19.

U.S. House education committee passes ESEA reauthorization bill

As we reported last week, Congressman John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, filed his version of legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), commonly referred to as no Child Left Behind (NCLB). The bill, H.R. 5–The Student Success Act, is similar to a bill he filed last Congress, which passed the House education committee and House floor but stalled in the Senate.

Chairman Kline’s education committee met to mark up his recently filed piece of legislation on Wednesday. The bill passed the committee on a partisan vote, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats opposing the measure. Several amendments were adopted during the markup and many more were defeated. One failed amendment came from Democrats who offered their own version of a reauthorization bill; the amendment was voted down on another party-line vote, this time with all Republicans opposing. Below is a look at The Student Success Act by issue following revisions made during this week’s committee markup.

Accountability

Similar to Senator Alexander’s draft legislation, Kline’s bill would scrap adequate yearly progress (AYP) and allow states to develop their own systems of accountability based on parameters outlined in the bill. Approval of states’ plans would be subject to those parameters as well as to a peer review process developed by the secretary of education. Under Kline’s bill, the peer review teams would be appointed by the secretary and would be made up of at least 65 percent practitioners and 10 percent representatives of private sector employers. In addition, states’ plans would have to support effective parental involvement practices at the local level.

Kline’s legislation also requires that states and school districts continue to prepare and disseminate annual report cards. The report cards would be required to include certain information, like graduation rates and disaggregated data of student performance on state assessments. An amendment adopted during the committee markup added data on military dependent students to the list of disaggregated data that states and districts are required to collect.

Another accountability system amendment passed during the markup allows states to delay the inclusion of English language learners’ assessment scores during students’ first few years in US schools.

Testing

Kline’s bill would keep the current NCLB-designed testing schedule, which requires that students be tested in reading and math every year in grades 3-8 and once in high school and that they be tested in science once in grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12. States would still be required to disaggregate data based on certain student populations.

One amendment offered during the committee markup would have supported the study of states’ assessments through a grant program aimed at eliminating redundant or unnecessary tests. The amendment was ultimately withdrawn. Republicans expressed opposition throughout the hearing to measures that would grow government or cost money. This also meant the defeat of amendments dealing with early childhood education, dropout prevention, STEM programs, and technology, among other issues.

Curriculum Standards

Under the House committee’s proposal, states would be required to adopt their own curriculum standards in math, reading/language arts, and science, as well as any additional subjects a state may choose. Each state would also be required to adopt English language proficiency standards and have the option to develop alternate academic achievement standards for students with severe cognitive disabilities.

As we predicted in a previous Teach the Vote blog post, Common Core is specifically addressed in Kline’s legislation; the bill would prohibit the secretary of education from requiring that states adopt any particular set of standards, including Common Core.

School Choice and Privatization

As is also the case in Senator Alexander’s draft bill, the primary provision in Kline’s bill aimed at school choice is the portability of Title I funding for low-income students. The bill would allow Title I funding to follow eligible students from one public school to another public school. Kline’s bill does not include provisions related to voucher programs, but an amendment was offered during markup that would have expanded the Title I portability provision to include students attending private schools. The amendment was ultimately withdrawn during committee due to lack of support, but we can expect to see similar amendments offered when the bill is debated by the full House.

One additional amendment offered during the committee markup would have increased accountability and transparency for charter schools, but the amendment was defeated.

Educator Evaluations

The bill would allow states to develop their own educator evaluation systems, if they chose, and would not require that student outcomes be included in an educator’s evaluation. While Kline has been a proponent of tying teacher evaluations to students’ performance on state tests (such language was included in Kline’s bill last Congress), he ditched the provision in the current bill in order to seek broader support from those who oppose the evaluation mandate.

A few amendments aimed at teacher quality were proposed during the markup but were defeated. The Kline bill gets rid of the “highly qualified teacher” requirements in current law and consolidates several teacher quality programs that exist in current law.

Other Issues

Kline’s legislation would consolidate several major programs aimed at educating certain populations of students, such as English language learners and migrant students, into the larger Title I program for low-income students, and states would receive block grant funding with far fewer strings attached to how the money is spent.

Ultimately, only four amendments were added to the bill during committee markup. All were authored by Republicans. In addition to the two adopted amendments mentioned above (pertaining to the disaggregated data of military dependent students and accountability requirements for English language learners), the committee passed an amendment to address student and teacher privacy and an amendment to require an annual report on the reduced federal role in education and cost savings resulting from H.R. 5.

The House has scheduled the bill for debate and a floor vote on February 24th. We will provide an update on Teach the Vote following any floor action, and you can follow the debate live here.

Vote for candidates who will give Texas educators a voice in curriculum design

This is the tenth post in our A Dozen Days, A Dozen Ways to Vote Your Profession series.


At issue: Texas has curriculum standards known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), which are adopted by the State Board of Education (SBOE). The TEKS determine what is taught and tested in Texas public schools, and they have an impact on the content that publishers include in textbooks used here and beyond our state. The TEKS adoption process has been controversial in the recent past and marked by ideological conflicts among the elected SBOE members. Often ignoring the recommendations of classroom teachers, the board in the past has appointed “expert” reviewers for proposed changes to the TEKS without setting legitimate qualifications for serving as an expert. The Legislature has also been a venue for heated debates about curriculum, usually involving the role of politics and religious views in curriculum standards and lesson plans.

It’s time for Texas to get serious about curriculum: All of these high-profile disputes over ideology have garnered negative media attention at the national level and left little time to address any structural problems with the TEKS, such as complexity and excessive length. (The more standards that are required to be taught in a course, the less time that can be devoted to any one of them. The more specific the standards are, the less flexibility there is for teachers to individualize lessons.) In fact, the overwhelming nature of the TEKS was the main impetus behind CSCOPE, a curriculum management system that was widely used by Texas school districts before political scrutiny led to its demise last year. The Legislature did try to address TEKS issues in 2013 when it passed House Bill (HB) 2836, calling for a comprehensive study on the number and scope of the curriculum standards and how they relate to state assessments. Despite a unanimous vote in the House and near unanimous vote in the Senate, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the bill. Find out how your state senator voted on HB 2836: look up his profile using our 2014 Races search tool, open the Voting Record section and review his action on “Senate Vote #7.”

Texas educators should be the ones to determine the appropriate content and methodology behind what is taught in our classrooms – not politicians or policymakers from outside our state: We must preserve Texas teachers’ authority to develop their own lesson plans and customize them to meet the unique needs of their students. It is critical that we elect SBOE members who will seek and respect educator input whenever the TEKS are revised. That’s why ATPE asks SBOE candidates tough questions about the TEKS adoption process and the role of educators in SBOE policy decisions. We must also elect legislators who will maintain Texas’ control of its curriculum standards and will not try to mandate a standardized national curriculum like the Common Core. Finally, we need our elected officials to be willing to address the overall structure of the TEKS, to ensure that the standards are useful and manageable for our teachers and conducive to student learning.

Curriculum-related decisions will be made by elected legislators and SBOE members, and this is your chance to steer them in the right direction by voting in this election: Early voting has ended and the March 4 primary is only days away. There’s a good chance you live in a district where some races will be decided by this primary – not in November’s general election. Look up your legislative and SBOE candidates on Teach the Vote to find out which ones will have your back when it’s time to make critical choices about the curriculum taught in our schools. The “Survey Response,” “Voting Record” and “Additional Information” sections of each profile contain valuable insights to help you identify pro-public education candidates. If educators don’t vote, they’ll be surrendering their voice in curriculum discussions. Please take time to vote your profession on Tuesday!

TEA releases CSCOPE review panel findings

In 2013, the State Board of Education launched an informal review of the content of social studies lessons offered through the curriculum management system CSCOPE. SBOE Chair Barbara Cargill appointed an ad hoc committee to conduct the review, and SBOE District 15 member Marty Rowley chaired the committee. Other SBOE members serving on the committee were Mavis Knight from District 13, Patricia “Pat” Hardy from District 11 and Tom Maynard from District 10.

The committee took input from approximately 140 stakeholders, and their reports are now available online at www.cscopereviews.com. The website includes a statement clarifying the purpose of the review as follows: “The Ad Hoc Committee was not charged with the responsibility to approve or disapprove of these lessons, and it makes no recommendations nor does it reach any conclusions in that regard. It is intended that these reviews will serve as a resource for those who are considering using these lessons, and for those who are interested in learning what a cross section of Texas educators, parents and citizens have to say about them.”

Read today’s press release from the Texas Education Agency for more information.

Ratliff says response to CSCOPE hearing underwhelming

The public tiff between Sen. Dan Patrick (R–Houston) and State Board of Education (SBOE) member Thomas Ratliff over the use of CSCOPE continued this week when Ratliff announced that public response to an SBOE hearing on the subject was far from overwhelming.

CSCOPE is an online curriculum management tool used by many Texas public schools. Patrick lead an effort to cease production of CSCOPE lessons and is using the issue to drum up attention prior to election season.

Patrick’s Senate Bill (SB) 1406, approved during the last legislative session, requires SBOE to conduct the same review process for CSCOPE as it does for other instructional materials. That process includes a public hearing, which will take place this Friday, Sept. 13.

In his “Cry Wolf” press release, Ratliff states, “Given all of the legislative attention, outrageous claims, and heated rhetoric, you might assume that hundreds, or even thousands, of concerned parents would come to Austin to testify about this ‘controversial’ curriculum. As of the filing deadline yesterday, there were a grand total of eight people signed up to testify, and not all of them are opposed to CSCOPE lessons.”

Patrick has yet to respond.

Teach the Vote will be on hand for the hearing.

Stay tuned for updates.

SBOE to hold public hearing on CSCOPE lessons

The State Board of Education (SBOE) is seeking public input on the CSCOPE social studies lesson plans. The board will hold a public hearing Friday, Sept. 13, to hear public testimony from anyone who wishes to attend.

Testimony will be limited to 3 minutes and testifiers are asked to focus solely on specific
recommendations pertaining to identified current CSCOPE social studies lessons
as they appear at either www.mycscope.us or www.texastribune.org/interactive/search-cscope-lesson-plans.

Those wishing to testify can register here Sept. 3–6, and Sept. 9. Written testimony may also be submitted.

Here is the official notice from the TEA web site.

Statement From ATPE State President Ginger Franks on CSCOPE debate

Vice Chairman of the State Board of Education Thomas Ratliff and Senate Education Committee Chairman, and now candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) will debate on education policy issues, including CSCOPE, on Saturday in Tyler, TX.  The following is a statement regarding this debate from ATPE State President Ginger Franks, a special education teacher who represents the association’s 100,000-plus membership across the state.

“This is not really about the merits of CSCOPE. It’s about the fact that a politician is trying to take away educators’ right to decide which lesson plans to use for purely political reasons. Tools like CSCOPE help teachers manage lesson plans and many districts, especially smaller school districts, rely heavily on this tool. It would be a shame to deny access to a tool that many teachers find helpful, especially when there isn’t a readily available replacement for it. This is a violation of educators’ right to teach the students in the way they feel is the most efficient and effective method, whether it is CSCOPE or not.”

The debate will take place at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the University of Texas -Tyler Ornelas Activity Center. ATPE encourages all educators to attend.

For those that can’t attend, the debate will be live streamed. The feed will be posted here on the TeachtheVote blog when it becomes available. Be sure to check back.