Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Teachers can now tailor lessons to students
Education in Texas has seen a lot of changes over the past few years. Between changes in standardized tests, adjustments in how much of those test results apply to grades and concerns about curriculum, it's hard to keep up with all the shifts in our state's public education system.
One of the more recent changes was the state legislature's decision to drop the CSCOPE curriculum system after complaints that some of the lessons taught were anti-American. That means more than 800 school districts across Texas were left to find or develop a new curriculum before the next school year begins. However, CSCOPE is still offering its framework, which outlines what needs to be covered to meet the state's Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) requirements. At the same time, the CSCOPE lesson plans have been declared public domain, which means they are now available for free.
These changes have given districts like VISD an advantage, at least financially, because the district is able to buy the framework and get the lesson plans for no extra charge. For the 2012-13 school year, the district paid $101,172 for the CSCOPE framework and lessons, according to VISD spokeswoman Diane Boyett. By contrast, the district only paid $77,790 for the framework to be used in the 2013-14 school year.
In addition to the cost advantage, we are pleased to see the district is taking this opportunity to allow more flexibility in teaching and allowing teachers to use their own creativity and talents to inspire students. This return to a teaching method that allows for lessons to be tailored to the needs of individual classes is exciting to see, and we are glad VISD is taking this approach. As Sherri Hathaway, the associate director of secondary curriculum, said at the school board meeting July 18: "We take it and make it to meet our needs. It works for us; we don't work for it." That approach is one our schools need to maintain.
When the change from CSCOPE lessons was announced in May, Superintendent Robert Jaklich said new teachers may be asked to follow the curriculum by their principals, but more experienced teachers will be allowed to develop their own lesson plans.
While teachers may create their own plans, those lessons must meet the standards set forth by the state, Boyett said.
"Lesson plans must be developed with the end result in mind. The teachers ask themselves, 'Looking at the TEKS, what is the desired result of this lesson?' Then they work to develop the lesson plan," Boyett said in an email. "We honor the professionalism of our teachers as they avail themselves of the expertise of their co-workers and use other resources that could be used in the classroom to assist in their teaching."
We applaud VISD for allowing teachers to develop their own lesson plans. Education should not be a rigid system that forces students to conform to a certain mold. Teachers and students are individuals who need some freedom to approach learning in ways that inspire and encourage growth. We look forward to seeing how these changes will affect VISD and the students it serves. We hope it will bring major improvements in the days and years to come.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.