Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Secrecy raises suspicions, hurts education
By the Advocate Editorial Board
Sept. 3, 2013 at 4:03 a.m.
The idea to have a consistent, statewide curriculum for public schools sounds good in theory. But Texas' attempt to institute that system ended in a debacle complete with politically charged outrage, lack of access to lesson plans and legislative action.
This year, the Victoria Independent School District has chosen to purchase the CSCOPE framework, which functions more as an outline for concepts teachers need to cover to meet state requirements, and teachers are being allowed to create their own lesson plans. This is an important development, Superintendent Robert Jaklich says, because teachers need to have ownership in their lessons.
We agree with Jaklich's statement. The system for this year will allow more of a balance between the state's requirements and teacher freedom to use their passion and creativity in the classroom. But while VISD is developing its own system to better educate Victoria's students, the debate over the use of CSCOPE continues.
On Aug. 24, State Board of Education Vice Chairman Thomas Ratliff, R-Mt. Pleasant, and state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, held a debate to examine the controversial curriculum. However, we do not see how this debate can be seen as effective when both men admitted they have not been able to examine much of the curriculum. What is the point of a debate when the people taking part have no practical or first-hand knowledge of what they are debating?
This lack of knowledge points to what we consider the main issue in the CSCOPE controversy: the secrecy surrounding the curriculum. Ever since the curriculum was created, the company has refused to release copies to the public, supposedly in an effort to prevent others from copying and selling it as their own. This excuse is strange, considering the United States has strict copyright laws to prevent such a thing from happening. That exaggerated secrecy has raised several red flags and only serves to feed the suspicions of those who claim conspiracy or government indoctrination of our children. Our state board of education has no business adopting a curriculum for public schools that is not open and available to the public.
This lack of transparency is troubling, and we hope the state has learned a valuable lesson from this uproar. By not making the curriculum available to the public, the state has created a controversial political issue that has distracted educators, parents, and politicians from what should be the most important issue - educating our children.
Now that the CSCOPE curriculum has been dropped, all the discussion seems pointless. We encourage everyone - from parents and teachers to lawmakers and board of education members - to move on from this issue. The next time the board of education wants to create a statewide standard curriculum, make sure it is available for the public to read and evaluate. Otherwise, we will only face another round of conspiracy and political outrage.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.