RISD Board Pres. Doug Hamilton answers CSCOPE questions in-depth (Updated)

ROCKWALL – Since the highly controversial CSCOPE curriculum management tool has become the major issue of the May 11 RISD school board candidate election, asked outgoing RISD Board of Trustees President Doug Hamilton to answer 12 questions about why CSCOPE was selected to be used by RISD and if it will continue to be used next year.

Following are the 12 questions, plus two more, in boldface type, with Mr. Hamilton’s answers listed below each question. We sincerely thank him for taking the time to provide such in-depth answers by email.

Hamilton has served as an RISD Board Member for many years. He has been the Chief Information Officer for American Eurocopter since 2007, and previously a Board Member of the Rockwall Economic Development Council.

Following are the questions and answers:

1. What were the reasons that RISD chose to purchase CSCOPE?

In the state of Texas the role of school boards is to govern the district by setting goals and objectives for the Superintendent, make/approve policies, approve contracts, and hear reports from the Superintendent. An area of concern for the board and the Superintendent has been the performance of our students in STARR (formerly TAKS), and EOC (end of course) testing which lead to the ratings of our district. RISD has identified other school districts that we believe are comparable to ours and we compare our test results to those districts. RISD student performance has been slipping and not where we believe it should be. The board directed Mr. Bailey to propose to the board how the district could improve our students test scores. In addition we know that the state standards is continuously getting more difficult and our students need to be prepared for the increased rigor. Mr. Bailey and his staff researched and proposed to the board CSCOPE as the districts curriculum management tool for the 2012-2013 school year. The reasons for the recommendation is that the CSCOPE tool provided many benefits to the district that were lacking. For example the tool was developed by Texas teachers for Texas teachers that brought the pacing needed to cover all the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) curriculum content required by the state. It also provided additional lesson resources that our teachers could utilize if they were to choose to do so. I would also note that when the administration was proposing CSCOPE there was no controversy surrounding its use by the more than 875 school districts across the state of Texas since 2006. In addition to public schools CSCOPE has been adopted by private schools, charter schools as well as private Christian schools.

2. What was the price?

CSCOPE cost the district approximately $100,000. The options that the board had was to lease CSCOPE or create our own. The cost to the district to create our own curriculum management tool would be approximately $300K+ per year (this is to create and maintain its own curriculum management tool). Due to the state cutting $5B from public school funding two years ago it put school districts across the state in the position to make some very tough decisions. As a direct result of the cuts made by the state legislature the RISD has lost $15.7M dollars of funding over the last two years ($9.3M in year one and $6.4M in year two).

3. Were there other alternatives considered, such as Highland Park’s?

Our district did not review other curriculum because CSCOPE is the only curriculum management tool available with the Texas TEKS that are aligned with STAAR and EOC’s. The other choice is to develop the curriculum within your district using curriculum staff and teachers. This is a costly and time consuming process which is one reason so many districts adopt CSCOPE because of the personnel costs, time, expertise in developing curriculum and assessments. Other districts that have developed their own tools, such as Highland Park, are not willing to share their tools with other districts.

4. How closely was CSCOPE reviewed by the RISD Board of Trustees or administration before purchasing it?

It is not the role of the school board to review the 1400+ lessons associated with curriculum content required by the TEKS. That is the responsibility of the administration and it is the responsibility of the administration to report back to the board its findings. Mr. Bailey reported back to the board that his leadership team had reviewed the CSCOPE tool along with the region 10 center and the CSCOPE developers. In fact the CSCOPE representative attended our board workshop and participated in the presentations to the board. The board was comfortable that the district had done it due diligence before recommending the tool to the board.

5. Were you aware that parents would not be able to see it and that teachers are not to show it? Or are these objections false?

The board was advised that the teachers would be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement that they would not copy, reproduce, or publish the materials. However, the board and the administration agreed that any parent that wanted to review the lessons or materials would be allowed to do so. The parents would need to contact the campus teacher and the teacher would arrange for the parent to come to the classroom and see the materials. So from the beginning parents have been allowed to see the materials. The board and administration are pleased that the state legislature addressed this concern and that CSCOPE has relaxed the restrictions and that the content is now being made available on parent portals.

6. Did RISD make any changes before implementing CSCOPE?

I am not sure I fully understand this question. The board and the administration communicated that the lessons provided by the CSCOPE tool were optional. Teachers are free to use their own lessons to present the content required by the TEKS. The board and administration have full confidence in our classroom teachers and their ability to present the content required and to do so in a manner consistent with the values or our community. RISD has the best teachers in the state of Texas!

7. Will CSCOPE will used again next school year? Any changes expected to be made?

This decision has not been made. The district expects the results of this years STAAR and EOC testing in early June. At that the time Mr. Bailey and his leadership team will review the results and present those results to the board. Mr. Bailey will also be making recommendations to the board for how he believes the district should move forward. The board will consider the results and his recommendations and then either give their approve or disapproval.

8. If not, what other alternatives are there now?

The board will look to Mr. Bailey to recommend alternatives as that is his responsibility to the board.

9. What gossip or rumors about CSCOPE are false and which are true?

10. What are the main questions that parents are asking you about CSCOPE?

11. What are your answers to them?

I would like to combine these questions if that is OK as I think they are very close.

a) Does the RISD promoting Islam over Christianity?

The RISD is not promoting one relgion over another. We are not allowed to do that. The TEKS includes teaching the concepts of the world’s major religions. This includes Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc. In the two high schools in the RISD there are over 27 different languages spoken. We must be respectful of all cultures and beliefs. In addition the teaching of the major world religions is not new to CSCOPE. These concepts have been taught in our district for many years and in my 12 years on the board I have not had one complaint from a parent, student, or teacher for how the concepts have been presented in the classroom.

b) Does CSCOPE indoctrinate students in the concepts of communism, socialism or Marxism?

Absolutely not. I encourage parents and community members to go and talk to a campus principal or a teacher and ask this question. Our teachers are professionals and I have all the faith in the world that RISD teachers are doing their absolute best to teach subjects which may be controversial with the utmost care and that our teachers do not have hidden agendas. The teachers in this district reflect in their classrooms the values of this community!

c) Does CSCOPE have a gag order?
CSCOPE has a user agreement similar to those associated with other software programs to protect intellectual property. After concerns were brought forward CSCOPE revised the user agreement. From the beginning teachers have been allowed to discuss CSCOPE content with parents. Now they are allowed to post information on their wikis/websites, and provide any lesson information requested by parents.

d) Has the State Board of Education reviewed CSCOPE content?

Historically the SBOE has not reviewed curriculum used by any district. For example: they have never reviewed the curriculum utilized by districts using independent resources such as a Highland Park or Allen. Or for that matter any district’s curriculum in the state of Texas. However, the state legislature has proposed that the SBOE review CSCOPE in the same manner used for textbooks. The RISD supports this review as the SBOE wil be reviewing for accuracy in the content of the tools against the TEKS.

(This is a sample of the rumors and/or questions that have been addressed to the board and the administration.)

12. Are there any other points you would like to make?

Obviously there are many concerns surrounding CSCOPE and there is great deal of information floating around about it. Some of the information is accurate but there is a great deal of misinformation out there as well. So before anyone jumps to conclusions or believes all the rumors out there I would ask you to consider this: Take a look at your 7 school trustees, Doug Hamilton President. Chris Cuny Vice President, Leigh Plagens Secretary, Members – Dr. David Loftis, Linda Mitchell Duran, Russ Childers, and Stephanie Adams. Look at their strong morale convictions, and solid Christian and family values. Every decision the board makes is always with the best interest of our students in mind. The same can be said of our superintendent, Jef Bailey, his leadership team, our administrators, and our classroom teachers. In fact the district is blessed that we have the best from ALL our employees everyday and in every way. So when someone tells you that CSCOPE in the RISD is promoting Islam over Christianity, or indoctrinating students in communism, socialism, or whatever, you can rest assured that is completely false. The district welcomes parents and community member that may have concerns to visit their students campus and talk to their child’s teacher and principal and then decide for themselves. Many parents have done just this and I will include a quote from a parent that did her research and met with myself, Mr. Bailey, and members of his leadership team. We encouraged her to meet with her child’s teachers and principals. After doing this here is her response to me in an email:

“I just wanted to take a moment to express my appreciation for the time all of you have taken with me as I have tried to sift through my emotions about CScope. I have had interactions with all of you, went to the open lab, went to the school board meeting, and attended the candidates forum last night in a attempt to gain understanding and perspective about this issue. The overall feeling I have from this experience, while it has been very stressful, is that we do have a school board, superintendent, principals and teachers that love our kids.

I had requested that Mr. Bailey do a town hall meeting to fully explain his vision of CScope and how our district is using it. I would like to see parents, teachers, and administrators in the same room hearing the same thing. I understand that we may not all agree, but hearing all sides is valuable for all of us as we move forward. As I said last night to one of the candidates, “I have been softened”, and that is directly associated with the time you all have taken with me.

If there is anything I can do to help in the future, please let me know.”

In addition, do you know:

a. Is it true that teachers are not allowed to speak out against CSCOPE or they could lose their job? That has been claimed by several. It’s been rumored that Mr. Bailey said if any teacher speaks out against it or attends any meetings about it they will be either disciplined or terminated.

This is absolutely false! Both Mr. Bailey and the board have received both negative and positive feedback on CSCOPE. As he has stated many times he cannot fix what he is not aware of. No teacher that has spoken against or expressed concerns about CSCOPE has been terminated or disciplined and they will not be now or in the future. In the fall when we first implemented CSCOPE Mr. Bailey went to every campus and visited with staff about the concerns they had with the implementation. After those meetings he made changes to give teachers more flexibility. He has had numerous conversations with principals about CSCOPE asking them to give him the feedback they were hearing on their campuses. He meets with the iTeam which consists of 60 teachers across the district representing all the campuses and core content areas. He asks teachers what their concerns are and what other teachers concerns are on their campuses about CSCOPE. To my knowledge he never threatened teachers or staff with discipline actions or termination about speaking against CSCOPE. This would be totally out of character for him.

b. Why Mr. Bailey didn’t attend the GOP Women’s Club meeting to discuss CSCOPE that he supposedly agreed to attend? He sent Sheri Fowler who didn’t know much about it, much to the disappointment of the 100 or so people in the room (so said a dozen or so attendees).

Mr. Bailey and myself were invited to the Republican Women’s Group meeting. He never agreed to attend and I was out of town and unable to attend. It was our understanding that the meeting was never arranged or intended to give the district the opportunity to provide information about CSCOPE. It was our understanding that the meeting was set up only to hear Ms. McGregor give her view point on CSCOPE. If the GOP women had indicated in their communication to either of us that the district would be welcome to speak I am sure he would have been happy to attend. Three RISD board members and three RISD staff members were present, none of which were directed or asked to attend by either Mr. Bailey or myself. No one from the Republican Women’s club asked for any of our board or staff to speak or give their opinion. It is my understanding that Ms. Fowler on her own, asked the vice president to make a few comments and was first told no and then after further consideration they decided to let her speak. I have been told by many in attendance that when Mrs. Fowler did speak the response was very hostile. Ms. Fowler did not attend in Mr. Bailey’s place but was there as a parent and community member as well as the school district’s executive director for Communications.

By J.J. Smith, Publisher

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1 Response for “RISD Board Pres. Doug Hamilton answers CSCOPE questions in-depth (Updated)”

  1. Eric Bott says:

    I appreciate that you asked the questions JJ and I appreciate that Doug choose to respond – unfortunately it’s a fairly weak dialogue … And each answer is light on passion, large on straw men and border lines politician speak –

    Only until the board , parents and the super are ready to enter a intellectually honest dialogue ( no shouting – no CSCOPE stock answers)!) will things change — unfortunately I don’t believe the super intendant or the board of trustees has the testicular fortitude to do that openly and honestly and on camera- they just send the PC mouth piece Fowler …

    What would be great is if the Board and the super came down off there thrones from on high and and agreed to dialogue this with parents and to go on record and on camera so we can have answers to the tough questions -

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