In response to the 2/14/13 post, “It Seems That CSCOPE is the Root of All Evil (Part 3 of 4),” a reader asks:

Mr. Cain, Have you actually used this mess in-depth, in a real classroom, with real students?

SC Response That is an excellent question!  To which the short answer is “No.”

Now before you tune me out due to a perceived lack of credibility, let me make my case.

I haven’t taught in the classroom since 1995, when I became an Assistant Principal.  At that time, accountability was a non-factor and the concept of a scope and sequence was mostly theoretic.  In practice, you started on page one of the textbook and tried to get to the end of the book by Memorial Day.

As an assistant principal, the need for a scope and sequence wasn’t even on my radar.  I worked at a large, inner-city high school. Preventing gang fights and drive-by shootings occupied almost all of my thoughts and actions.  To this day, I have worked with schools as tough as that one, but never tougher. 

As a principal, my perspective expanded.  I saw that my teachers were struggling. The state changed standards and accountability meaning that essentially each one of them had to reinvent the wheel while still driving the car.  So in 1998, I went to my district’s C/I department and roughly outlined the need for a common scope and sequence (we didn’t know what to call it then).  The Assistant Superintendent for C/I listened to me and said, “That would be hard.  We don’t do that.”

When I asked, “Exactly what do you do?” the meeting was promptly ended.

As an Assistant Superintendent, again my perspective expanded.  I now saw that what my teachers were struggling with on my former campus wasn’t unique.  That the issue was the same on all of my campuses.  So in 2000, I pulled together the then astronomical amount of $100,000.00 and went to the service center and contracted to have a common scope and sequence (I still don’t think we knew what to call it then) built for my campuses.  The resulting product was so bad and I was so vocal about how bad it was that the service center refunded the money.  At that point, my teachers were in cut, paste, and borrow mode. Luckily, Aldine ISD and Cypress-Fairbanks ISD (both districts had over 50,000 students at the time) were becoming more purposeful in the resources they were providing for teachers.  And in Harris County (the Houston area), competitive cooperation among school districts was encouraged by our superintendents (Brezina, Paige, Neeley, Berry, Donaldson, Guthrie, Merrill, and Folkes just to name a few).

When I moved to the state, what was immediately apparent was that the schools that struggled the most – provided the least amount to support to teachers. First and foremost was the fact that if there wasn’t a common scope and sequence, a yearly decline in student performance was a foregone conclusion.  At that point, in the early 2000’s, Dr. Neeley used her charm (big stick) to encourage (make) the service centers to actually pool their resources and create a tool useful to teachers across the state.  Hence the genesis of CSCOPE.

I have since lived on campuses and in classrooms, working with educators to maximize their efficiency (measured by adult effort expended for levels of student performance).  Bottom line, teachers using a district provided common scope and sequence have students who are more successful than teachers without such a tool.  The tool is imperfect, but it does improve every year.  And again, though at times it doesn’t feel like it, you are much more effective in the classroom when you use it than when you do not.

As for me, I’m a coach.  And like all coaches, the game I played only resembles the game played by today’s players.  But my job is no longer to play the game, my job is to prepare the players.     

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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