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Dewhurst calls out Spring Hill superintendent for curriculum change

By Glenn Evans
Nov. 16, 2013 at 10 p.m.

It's a question worthy of a senior-level end-of-course exam:

If a school district replaces a curriculum that parents opposed with something identical, what can parents do?

It's a question Spring Hill ISD mother Terri Hill has been puzzled by since Oct. 21, when she learned two things.

Firstly, a curriculum she and others had been battling statewide since January was back - under a new name.

CSCOPE is a curriculum guide tied to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills that lays a roadmap for teachers tasked with covering the myriad skills mandated - and tested - by the state. It was created in 2007 but became controversial during the 2013 legislative session in Austin when parents complained about lesson plans they said indoctrinated children in anti-American ideals.

Secondly for Hill, she learned a new law requiring public input for major curriculum initiatives would not be triggered since Spring Hill trustees joined some 800 other school boards in declaring the TEKS Resource System is identical to CSCOPE.

"Except for its name, ..." the resolution approved Oct. 21 says. The document is a form paper with blanks for the district name and county.

Enter Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, whose stop in Longview on Wednesday was part history lesson on the unsuccessful attempt to kill CSCOPE and part a pledge to contact Spring Hill Superintendent Wes Jones about that public hearing.

"Terri, it sounds like you need a new superintendent," Dewhurst told Hill, before saying he would write a letter to Jones.

The superintendent, who likely is not accustomed to being called out by a lieutenant governor trying to win re-election in a field of four, had little comment in the wake of the campaign stop.

Jones was not available Thursday for an interview, and on Friday communicated by email from Fort Worth where a family member underwent surgery.

He wrote that Senate Bill 1474, the new law calling for public input on major curriculum initiatives, has been much discussed in the Texas education community.

"And statewide the attorney interpretation is consistent that continuing with the TEKS Resource System is not adopting a major curriculum," Jones wrote. "Eight hundred-plus schools are following the same legal advice as Spring Hill. The TEKS Resource System is a management tool that guides the application of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills."

Jones' board president, Claudine Giffin, responded to an email sent to her Thursday expressing her wish that Jones and Hill keep talking and noting a lack of reliable information that has dogged the months-long war over CSCOPE.

"It is my hope that they will continue to dialogue until all concerns have been addressed and resolved," Giffin wrote. "I believe it is important that accurate information be presented to all. It is of grave concern to me that there is conflicting information across all educational services on the subject of CSCOPE and common core. It is imperative that the district and the board continue to seek definitive guidelines to support Spring Hill's efforts in properly educating all students entrusted to its care."

That phrase, common core, is indicative of the confusion and shaky information surrounding the CSCOPE saga.

DeEtta Culbertson, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, said "common core" means different things at federal and state levels.

When used in a Texas education context, she said, common core refers strictly to higher education settings. At the federal level, though, it refers to a curriculum drawn up by a national consortium and rejected by Texas legislative and educational leaders.

Meanwhile, Dewhurst Communication Director Travis Considine reported Friday evening that Dewhurst had spoken with Jones by phone.

"He called the superintendent," Considine said. "They had a very frank discussion about the issues. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst encouraged him to hold a public hearing and get as much input from constituents and parents as possible before moving forward."

He said Dewhurst will "work closely" with Alice Linahan of Argyle to keep up with Hill's complaint. Linahan was a leader in the charge against CSCOPE who also attended Wednesday's campaign stop in Longview.



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