Pictured: Memorial Intermediate school teacher Liza Estrada reviews journal entries with her students. Photo by MAURICIO JULIAN CUELLAR JR.

CSCOPE helps ensure curriculum is in line

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

School districts across the state are making use of the new CSCOPE program, a collaborative curriculum designed to ensure Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) are present in every lesson in the classroom.

The material is distributed via the Internet from individual Regional Education Service Centers, and teachers in Alice ISD said they find the material takes out much of the guesswork.

Students in Liza Estrada's fifth grade reading/language arts class are currently covering the novel The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth Speare.

The story follows a 12-year-old boy who is left alone by his father to protect their frontier cabin, as the dad makes his way back to bring the rest of the family to their new home.

In the process of discussing the book, Estrada's students covered many of the diseases that were prevalent in the 1700s, such as yellow fever, smallpox and measles.

Using CSCOPE as a guide, Estrada is able to create activities and design questions that engage the students with the text, but also conform to the TEKS objectives.

Estrada said as students researched outside of class, they discovered more information about diseases from that time, which aided in the study of the setting of the novel.

They were also able to make important connections from what was discussed to what they see in modern life.

"Students went back to research illnesses from back then, yellow fever, small pox, measles and several others I didn't know. With yellow fever, they thought it was cool that they spit out blood, and the students made the connection to present day that someone who spits out blood is sometimes suffering from cancer. That's how I feel CSCOPE lends itself, not just to the classroom, but also outside. It's what keeps the kids going and learning," Estrada said.

The students also made connections when a bee stings the main character, Matt.

With the several bee attacks around the Alice area in recent months, Estrada said students were able to connect events in the novel, making many text-to-world and text-to-self connections.

Memorial Intermediate School principal Dr. Matthew Kralevich said teachers can bring in what they know and what works into CSCOPE, which is a collaborative curriculum.

"They say if you teach to the TEKS, you'll be prepared for the TAKS. As part of the CSCOPE, what it is designed to do is teach to the TEKS," he said. "The lessons for each discipline address the TEKS and are aligned across the board, what they're learning in third grade will prepare them for fourth and so on down the line."

CSCOPE, first used in math last year, is now in place across the district in the four core subject areas of math, reading/language arts, science and social studies.

Students in grades kindergarten through 12 are actively engaged in the program, and with vertical alignment, teachers now have an accurate guide as to what should be accomplished at each grade level in order for the student to succeed.

Teachers at Memorial and throughout the district also have common conferencing periods, so those teachers in similar grade levels and subject areas can conference together on lesson objectives and curriculum.

"I'm proud of what we have here, and feel we're going to get things going to where we need to be," Kralevich said.

Teachers, when designing their lessons, can utilize the CSCOPE in many ways.

In its broadest view, instructors can see the year at a glance and see on paper how the course will develop throughout the year, much like a lesson timeline.

At another level, the program provides instructional focus documents, which cover the key concepts of the specific unit and can be adjusted to show what students should be learning for a specific period of time.

On a day-to-day level, CSCOPE provides individual lessons, which prescribe many actual activities and examples.

Fifty percent of the teachers at Memorial Intermediate School are new teachers, and for those educators, a step-by-step guide that provides resources on how to implement the lessons is invaluable, school officials said.

Estrada said, since the lessons already conform to the TEKS, even experienced teachers who may have had a small doubt in the back of their minds concerning a lesson no longer have to second-guess themselves.

"Second-guessing is out. CSCOPE has the TEKS Embedded in the lessons, and that gives us certainty," Estrada said.