You could chalk it up to frustration.
Protestors gathered once again outside of the constituency offices of both local MLAs on Chippewa Road on Wednesday, March 31. This time local residents were spurred to speak out against the province following the release of the K-6 draft curriculum last week.
Chalk messages left along the sidewalk read; “Repulsive, regressive, and racist – the new 3 R’s at school”, “21st century learners deserve 21st century curriculum”, “Is this curriculum an April Fool’s joke?”, “Stand up for the kids Jordan!”, “You know plagiarism gets you kicked out of school, right?”, “So are our new American textbooks available in French?”, “Surprise! Teachers are the curriculum experts”, and “The rewrite is an embarrassment” — and that’s only to name a few.
Park parent: “It’s not the kind of school experience I want them to have”
Strathcona County mother and Edmonton-based teacher, Chandra Kasper helped leave messages for the MLAs. Kasper said it’s clear the draft curriculum is not a document written by educators. She also voiced her opinions by calling and writing the MLAs.
“Neither teachers nor local curriculum experts were consulted and it shows in the glaringly developmentally inappropriate content,” she told The News, adding her daughters are in pre-school and Grade 1 in the local Francophone school board so they will be directly impacted by this proposed rewrite.
She said the document omits competencies such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and inventive thinking. Much of the content is centred around timelines and memorization.
“On a personal level, imagining my own two daughters having to learn some of the things in the document and missing out on so many other great things that should have been included, I’m thinking about how this will change my job and how it will impact my girls… It’s not the kind of school experience I want them to have.”
The draft document is expected to replace some programs of study that are more than 30 years old, however, critics from teachers, parents, and educational experts are raising their concerns regarding certain content.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange highlighted key themes of literacy, numeracy, citizenship, and practical skills such as budgeting, computer coding and public speaking.
Much of the concern raised last week was linked to social studies.
Students in Grade 2 will learn about ancient Rome, medieval governance and the British Magna Carta, according to the document. First Nations’ traditions and creation stories will be covered in kindergarten, but students won’t learn about treaties until Grade 4 and residential schools until Grade 5.
That counters a recommendation from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that students in all grades — beginning in kindergarten — must learn about treaties and residential schools with age-appropriate material.
In Grade 2 kids will learn about how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have contributed to today’s world and will be asked to recognize examples of classical architecture and monuments.
In Grade 3, students will learn about prominent Black Albertans, settlements, and contributions.
“It would be better to include a lot of different voices that reflect our current society and reality rather than the perspective that seems to be taking steps back in time,” noted Kasper. “Of course, we always want to what has happened in the past to inform our future but it seems to me that the document doesn’t make that full circle. It’s just constantly looking at the past rather than providing students with the skills and perspectives of our modern-day and future world.”
EIPS will not pilot the new curriculum, other local school boards will review it
Conseil scolaire Centre-Nord told parents about 20 of its teachers will be involved in the pilot, however, it did not confirm if students in Sherwood Park would be impacted. Following the draft released last week, the school district said it will review it and might change its previous decision.
On Tuesday morning, Elk Island Catholic Schools told The News it will be reviewing the draft curriculum over the next three weeks with experts and collecting feedback from parents. Based on that, it will decide if it will participate in the pilot or not.
EICS Superintendent Shawn Haggarty said there are a number of issues within that to balance such as if teachers will have to teach all courses or have the freedom to pick one course for the year to test. He noted it could load a ton of work onto a teacher’s plate to plan lessons based on a new curriculum.
Elk Island Public Schools trustee Annette Hubick, who represents Sherwood Park, stated on Facebook that whether or not to pilot the draft curriculum is an operational decision, to which superintendent Mark Liguori advised the board that the school division will not be volunteering to participate in. EIPS chair Trina Boymook clarified that that decision was made before the draft document was released.
In response, Elk Island Local 28 stated it was thankful EIPS will not be involved in the pilot.
Even civic politicians piped up on the issue.
“Teachers know how to teach our children. They should have been at the table instead of out on the sidewalks,” tweeted Ward 8 Coun. Katie Berghofer, who is also a mother of two.
Both local MLAs back draft curriculum
Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Nate Glubish said the UCP was elected on a platform to develop and implement a curriculum that will give students the essential skills they will need to excel.
“After a fully open and transparent process, we have delivered on this commitment to parents. Some of the changes that I am most excited about include teaching financial literacy at every grade level, focusing on coding and tech literacy to better prepare children for an increasingly digital future, and improving the English language arts program to ensure that children have the skills they need to communicate effectively. These changes will better equip our students to reach their fullest potential in a modern economy,” he said.
Glubish said he was aware of the recent local protest and he supports the right to peaceful displays.
“To be clear, the curriculum is not in final form. It is being piloted in draft form, to allow for more informed feedback from Albertans,” he stated, adding he encourages everyone to provide feedback online at alberta.ca/curriculum.
Sherwood Park MLA Jordan Walker said he supports the draft document because he believes it focuses on teaching essential knowledge and skills.
“In light of our declining performance in literacy and math, the emphasis on a broad curriculum that imbues our students with foundational knowledge will better set them up for success.”
Walker said more than 100 teachers participated in the Curriculum Working Group where they provided feedback and recommendations on their subject areas, and the aim of a pilot project is to test it and for teachers to provide additional feedback.
“I’m always happy to share concerns with the Minister of Education’s office. That said, I support this curriculum and its focus on foundational knowledge and skills. A lot of parents have indicated that they agree with me,” Walker said.
The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) plans to undertake its own independent review of the draft curriculum by having teachers evaluate it. It has launched a comprehensive engagement project, which includes an online questionnaire and a number of roundtable discussions, to gather feedback from current teachers and principals. Updates and a final report will be provided to the provincial government and the public.
“What was released today is barely a plan, and certainly not a plan for success,” stated ATA president Jason Schilling on March 29.
“Teachers understand the readiness of young students for different pieces of content and how to bring curriculum to life in the classroom. Our association and its members are best positioned to provide advice on the successful implementation of new curriculum. To develop a curriculum without incorporating a grassroots, classroom-based understanding of how students learn could set our students up for failure,” he added.
Six million dollars have been put aside by the province for resources and teacher professional development regarding the pilot.
The finalized K-6 curriculum is slated to be rolled out across Alberta in September 2022.
The curriculum for other grades has yet to be developed, and rollout is staggered, with Grades 7 to 10 set to see it fully implemented in 2023, and Grades 11 and 12 in 2024.
— With files from Lisa Johnson