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Suprintendent urges more teacher, expert input on draft curriculum

CESD identified a number of concerns with draft curriculum
SUN Kurt Sacher
Kurt Sacher, Chinook’s Edge School Division superintendent. File photo

INNISFAIL - The provincial government will need to get more input from teachers if it expects widespread support for its proposed new kindergarten to Grade 6 curriculum, says Chinook’s Edge School Division (CESD) superintendent Kurt Sacher.

Both CESD and Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools recently announced that the divisions would not pilot the new curriculum.

CESD board of trustees chair Holly Bilton said the decision not to pilot was based on several things, including the “timing given its impact on students and staff in the midst of a pandemic," while RDCRS chair Kathleen Finnigan cited the pandemic as the main reason the division has passed on piloting.

CESD administration has examined the new curriculum and has identified a number of concerns, including with the level of consultation with teachers, said Sacher, the former president of the College of Alberta School Superintendents.

Division-level office curriculum experts who have pedagogical knowledge on how to move curriculum forward should also be further engaged, he said.

“We would like to have seen teacher voices embedded in the process right from the beginning,” said Sacher. “If there was a higher level of engagement of the professionals who have the background, who have the progressive understanding research, who know what is developmentally appropriate, and all of those pieces, and if that group is engaged along the way, you don’t end up with some of the outcomes we are seeing.

“At the end of the day people need to understand that it is the classroom teacher that implements curriculum so (teachers) do need to be involved and they do need to be supportive of the process of implementation if it is going to be effective.”

Some of the proposed curriculum changes themselves are also of concern, he said. 

“There are pieces that are developmentally inappropriate, where Grade 10 material is being relocated to the Grade 5 level,” he said. “We have seen examples of that.

“Right across the province there is a consistent visceral response to the Social Studies (curriculum) for example. When people are already put off with one particular subject matter it makes it hard to engage with people in some of the other areas.”

The proposed timing of the launch of the new curriculum is also a concern, he said.

“They (government) has outlined that all piloting is to be done by February,” he said. “Typically we would see two or three grade levels, two or three subject areas a year and it would be rolled out over a number of years. There is concern with the breadth and speed that it is bring rolled out.

“Jurisdictions right now are dealing with so many other challenges that to put some of this curriculum in front of teachers and say let’s pilot it is just not going to work and it’s not going to be successful in its current form.”

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the new curriculum will “deliver our government’s commitment to Albertans to refocus one essential knowledge and skills in order to give our children the best possible chance at success.”

Last week the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA), representing 39,000 teachers, said new Environics Research polling has found that only 17 per cent of Albertans support the proposed new curriculum.

“Albertans are saying to us that the curriculum is poorly done, and it's inappropriate for students,” said ATA president Jason Schilling. “They also recognize that the problem is largely created because teachers were left out of the planning. 

“Parents and the public have a clear understanding that this draft curriculum is not appropriate for use with students.”

The ATA is calling for an independent review of the draft curriculum process.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain-Sundre UCP MLA Jason Nixon has called on the ATA to be involved in the new curriculum process.

A number of stakeholder groups have called the proposed curriculum unacceptable. For example, the Metis Nation of Alberta says in its current form the curriculum “carries an Eurocentric-American point of view that effectively eliminates the voice and history of the Metis people of Alberta.”

CESD includes schools in Mountain View and Red Deer counties, while RDCRS includes schools in Olds and Innisfail.

Dan Singleton

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