BOW VALLEY – Two of the three boards representing schools in the Bow Valley will be taking a pass on piloting parts of the province’s draft curriculum for kindergarten to Grade 6.
The Canadian Rockies Public School division and the FrancoSud school board will not be participating in the draft curriculum. Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools, which operates Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy in Canmore, will pilot the mathematics part of the draft curriculum.
CRPS, the largest school board in the valley, pointed to the stresses already being felt by staff and students from the pandemic as an inopportune time to launch a pilot.
“Given the reality the pandemic will likely continue into the summer and possibly to continue to impact schools next year, we feel it is in the best interest of our staff and students to opt-out of this process,” Chris MacPhee, the superintendent of CRPS, said at the April school board meeting. “Though we know it is important to have our contributions heard, which is normally achieved through a piloting process, we do not want to introduce any additional pressures onto our students and professional staff next year.
“We encourage all of our stakeholders to provide feedback to the government and to help ensure the curriculum meets the current needs and future needs of our students in Alberta.”
In a media release, the FrancoSud school board declined participating in the pilot after receiving comments from staff, families and members of the community as well as accounting for challenges being faced due to the pandemic.
The board stated the draft curriculum doesn’t meet the mandate of Francophone education, highlighting the lack of Francophone perspectives and cultural identities.
It did, however, note it will continue to work with the ministry to help with a curriculum to meet the needs of the Francophone community and provide recommendations after an in-depth analysis.
“Curriculum reform will have a major impact on our students and our community. For this reason, we are ready to continue our collaborative work with the government in order to achieve a result that will meet the needs of our students and satisfy the entire Francophone community,” said Erwan Goasdoué, president of the FrancoSud. "The FrancoSud remains open to continue its discussions with the ministry and to review its decision not to participate in the piloting project.”
The draft curriculum would allow school boards to pilot parts or all of the education in classrooms beginning in the fall, while the government can implement changes for the 2022-23 school year.
The province has left it up to schools boards to opt-in or out this fall. For those adding aspects of the draft curriculum, the UCP government will look for feedback that could potentially lead to change.
The province committed to $6 million to support schools in piloting the curriculum and have said more money could be available in the future.
“The new curriculum delivers on our commitment to Albertans to refocus learning on essential knowledge and skills in order to give our children the best possible chance at success,” Adriana LaGrange, the Minister of Education, said when the draft curriculum was released. “Parents and teachers have waited a long time for this, and I’m pleased to say that we’ve delivered. Another promise made, promise kept.”
There have been many criticisms of the draft curriculum from contention on whether it’s age-appropriate to a lack of Francophone or Indigenous history and concerns with the social studies and religion components.
The Metis Nation of Alberta and the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations have asked the province to redraft the proposed curriculum, having expressed concerns on the colonial undertones.
A survey of more than 3,500 staff conducted by the Alberta Teachers’ Association also had a large majority of elementary school teachers and principals – more than 90 per cent – opposed.
School boards in the largest urban centres such as Calgary, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Edmonton’s public and Catholic boards have all bowed out from being part of the trial.
Sarah Elaine Eaton, an professor at the University of Calgary and an expert in academic integrity, has also brought forward claims that it is “rife with plagiarism,” while other aspects – such as the inclusion of music by Premier Jason Kenney’s grandfather – have been derided.
Though the two largest schools representing education in the Bow Valley have passed, Christ the Redeemer will participate in a “limited and focused approach to piloting, designed for educational excellence and operational reasonability.”
In a April 22 letter to parents, the board’s superintendent Scott Morrison said how the current government and the previous had plans for new curriculums.
He noted how it had been “received poorly by many across the province and there are issues to be addressed,” but also that there is “significant overlap.”
The board will only use the mathematical curriculum and will begin by inviting teachers to participate in the development of curriculum support documents this summer, Morrison said. Since the board has seen reduced spending during the pandemic, it is able to finance the work, he added.
“We saw this as an opportunity to engage our teachers in two weeks of work where they're working on the curriculum and developing curriculum support documents,” he said. “Doing that work is actually the best professional development they'll ever get about teaching math at their grade level.”
He called it a “rare opportunity” to have teachers learn the exact age they’ll teach rather than the generic math taught while becoming an educator.
The division will also work in cooperation with Pearson Canada to align the curriculum with the Mathology resource.
A three step process will gauge teacher interest for two weeks in early August to develop a curriculum support document, evaluate the documents and decide whether to continue with the pilot and if it proceeds, invite teachers to participate. Whether other schools divisions are participating, will also be a deciding factor.
Morrison said if the division ultimately does not move forward with the mathematics curriculum, the sessions will help teachers and students through the summer work. If it proceeds, it will put the board in the best position when the curriculum is mandated for 2022-23.
“There will be a new curriculum and it will be mandatory in two years time,” Morrison said.
“I believe the Ministry will take our input because we’re doing this 10 days of work. We will give them more information during the year and provide feedback. I have every confidence once we start working with them, our feedback will be listened to.”