The fall session of Alberta’s legislative assembly, which officially began Oct. 29, resumed sitting Nov. 19 after a one-week constituency break. Below are highlights of education and labour issues raised from Oct. 29 to Nov. 21.
Student achievement in mathematics
Nov. 1—Mark Smith (UCP—Drayton Valley–Devon) asked Minister of Education David Eggen about recent Calgary Herald reports that just 59.2 per cent of Grade 9 students achieved an acceptable standard of 42 per cent on the math provincial achievement test. Eggen answered by noting that the government made several adjustments to the PATs to make them stronger and to fit better with basic skills. He added that math scores and diploma scores in general are on the rise.
Nov. 7—United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney asked Premier Rachel Notley whether the government shares the United Conservative Caucus’s concern about math proficiency among Grade 9 students, which dropped from 67 per cent in 2014 to 59 per cent last year. Notley replied that government is pleased it has made significant changes to the math curriculum, which will improve students’ math proficiency. Kenney asked Notley whether she shares his concern that the cut score for math proficiency is only 42 per cent for Grade 9 students. Notley replied that government is supporting math teachers; funding their ability to increase their skills; modernizing the curriculum; asking for a renewed focus on the basics, including memorization of multiplication tables and fractions; and improving testing. Kenney asked Notley whether government will make it clear that schools are expected to equip students with the basic math skills they need to succeed, “regardless of pedagogical fads like discovery learning”? Notley replied that government is working hard to improve the math curriculum and outcomes.
Educational curriculum review
Nov. 19—Mark Smith (UCP—Drayton Valley–Devon) asked Minister of Education David Eggen about his “one size fits all” approach to the curriculum redevelopment, citing concerns that the curriculum does not teach the basic knowledge students need to think critically when they’re ready. Eggen answered by noting that government is building basic skills into the curriculum, that the draft curriculum for K–4 is now online for people to view and that field testing begins in the new year. Smith continued by asking when the minister will release the instructional resources so that Albertans can be confident that the curriculum can be tailored to meet local needs.
Eggen noted that government is “doubling down on the professionalism of teachers and of local boards” to build content that does work in their own particular local areas. Eggen concluded by stating that what government won’t do is take 4,000 teachers out of the system and make major cuts.
Diabetes support in schools
Nov. 21—Mike Ellis (UCP— Calgary-West) asked Minister of Education David Eggen why Alberta is one of the only two provinces that does not have a policy or guidelines to support students with diabetes. Eggen answered by agreeing that Alberta needs to have a coherent Type 1 diabetes strategy in schools to ensure students are both healthy and ready to learn, and stated that government has been working diligently on such a plan and strategy and there will be more to come very soon. Ellis asked Eggen to commit to allowing educators to receive training to recognize low blood sugar symptoms and administer insulin. Eggen reiterated that government is on the road to building a strategy and acknowledged that having education aides on the ground certainly helps. ❚