The government’s latest steps to consult on new K–6 curriculum are intentionally restrictive and are aimed at gathering compliments rather than meaningful feedback, says ATA president Jason Schilling.
In recent weeks, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange has announced a new curriculum implementation advisory group and a series of virtual consultation sessions, but both initiatives fall short, Schilling says, as they’ve been devised without consulting the teaching profession and will gather feedback from just a narrow cross-section of the population.
“This government is quick to say that they have consulted with teachers, but that engagement has lacked authenticity and the advice is routinely ignored,” Schilling said. “They’re not looking for meaningful critique, they’re looking for kudos.”
Schilling noted that, of its 17 members, the curriculum implementation advisory group contains only three teachers (hand-picked by the minister) while containing representatives from the Alberta School Boards Association, College of Alberta School Superintendents, five government officials and two superintendents.
“School boards don’t implement curriculum. Superintendents don’t implement curriculum. Teachers implement curriculum and need to be meaningfully involved in its development,” Schilling said.
The advisory group will help chart a course for the implementation of new curriculum in September 2022. It will focus on English language arts, math, and physical education and wellness.
“We are committed to taking a measured and thoughtful approach to ensure curriculum piloting and implementation timelines are manageable for teachers and students,” LaGrange said.
The other initiative will involve at least 44 virtual consultation sessions held from Jan. 31 to Feb. 28 across the province.
Each session will be limited to 120 attendees and will include focused, small group conversations facilitated by independent engagement specialists. During each session, the draft K–6 social studies design blueprint or one draft K–6 subject will be considered and discussed so Albertans can provide feedback.
While it’s important to seek feedback from the public, the restrictive numbers are a concern, Schilling said. Also, the government is missing an opportunity to tap into the expertise that’s available through the ATA’s specialist councils, which have hundreds of subject specialists around the province.
“These experts have been instrumental in providing support for curriculum development in the past but they’ve been completely excluded from this process to date,” Schilling said. “This is a completely missed opportunity.”
Schilling is also concerned about the transparency shown by the government around curriculum consultations in the past.
“The minister loves to say that they have the most transparent process for curriculum development ever, yet they haven’t released the findings of a single one of any of the engagements they have conducted so far.”
The Alberta government website on curriculum states that they are “committed to a transparent curriculum development and review process.” Schilling says teachers will be suspicious of how their feedback is being used, but that teachers should participate nonetheless.
“There have been numerous surveys done and two days with a curriculum working group of teachers, but we don’t know what feedback was given,” said Schilling. “We know full well that teachers and parents were outspoken in opposition to the drafts, but this government won’t release the data. I suspect they are too embarrassed.”
Schilling reiterated the call for a moratorium on curriculum implementation until the content is vastly improved. He notes that the government continues to change the curriculum on the fly, has not responded to teachers’ concerns, and is moving too quickly to implementation without an appropriate phase of piloting.
“We do not even have a final draft of the curriculum and what has been put forward does not enjoy the broad support of teachers or the public,” he said. “I’m very concerned that the needs of teachers are being ignored when this government is moving so fast to implementation.”❚