“It’s already been a very long process,” says Chad Erickson, associate superintendent for Red Deer public schools, of efforts to update the curriculum.

Alberta Education needs to forge ahead after ‘long process’ of creating a new curriculum, say Red Deer school officials

New direction is needed to prepare students for 21st- Century

A new kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum can’t come soon enough for Red Deer public schools.

Last week, a government advisory panel tasked with modernizing the school curriculum released 26 recommendations focusing on the need for more work readiness, financial literacy, and rooting numeracy and literacy lessons in all learning.

The recommendations were largely supported by educators, and similar to restructuring that was already underway by the former NDP government.

But they come a full decade after Alberta Education first set out to update the curriculum, said Bruce Buruma, community relations director for Red Deer public schools.

As it could still take months or years to get a new curriculum approved by the provincial government, “we need to be up to date and move forward on this,” added Buruma.

He feels preparing students properly for the 21st century depends on it.

“It’s already been a very long process,” agreed Chad Erickson, associate superintendent for Red Deer public schools.

Alberta’s former NDP government was part way through a $68- million curriculum revamp when everything was put on hold as the new UCP government conducts its own review.

Much of what was recommended this week by the UCP-appointed panel is in line with the direction the NDP was going, said David Khatib, associate superintendent of Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools.

“Quite a few (recommendations) were not new to us… but we value the panel’s input.”

Khatib supports putting greater emphasis on preparing students for careers and post-secondary studies — as does Erickson.

The two administrators feel students are under greater pressure these days to plan a career path in a world in which technological change is making some jobs obsolete.

“It’s a tough time. We want to ensure students have the practical knowledge… to understand careers and do some planning,” said Erickson.

Khatib likes the panel’s notion of teachers doing informal “formative assessments” in class, throughout the school year, to gauge student knowledge, instead of basing it only on test results.

He said this is already happening as teachers interact with small groups of students on a daily basis.

However, the panel’s suggestion that more standardized testing be done in the lower grades is raising concerns.

Neither Khatib nor Erickson support it, noting the province got rid of the Grade 3 standardized tests, recognizing it can be stressful on young students and not be a true measure of their achievement. These kind of tests are now done only in Grades 6, 9 and 12.

Khatib is also concerned about a recommendation that “single-stream” courses be provided for high school students, so their futures aren’t limited. He isn’t sure if this is a suggestion that only university-level courses be offered.

“There’s a need for further clarification on that.”

Erickson encourages central Albertans to voice their opinions on the panel’s curriculum proposals through a public online survey.

They “aren’t written in stone,” added Khatib.

The survey is available until Feb. 24 at www.alberta.ca/vision-for-student-learning-engagement.aspx.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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