Red Deer Public School officials welcome more public feedback on the controversial K-6 curriculum, but question whether there will be enough time left to make substantive changes.
‘The timing is the biggest concern,” said Red Deer Public school board chair Nicole Buchanan on Thursday.
Although she’s grateful that Alberta Education appears to be listening to Albertans and is planning opportunities for public input and engagement, Buchanan questioned when a revised curriculum would be ready to be handed to teachers.
Three new courses are supposed to be taught starting in September — so she hopes teachers will be left with adequate preparation time before the end of June to make lessons plans based on the new curriculum for the fall.
Buchanan is equally concerned about whether enough time is left to make substantive improvements to the draft curriculum, which was broadly criticized by parents and teachers, instead of just tweaking it in a few areas.
The appropriate-ness of the proposed Social Studies lessons, were particularly questioned, with some people considering the information too Eurocentric and not geared to the student at the right age levels.
The draft curriculum was released by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange in March 2021.
The Red Deer Public and Catholic school boards, like many others across the province, voted not to pilot it.
On Wednesday, Alberta Education announced it would hold new public engagement sessions to strengthen draft K-6 curriculum. Some 44 regional online sessions and small-group conversations will be held starting Monday, Jan. 31, and running until Feb. 28. Alberta Education stated these come after in-person engagement sessions were postponed last fall, due to the pandemic.
“Alberta’s government promised a year-long consultation process with multiple ways to provide feedback,” said Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, who added these new sessions will allow Albertans to give constructive feedback. “I encourage Albertans to participate and have their say.”
Anyone can sign up to register for sessions at alberta.ca/curriculum-have-your-say.aspx.
Buchanan welcomes these opportunities, but added, “it’s almost like they are doing this backwards” — collecting feedback after the draft was compiled, instead of seeking opinions to incorporate into the draft curriculum.
Dan Lower, associate superintendent of learning services for Red Deer Public Schools, also expressed reservations, despite being generally pleased about the input opportunities.
He said many elementary teachers are already struggling to ensure students are not falling behind because of sickness and shifts to at-home learning during the pandemic. He is worried the new curriculum could be handed over to teachers when they are at their busiest, and would have a hard time preparing as school winds down.
“The sooner we can get it the better,” he said. But at the same time, Lower added that he trusts there will be adequate time for substantive revisions to be made, based on the collected feedback.
A representative from Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools could not be immediately reached for comment.
Katherine Stavropoulos, press secretary for the education minister, said the Curriculum Implementation Advisory Group will provide advice on the implementation strategy and timelines for a new K-6 curriculum.
“They will help the Alberta government determine how new curriculums for English Language Arts and Literature, Mathematics, and Physical Education and Wellness will be successfully implemented in September 2022,” she added.
This includes identifying potential supports that may be needed and how to best provide these supports to school authorities.
Stavropoulois said “The government is confident that with these supports in place, that there will be time to sufficiently plan from the engagement phase to implementation.”
Albertans can sign up for notifications about upcoming engagements and register for sessions at alberta.ca/curriculum-have-your-say.aspx.