New K-4 school curriculum field testing paused while government reviews work

Field testing of Alberta's new kindergarten to Grade 4 curriculum, which was to begin in September, has been "paused" according to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange met with consultants hired for review by NDP

Selected schools that were to field test Alberta's new kindergarten to Grade 4 curriculum will have to wait a little longer. (weedezign/Shutterstock )

Field testing Alberta's new kindergarten to Grade 4 curriculum, which was to begin in September, has been "paused" by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.

LaGrange said she is committed to implementing a new K-12 curriculum, but didn't offer any specific timelines for when that will happen. 

The minister said she met last week with more than 100 of the consultants who have been writing the new school curriculum.

Consultants brought in when NDP government launched the review in 2016 have been retained to see the process through, she said. 

"We want to honour the work that's been done thus far, but we want to make sure that if there are any gaps we address those, LaGrange said in an interview with CBC News. "We are actually looking at it from the perspective of what does an 'end student' look like."

More consultation coming

LaGrange said she will conduct further consultations with parents, teachers, school boards and education experts to review what's been done so far on the curriculum remake.

The government may form an expert panel to oversee the process, she said. 

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange speaking in the Alberta legislature on June 5, 2019. (The Legislative Assembly of Alberta)

The current school curriculum will remain in effect for the 2019-20 school year, Colin Aitchison, press secretary for the minister, said in an email. 

Former Alberta education minister David Eggen at Connect Charter School in Calgary on Thursday. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

Last October, former education minister David Eggen released the draft curriculum for kindergarten to Grade 4.

The content included teaching young children about financial literacy, and age-appropriate concepts of consent.

Students in those grades were to be taught about the importance of safety, personal space respect for the belongings of others. 

Other aspects of the curriculum emphasized memorizing multiplication tables and put a greater focus on spatial concepts. Fractions were to be introduced in Grade 1 instead of Grade 3.

The broad-based review of Alberta's kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum was launched with great fanfare in 2016 by the previous NDP government.

Since then, the review has been frequently criticized by the UCP for being secretive and ideologically motivated. 

Premier Jason Kenney, while he was leader of the official opposition, posted a message on social media in May 2018 vowing to put the new curriculum "through the shredder" if he saw the NDP trying to "smuggle" more of its politics into the classroom. 

'I am relieved'

Field testing the new curriculum was to have taken place this fall in dozens of Edmonton schools, said Trisha Estabrooks, board chair of Edmonton Public Schools.

The board was informed about the change in plans when it met recently with the minister, she said.

The minister reminded trustees that reviewing new curriculum was a promise the UCP made during the election campaign.

"And so as chair of the board, I have to say I am relieved that all those thousands of hours of work and staff time from staff at Edmonton Public that have worked on this curriculum won't be scrapped," Estabrooks told CBC.

Considering some parts of the current curriculum are more than three decades old, Estabrooks emphasized the need to get on with the work of bringing "updated and modernized" content to Alberta classrooms. 

Especially in subjects that deal with First Nations and climate change, she said. 

"So I do hope that timeline is certainly at the forefront of the decisions that the education minister makes when it comes to when we're actually going to field test this," said Estabrooks.