New curriculum panel will help Alberta schools return to 'essential skills,' province says
'It is critical that we get this right,' says Education Minister Adriana LaGrange
The Alberta government has appointed an independent panel of experts to help develop new school curriculum across the province, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced Thursday.
The advisory panel will review and build on the work already done and move forward with an initial report to the minister by December. The wider public engagement process is scheduled to begin early next year.
The previous redesign conducted under the former NDP government was focused too heavily on what is called "discovery learning," LaGrange said.
Go wide and broad...- Adriana LaGrange, Alberta Education Minister
Asked what the rest of the timeline would look like, LaGrange said she hopes to have changes start rolling out as of 2020.
"I've given them the latitude to go wide and broad and to bring back the recommendations, and then we'll just have to distil that information," LaGrange said.
The province is committed to moving toward an education system that ensures students "have a strong foundation of essential skills and knowledge, something we heard loud and clear from parents," the province said Thursday in a news release.
"It is critical that we get this right," LaGrange said at Thursday's announcement at St. Teresa of Calcutta Elementary School in Edmonton.
LaGrange said the current curriculum needs an overhaul, but any new recommendations and advice won't be implemented until after she reviews the panel's work then consults with the wider community. That's when parents and the business community will be consulted, the minister said.
The panel will be chaired by Angus McBeath, former superintendent of Edmonton Public Schools.
"The strength of our community, the strength of our economy all rely on sterling teaching and rely on children learning the right things," McBeath said.
Jen Panteluk, former president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Northern Alberta and Northwest Territories, was appointed as vice-chair.
Other panel members are:
- Sharon Carry, former president and CEO of Bow Valley College;
- Glenn Feltham, president and CEO of NAIT;
- Paulette Hanna, associate vice-president academic at Red Deer College and former superintendent of the Red Deer Catholic School Division;
- Keray Henke, former deputy minister at Alberta Education;
- Martin Mrazik, professor in the department of educational psychology at the University of Alberta;
- Andy Neigel, CEO of Careers: the Next Generation;
- Miles Smit, co-founder of the Petrarch Institute;
- Amy von Heyking, associate professor in the faculty of education at the University of Lethbridge;
- Nhung Tran-Davis, founder of Children of Vietnam Benevolent Foundation and a family doctor;
- Ashley Berner, deputy director of the Institute for Education Policy at the John Hopkins School of Education.
A broad review of Alberta's kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum was most recently undertaken by the NDP government in 2016.
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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 and respect for the belongings of others.
Field testing the new kindergarten to Grade 4 curriculum was set to begin in September. But in June, LaGrange paused that rollout.
She said at the time she would conduct further consultations with parents, teachers, school boards and education experts and review the work already done on the curriculum remake.
No current teachers are on the panel. Asked about working the Alberta Teachers Association, LaGrange said she will continue to foster that relationship.
"We will be in constant contact with the ATA on curriculum and on so many other matters," she said.
NDP 'disappointed' with announcement
Janis Irwin, the NDP MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, said an updated curriculum based on the work already done could have been ready to roll out immediately.
"It's a further delay," Irwin said. "It looks like their timelines will be next year to hear back from the panel, when again this work could already be moving forward."
She said her biggest concern is there are no teachers on the panel. Irwin said teachers need to be at the heart of this process.
"They're the ones who need to make this curriculum come alive in their classroom," she said.
"Where are the K-to-12 voices?" Irwin asked. "Teachers are the experts, they should be on the front lines."
I scratch my head at why...- Jason Schilling, ATA President
Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers' Association, said he, too, doesn't understand why there are no teachers on a panel.
"The fact that there's not an active teacher on this panel and the association was not contacted about the mandate ... the panel make-up is concerning to me, because curriculum implementation is something that's really complex," Schilling said.
"I scratch my head at why we're going back and it seems like we're repeating this loop."
Irwin said the delays will hamper education.
"Alberta students are being deprived of the education they need to succeed in the modern world while the minister's panel works through this poorly defined task with no clear objective," Irwin said.