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ATA concerned about testing, staffing levels after curriculum review released

This week, the ATA published what it calls a closer analysis of a government report containing 26 recommendations for the direction of curriculum and a draft ministerial order for the "vision" of education in Alberta.

'We don’t want to see changes in the curriculum that have some sort of regression'

Alberta Teachers' Association president Jason Schilling at the North Central Teachers' Convention. (David Bajer/CBC)

The Alberta Teachers' Association says it's worried about the impacts that recent curriculum recommendations could have in the province's classrooms.

"The [kindergarten to Grade 4] curriculum that was developed, prior to the government dissolving the memorandum of understanding we had for our partnership, really put in a nice, modern-style curriculum that we were moving forward," ATA president Jason Schilling said in an interview.

"We don't want to see changes in the curriculum that have some sort of regression."

A government report containing 26 recommendations for the direction of curriculum and a draft ministerial order for the "vision" of education in Alberta was made public Jan. 29.

This week, the ATA published what it calls a closer analysis of the report. In a news release, the association said it had no notice that the announcement was coming.

Standardized testing

Overall, the ATA gave the province mixed reviews, saying the report could lead to fewer teachers in the system and a return to standardized testing in early grades. Schilling said the tests were eliminated after parents and teachers raised concerns about the added stress.

He also questioned what information can actually be learned from standardized test results.

"Any standardized test is simply a snapshot of that student at that moment in time," Schilling said. "The curriculum is so wide compared to that little slice of time. So, the concern about that was the cost factor, the time factor and the stress that you're putting little Grade 3 kids under."

Schilling, who is also a Grade 12 teacher, said teachers worry about focusing too much on teaching to the test.

Colin Aitchison, press secretary to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, said the ministry is continuing to consult on the recommendations.

"It's become clear that the teachers' union's main concern is that we are broadening our consultations to include parents themselves, rather than giving a few select union bosses a monopoly over curriculum development," Aitchison said. 

"No decisions will be made on the panel's recommendations until we've gathered feedback from Albertans on a new vision for student learning."

Bill Schlacht, a principal with Elk Island Public Schools, doesn't want to see more standardized testing. (David Bajer/CBC)

Bill Schlacht, a principal with Elk Island Public Schools, said he doesn't support the idea of increasing standardized testing.

"What we have now, it's just another tool that we use," Schlacht said in an interview Thursday at the North Central Teachers' Convention.

"We assess kids in a variety of different ways … we assess kids with products they produce, we assess kids through observation and there's a lot of assessment today that is hands on."

Schlacht said teachers should have played a bigger role in the consultation process.

Jens Foxford's daughter is in Grade 2 at Coronation School. Foxford thinks it's time for a modernized approach in the classroom.

Parent Jens Foxford doesn't want to see additional standardized testing, especially in early grades. (David Bajer/CBC)

"Sometimes I find the basics, well, it's just that … it's the basics," Foxford said. "It doesn't really set them up for success in the future, like how to manage their life, communication skills and that sort of thing."

Foxford said he struggled with test-taking as a young student and likes the fact that a variety of learning strategies are used in classes.

"All kids are different and unique in the way they learn. Sometimes I find that they just kind of put everything into one isolated box and say all kids should learn that way," he said.

"I think more artist expression, things that just allow the kid to be themselves and show the true nature of how they are is more beneficial and gets kids out of their shell."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tricia Kindleman

Reporter/Producer

Tricia Kindleman has spent her life in Alberta. She grew up in Edmonton and attended Mount Royal College, now university, in Calgary. She has worked in newsrooms in Edmonton and Grande Prairie.

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