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ATA president disappointed after UCP cancels curriculum development agreement

The UCP have announced plans to cancel a memorandum of understanding between the government and the Alberta Teachers' Association. The document agreed that the two groups would “co-lead the development and implementation” of all new curriculum.

Memorandum of understanding was signed in 2016 under NDP government

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange has cancelled an agreement between the province and the Alberta Teachers' Association. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

The president of the Alberta Teachers' Association said he is disappointed after being informed the province is ending an agreement related to the ongoing curriculum review. 

Jason Schilling said he was notified Friday in a letter from the deputy minister that the UCP government would be cancelling the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that had been signed in 2016. 

The document signed under the previous NDP government agreed the association and the government would "co-lead" the development and implementation of all new curriculum.

It also ensured representatives from both groups, along with experts, would create a management committee and that all parties would consider student learning and assessment outcomes throughout. 

Current Education Minister Adriana LaGrange is now calling that MOU too restrictive.

Ministry spokesperson Colin Aitchison said via email the agreement gave one party — the teachers' association — special status. 

"It created an imbalance when there are numerous partners in the education system," Aitchison said. 

Schilling said the minister wanted to have "many eyes" on the new curriculum, something he felt the previous agreement allowed for. 

"It allows for them to talk to other stakeholders within the process and they have," he said. "If you look at the process that was [undertaken] by Alberta Education prior to the draft being released earlier this spring, they surveyed and talked to thousands of Albertans."

Schilling called the comment baffling. 

The ministers office said they "will be engaging with parents, teachers, trustees and everyone who plays a role in a child's education" but insists the teachers' association will still have a role.

Aitchison said the Council of Alberta School Superintendents, the Alberta School Councils' Association and the Alberta School Boards' Association will also be included. 

Schilling said he plans to hold LaGrange to that but seemed to question her commitment in a release put out by the organization late Friday. 

"Given the way this decision was sprung on teachers late on a Friday afternoon without any conversation, I am not left with a whole lot of confidence in this Minister's commitment to consultation on curriculum. I hope I am mistaken and proven wrong."

The minister's office said previously established curriculum working groups will remain in place. More information is expected "in the near future" on the government's plan to continue to work on the assessment and redesign. 

Former education minister David Eggen calls the decision to cancel the MOU completely outrageous.

"Jason Kenney has been using curriculum as a political football from the beginning of his leadership and he never lets up," Eggen said. "Clearly teachers have an important part to play in building curriculum."

According to Eggen the consultation around the curriculum redevelopment, which is still ongoing, has been one of the largest in the province's history. 

"I challenge Adriana LaGrange and Jason Kenney to tell me who was excluded from the curriculum process," he said. 

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