Edmonton Public Schools asks education minister for rewrite of K-6 curriculum, halt to pilot program

The Edmonton Public School Board has formally asked the Alberta government to rewrite its controversial draft K-6 curriculum and halt a pilot program of it this fall.

'Put simply, this assignment receives a grade of "incomplete"'

In a May 20 letter to the education minister, Edmonton Public School Board Chair Trisha Estabrooks said the province's proposed new K-6 curriculum "has errors, examples of plagiarism, and content that is not age appropriate or reflective of Alberta’s diversity." (Dave Bajer/CBC)

The Edmonton Public School Board has formally asked the Alberta government to rewrite its controversial draft K-6 curriculum and halt a pilot program of it this fall, saying the curriculum contains mistakes, is not always age-appropriate, and lacks diverse perspectives.

Edmonton Public Schools is among 56 of 61 school boards across the province that have refused to pilot the draft curriculum unveiled this spring.

"It has errors, examples of plagiarism, and content that is not age-appropriate or reflective of Alberta's diversity," board chair Trisha Estabrooks wrote in a May 20 letter to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.

"First Nations and Métis leaders, curriculum experts, educators and parents agree that the current proposed curriculum is unsuitable for today's classrooms," the letter continued. "Put simply, this assignment receives a grade of 'incomplete.'"

Experts have slammed the proposed curriculum as Eurocentric, dismissive of Indigenous perspectives, not based on research about how best to teach young children, and focused on rote memorization rather than helping foster a passion for learning.

In the letter, Estabrooks said the board is calling for a rewrite of the curriculum "given the numerous and valid concerns raised and the lack of support for it as demonstrated by the 56 boards who have chosen to not pilot the draft."

She said the school district is still reviewing the curriculum but initial feedback includes concerns it does not support critical thinking, some content is inappropriate for the grade levels in which it is taught, and the curriculum lacks strong Indigenous perspectives.

At a news conference after a board meeting Tuesday, Estabrooks said the "enormous volume of concerns" from families, students and community members compelled the board to write the letter.

"It is not trustees' job to write the curriculum, to draft the curriculum," she said. "But it is certainly trustees' job to speak up on a matter as integral as what our kids learn in the classroom."

LaGrange has not yet responded, Estabrooks said.

Pilot program begins this fall

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for LaGrange did not address questions about the letter and the board's concerns.

"The draft curriculum focuses on literacy, numeracy, practical skills and knowledge to ensure students have the skills they need both in and outside the classroom," press secretary Nicole Sparrow said. "This includes learning important life skills such as public speaking, financial literacy and digital training, that will set students up for success.

"The draft curriculum is just that, a draft."

Some classrooms will pilot the draft K-6 curriculum as part of a voluntary pilot program this fall, although districts that do not take part can still submit feedback.

The new curriculum is slated to be mandatory in all elementary schools starting in September 2022.

Estabrooks said the school board, along with the Evergreen Catholic School Division, recently introduced a motion at an Alberta School Boards Association meeting that called for a delay, review, and rewrite of the K-6 curriculum.

After debate Monday, an amended motion passed that will require the association to lobby the government for a curriculum delay and review.

At the Tuesday board meeting, trustee Michael Janz introduced a motion that, if passed, would see the board request referendum questions about the curriculum and new school funding model on this fall's municipal election ballot.

Trustees will debate that motion at the board's next meeting on June 22.


Jennie Russell

Former investigative reporter

Jennie Russell was a reporter with CBC Investigates, the investigative unit of CBC Edmonton, from 2012 until 2021. Russell specialized in accountability journalism. Her work has been widely credited with forcing transparency and democratic change in Alberta.