UCP MLA Tracy Allard urges education minister to slow down proposed curriculum

A former United Conservative cabinet minister is Education Minister Adriana LaGrange to slow down the development of a new school curriculum.

'It is unclear how the curriculum will be tested,' Tracy Allard tells Adriana LaGrange

Tracy Allard, the UCP MLA for Grande Prairie, has written to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. (Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)

A former United Conservative cabinet minister is asking Education Minister Adriana LaGrange to slow down the development of a new school curriculum.

In a six-page letter sent Friday, Grande Prairie UCP MLA Tracy Allard asks LaGrange to get more buy-in from the public before making proposed changes to the kindergarten-to-Grade 12 curriculum.

"People have repeatedly said they are concerned and do not feel heard," Allard wrote. "To reiterate, I believe our government must re-engage with stakeholders and more fully draw them into the process of development such that they feel a party to the process and not subject to the material presented."

It's the first time a member of the UCP caucus has publicly expressed doubt about the material and the process.

Allard said in the letter that the biggest concern is school divisions' unwillingness to pilot the elementary draft curriculum this school year.

"Without this collective approach, it is unclear how the curriculum will be tested and vetted, allowing the content to be adjusted accordingly," she wrote.

In a statement Friday afternoon, Allard said LaGrange encouraged her to hear from constituents. She said her government is doing "true" curriculum consultation, and accused the former NDP government of constructing its draft curriculum in secret.

"I'm confident that the government will deliver an excellent curriculum for our students, and Minister LaGrange has my full support," her statement said.

Nicole Sparrow, LaGrange's press secretary, said she appreciates the feedback.

"The draft curriculum is in fact just that — a draft and Alberta Education is engaged in a year-long consultation process with parents, education partners and Albertans," Sparrow said in an email.

Parent, teacher says draft curriculum needs do-over

Grande Prairie parent and teacher Andrea Willman posted the letter on Facebook after receiving a copy Friday.

Willman said she's one of about 30 people who have been meeting with Allard since the spring to share concerns about the draft curriculum and consultation process.

In her letter, Allard said she held three roundtables with constituents and met with the public, Catholic and francophone school boards in her riding.

Andrea Willman is a teacher and parent who lives in Grande Prairie. She worries schools are unprepared for such a dramatic shift in the curriculum. She's also concerned the vast amount of information in the draft curriculum will result in her son feeling disengaged in school. (Submitted by Andrea Willman)

Willman's seven-year-old son is going into Grade 2 and has delayed reading and writing skills. He would be lost with the proposed content-heavy curriculum, she said. She worries that he would begin to hate school.

From a teacher's lens, she said the writing process was rushed and the outcomes were assembled without consensus from educators or academics.

"I can't see them fixing this with tweaks," she said.

Ideally, she'd like to see them take some of the new additions and blend them with the 2018 version of the elementary curriculum written in a previous process under the former NDP government.

"They've broken the trust so spectacularly," she said of the UCP government. "They've just broken all trust, I don't know where to go from here."

Many parents, teachers, academics and Indigenous people say the government is dismissive of their concerns about the curriculum.

Their numerous concerns include too much material, too early for young children, age-inappropriate content, an approach that marginalizes non-white, non-Christian perspectives and an approach to learning that modern research does not support.

The concerns listed in Allard's letter fill four of the six pages. NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said they are concerns Albertans have been trying to convey to the government since the draft was released in March.

Hoffman said the draft curriculum is a mess and that it doesn't serve children or families well. She urged the premier to pause testing and implementation until educators can make major revisions.


Janet French

Provincial affairs reporter

Janet French covers the Alberta Legislature for CBC Edmonton. She previously spent 15 years working at newspapers, including the Edmonton Journal and Saskatoon StarPhoenix. You can reach her at janet.french@cbc.ca.