‘Not fit for students’: Teachers demand halt to Alberta’s K-6 curriculum draft as more school boards reject it

Critics say the proposed curriculum is not age-appropriate and pays little respect to Canada’s Indigenous and Francophone history

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As teachers demand a moratorium on the UCP’s controversial draft curriculum for K-6 students, a growing number of Alberta boards — including Calgary public schools — is rejecting the government’s request to pilot it.

But questions remain around how the Alberta Teachers’ Association will manage the new content if the UCP pushes ahead with the expected implementation by the fall of 2022.

“This curriculum is not fit for students,” ATA president Jason Schilling said Thursday after issuing a moratorium and request for an open review and independent rewrite of documents released by the UCP in late March.

“Teachers who believe this curriculum is unsound and potentially damaging to student learning have the professional responsibility and moral right to refuse to participate in voluntary piloting.”

At the same time, the ATA could not say whether there is any legislation or wording in their collective agreement, outside of job action, that would allow teachers to opt out of government-mandated curriculum.


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“We will have to cross that bridge when we get there. But my hope is that we don’t. My hope is that by hearing all the voices saying ‘we don’t want this,’ the government actually listens.”

Since Education Minister Adriana LaGrange unveiled details of the draft curriculum, the province has faced an onslaught of criticism, with stakeholders saying it is not age-appropriate, focuses too much on memorizing random facts, and pays little respect to Canada’s Indigenous and Francophone history.

School boards have been asked to pilot parts of the curriculum in classrooms this fall and provide feedback so the government can implement changes for the 2022-23 school year.

But all big-city school districts are either publicly rejecting or questioning the curriculum, including the Calgary Board of Education, which opted out late last week, as well as districts in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and both the Edmonton public and Catholic boards.

According to the ATA’s data, 13 of Alberta’s 61 school boards have already said they won’t pilot the curriculum, while many others are still surveying teachers and parents.

Heather Ganshorn, a mother of two elementary-aged students at the CBE and research director with Support Our Students, has many concerns, calling the curriculum Eurocentric and not age-appropriate.

“As early as Grade 2, kids are expected to study ancient and medieval civilizations. But they don’t really even know the difference between cities and provinces at that age.


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“Kids need to first see and understand themselves in the world before they can learn that kind of history.”

Calgary’s Catholic School District is still considering whether to be involved, asking parents to engage in a virtual town hall event Thursday night or through their Thought Exchange online platform over the next week.

Calgary Catholic School District offices in downtown Calgary.
Calgary Catholic School District offices in downtown Calgary. Photo by Jim Wells /Postmedia

Bryan Szumlas, chief superintendent for CCSD, says he has several concerns with the curriculum, saying much of it is not age-appropriate, transferring complex concepts from higher grades to lower ones.

For example, the existing kindergarten curriculum has 175 outcomes that students are expected to achieve. Under the UCP draft curriculum, that number has grown to 395 outcomes.

Szumlas added that expecting teachers to pilot something they disagree with on top of the ongoing stress they’re already facing with the pandemic is just too much.

“No one will be forced to pilot this, teacher and staff anxiety is very high and I don’t want to push people off a cliff,” Szumlas said.

“At the same time, I don’t want to shut the door totally, then we can at least be involved, give feedback and be better prepared.”

The CBE refused to provide an administrator or trustee to explain why it chose not to participate in the pilot, pointing only to a general statement.

“While we appreciate the government’s intention to redesign the curriculum for the benefit of student learning, we have concerns similar to those expressed by educators, academic staff, parents and community members.”


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Nicole Sparrow, press secretary for LaGrange, said the entire point of a pilot for the draft curriculum is to provide in-class feedback to affect potential changes for the final documents.

“School divisions can opt to pilot all or some of the draft curriculum subjects — math, language arts, et cetera,” Sparrow said.

“If some school divisions do not wish to pilot, they simply will not be able to provide direct in-classroom feedback on potential changes.”

Sparrow added all Albertans can also provide feedback at the government’s website at https://www.alberta.ca/curriculum-have-your-say.aspx



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