A former St. Albert Catholic superintendent has joined a province-wide committee tasked with the rollout of the province’s new Grades K-6 curriculum.
Alberta Education announced the lineup for its Curriculum Implementation Advisory Group Jan. 20. The group has been asked to advise Education Minister Adriana LaGrange on how to implement the new K-6 English language arts and literature, mathematics, and physical education and wellness courses this September, and on how to continue test-drives of the five other subjects.
The province is revising the eight subjects taught in Alberta’s Grades K-6 schools. The province released draft curriculums for these courses in March 2021 which were roundly criticized by parents and teachers as overloaded, racist, and exclusionary, among other issues. Most Alberta schools and all four St. Albert and Sturgeon County school boards declined to test-pilot the new courses due to concerns about their content and education impacts of the pandemic.
All eight subjects were supposed to roll out this September, but LaGrange hit the brakes on five of them (fine arts, French first language and literature, French immersion language arts, science, and social studies) in December 2021 for further revision. She also committed to creating a group in early 2022 to advise on how to test-drive those five courses and implement the English, math, and phys-ed courses this September.
The group’s 17 members include Alberta School Boards Association president Marilyn Dennis; Wilco Tymensen and Bevan Daverne of the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS); Fort Vermilion School Division superintendent Michael McMann; and Conseil scolaire Centre-Nord superintendent Robert Lessard. Also included are three teachers — two from schools who test-piloted the revised courses — an Alberta School Boards Association representative, a Calgary Board of Education principal, an Edmonton Public Schools curriculum expert, and five Alberta Education bureaucrats, including deputy minister and chair Andre Tremblay. The province said it is keeping the names of group members who were not already public figures secret to protect them from online harassment.
Rounding out the group is St. Albert resident David Keohane, executive director of CASS and former Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools superintendent.
Keohane said the group’s focus is on the training, resources, and techniques teachers would need to teach these new subjects, not the content of those subjects.
While he could not comment on the group’s activities, Keohane said he is encouraged by its makeup, which reflects a broad range of interest groups.
“The [education] minister is consulting with people who are going to shoulder the load and make this [rollout] a success,” he said, and with people who have first-hand experience with curriculum.
Keohane would not comment on the quality of the new curriculums but said the province has improved them in recent months and test-driven them in some schools. The curriculums allow for many different approaches to teaching and learning and will see further adjustments in the next few months.
Keohane said there has been a lot of public feedback on the new curriculum and it is time to move forward on it.
“We haven’t had a curriculum change in decades, so at some point this is going to happen.”
GSACRD board chair Joe Becigneul said Keohane has extensive background in pedagogy and learning styles and brings some 35 years of experience in education to this advisory group.
“It sounds like a pretty formidable team,” he said of the advisory group, and he hopes the group will get the rollout right.
In a statement, Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling criticized LaGrange for not putting enough teachers on this advisory committee.
“At the end of the day, school boards don’t implement curriculum. Superintendents don’t implement curriculum. Teachers implement curriculum and need to be meaningfully involved in its development.”
The group is set to hold online meetings at least once a month until June, at which point it will issue its report to LaGrange.