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St. Albert Public Board pushes province for rewrite of new curriculum

“We are not being inclusive of all kids. We need for all students in our community to be reflected in the curriculum and they are not."

The new Alberta curriculum is meeting a political agenda, and not meeting the needs of kids in the classrooms, said one local superintendent.

St. Albert Public School superintendent Krimsen Sumners said during a Gazette editorial board meeting that the curriculum needs to be well thought out and thoroughly vetted.

“We have a government who's seeing a need to meet a political agenda, and not necessarily the agenda of kids,” Sumners said.

On June 23, the St. Albert Public School board wrote a letter to the province, asking the province to rewrite the draft Kindergarten to Grade 6 curriculum, as they do not believe their concerns with the curriculum can be addressed through minor changes to the draft. 

“Clearly, given the concerns raised by diverse and a widespread plethora of stakeholders, the 2021-2022 time frame is not conducive to revising the draft curriculum and authentically incorporating feedback,” the letter said.

Sumners said the curriculum is not inclusive and reflective of the society we currently live in.

“We are not being inclusive of all kids. We need for all students in our community to be reflected in the curriculum and they are not,” Sumners said.

Trustee Kim Armstrong said the document approaches learning from a colonial and Christian lens and perpetuates the strength of that power structure.

“We are particularly concerned that the rich contributions and diverse experiences of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people are treated in a tokenistic manner,” the letter said.

The new document also focuses too much on rote memorization and learning rather than “purposeful, meaningful knowledge and skill development.”

“The opportunities for students to engage with their learning in an age-appropriate manner to support the acquisition, consolidation and transference processes are limited,” the letter read.

Sumners said education has moved past rote memorization and into much more broad critical thinking, and the curriculum is not including that learning evolution.

“We really have to be focused on a chance for our kids to acquire higher level thinking skills; much of this curriculum relies on rote memory activities. That does not lead us to critical thinkers down the road,” Sumners said.

The way the topics and knowledge are presented in the curriculum don’t reflect a good scope and sequence, said board chair Glenys Edwards.

“We believe that the building of knowledge is very spiral, and students need to work on a topic, then as they move to the next grade, spiral back and pick up that topic again, review it, then add to that knowledge base, and then on to the next level,” Edwards said.

On top of the problems within the document, only five per cent of the boards across the province are piloting the curriculum and Sumners said that isn’t enough and the schools are coming out of a pandemic.

“Teachers need time to be with kids and reconnect with kids in classrooms, reform partnerships, and we're not going to be able to do that if we're rushing through a pilot. We need to really be thoughtful and take our time as we move forward,” Sumners said.

The letter to the province said the push to implement the curriculum by September 2022 “seems more about a political platform promise rather than producing an exemplary document for boards to implement.”

Greater St Albert Catholic Schools trustee Joe Becigneul said the Catholic board is not asking the province to scrap the document overall, but will be going through the curriculum and offering feedback in each area they feel needs improvement.

Becigneul said the process has been “gravely” politicized and said the Catholic board will not be piloting the curriculum but will be asking parents and teachers to offer feedback as they read through the document.

Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

About the Author: Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Jennifer Henderson is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for Great West Newspapers based in St. Albert, Alta.
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