Newly-elected Calgary Board of Education trustees united against Alberta's draft curriculum

As the dust settles from municipal elections across the province, the majority of Calgary's public school trustees say they’re ready for a bitter fight against the UCP government’s draft K-6 curriculum.

There will be six fresh faces representing the Calgary Board of Education as trustees this year. Of the two candidates seeking re-election, only Wards 5 and 10 trustee Marilyn Dennis was able to hang on to her seat, while incumbent Althea Adams lost her seat in Wards 3 and 4 to Laura Hack.

Hack spoke with CTV Calgary in her first interview since being elected and said she’s excited to work with a panel that is entirely united and seeking changes to the draft curriculum.

“We need to be united with the public and make them understand what the big issues are, how they are going to affect our children later in life, and we know that a lot of the parents are already on board,” she said.

“There hasn't been a lot of input from key stakeholders, from people who have done massive curriculum writing before, and it was put out so quickly and not looked over and consulted with in the way that other curriculums have been. I don't want my kids learning this.”

Hack adds that the proposed math curriculum is unstructured and "sets students up for failure and frustration."

She also says much of the social studies teachings are too Eurocentric and lack diversity.

Other new trustees such as Nancy Close for Ward 11 and 13 agree that changing the draft curriculum is a top priority.

“The conversation has come up immediately at the doors about the draft K-6 curriculum,” Close said.

“Parents and students alike don't support it. I personally feel that we need to develop a process that we can trust and support, and so I'm willing to have those conversations with our community and with our provincial government.”

Newly-elected trustee Patricia Bolger, who will represent Wards 6 and 11, says the entire draft curriculum should be rewritten.

“I think we're all on the same page on that, and moving forward, we really do need to work with the province to hopefully improve this significantly,” she said.

“The biggest thing is that we need to work with everyone else collectively including the other boards in the province of which we know 96 per cent voted not to pilot this curriculum.”

The only returning trustee, Dennis is looking forward to meeting her new colleagues and encourages them to continue the dialogue with parents, teachers, and the public at large to create meaningful changes for students.

“It’s important that we continue to bring the voice of the public forward, certainly the public has been very clear that they want some changes in this draft, and I anticipate that we will continue to advocate for those changes, and also beyond that, a delay in implementation,” Dennis said.

“It's going to take time I believe to make the adjustments that are necessary to have the public and educators buy into this curriculum, that buy-in is really important, and so I think a delay is something that should be considered as well.”

In Edmonton, eight out of nine trustees for Edmonton Public Schools also told advocacy group Support Our Students (SOS) in a pre-election questionnaire that they do not support the curriculum as it stands and will oppose it.  

‘THE CURRICULUM DOESN’T WORK': ALBERTA TEACHERS’ ASSOCIATION

Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA), says the K-6 draft curriculum lacks consultation from professionals, teachers, and other educational experts.

“The government set out a guideline framework for curriculum development and their own draft curriculum doesn't even meet the standards within that guiding framework that they put together,” he said.

Schilling notes that the curriculum is age inappropriate, has issues around diversity and cultural representation of Indigenous peoples along with a lack of media literacy skills for students.

“Teachers who looked at the curriculum for instance in indigenous culture saw it as tokenism, that it was always a reference to indigenous cultures in the past and not in the future or the present,” Schilling said.

“When you look at other areas such as math, you have concepts that are traditionally taught in junior high, brought down into elementary school level and without a connection between the two it's something we would call scaffolding.”

Members of the ATA conducted a survey with its 3,500 members earlier this year that found:

  • 91 per cent are unhappy with the new K-6 draft curriculum
  • 91 per cent of teachers are uncomfortable moving ahead into the future to teach the new K-6 curriculum 
  • 93 per cent of school leaders and central office leaders are uncomfortable moving ahead into the future to support this new K-6 curriculum in their school and/or school community.

“The new school board trustees need to raise their voices and be very strong in their vocal opposition to the curriculum to the minister, even to the Alberta School Boards Association,” Schilling said.

“We know school boards have said they will not pilot this curriculum, but what happens in the fall if the government says we don't care? I would like to know what exactly the government is going to do to support the students and the teachers within their building.”

RESPONSE FROM ALBERTA EDUCATION MINISTER

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the province will remain open to feedback and will continue to call for help in refining the K-6 draft curriculum before it is officially implemented in the 2022-23 school year.

CTV News received the following statement from LaGrange’s press secretary, Nicole Sparrow:

“We have always been clear that we want feedback on the draft curriculum, including feedback from school boards. With many new school trustees being elected across the province, we look forward to continuing this collaborative work to strengthen the draft curriculum,” the statement read. 

“Alberta Education has provided almost $1 million in grants to support education groups in conducting a consistent and coordinated engagement process with their communities so their unique perspectives can be heard. As a member of Alberta School Boards Association, an organization that is receiving a grant, we hope school boards across the province participate in this detailed engagement process.”