Red Deer Public will not pilot K-6 curriculum

Priority will be on recovery and supporting students

Alberta Education’s release of the DRAFT Kindergarten to Grade 6 curriculum has received significant concerns from a range of stakeholders raising issues with the proposed programs of study.

The new curriculum is over 500 pages long with many of the pages containing outcomes and objectives that are sound, providing the knowledge, skills and perspectives that students need. Some of the pages however, have raised issues, some of them significant, particularly on segments of the Social Studies curriculum. We concur with many of those concerns.

Sharing the issues and concerns of many in our community, as well as across the province, The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to not participate in piloting the new curriculum at their April 14, 2021 meeting.

While the development of a new curriculum framework has been over a decade in the making, we need to ensure we take the time needed to get this right. Ultimately, the curriculum belongs to all Albertans and it should reflect the hopes and aspirations we have for our students who are the future of this province. What will students need in an ever changing world...curriculum fills those needs. The content and way many of us learned in the past is not what today's students will need to be prepared for the future. Every student needs to be equipped with the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will enable them to create their future.

Our focus will be on recovery… Given the significant challenges we anticipate with what we hope will be a return to school under ‘near normal conditions’ in September, Red Deer Public’s focus for the 2021/22 school year will be on recovery, as it will be with school divisions across the province. We know there will be learning gaps for many students and our priority needs to be addressing those and getting students back on track. We are also mindful of the social and emotional challenges many students and families have faced during the pandemic, so we need to prioritize mental wellness as well. With competing priorities, including curriculum implementation, we need to focus on our most important work and make the best choice for students. Recovery is our most pressing need and it will be Red Deer Public’s priority for next year.

With that in place, seeing both strengths and weaknesses in the draft curriculum, Red Deer Public wants to provide constructive and meaningful input to make the new curriculum better without officially piloting the new curriculum.

Our teachers will play a key role...Work will still take place with our teachers from Kindergarten to Grade 6, as well as division and school leadership, to inform our decisions and provide constructive feedback. That work will take time and will be done through a detailed and authentic look at the curriculum’s content as well as how teachers will be able to deliver the outcomes. That process will not involve Red Deer Public students.

Given province-wide concerns with the new curriculum, we encourage Alberta Education to be flexible in piloting the new curriculum and request that they welcome and listen to feedback beyond pilot jurisdictions in order to improve the curriculum. Where we can provide input on elements of the program, Red Deer Public is ready to make meaningful contributions.

During the 2021/22 school year we will still need to engage our teachers in preparing for a new curriculum for when it is officially implemented. We will do this through detailed analysis of the content, professional development and collaboration to be well prepared for whatever direction the new curriculum takes so we can do our best for students.

We must also remember that this is only half of the new curriculum, work is also underway developing curriculum for Grades 7 to 12. To begin with, we need to ensure the K to 6 curriculum is sound as it lays the foundation for future grades. Alberta Education needs to take lessons learned from the current process to ensure that middle and high school curriculum is the best it can be and reflects the expectations of Albertans.

Whether it is this or past governments, politics seems to influence the process. Albertans must have confidence in the curriculum development process. We feel it would be beneficial for this to be an independent process that engages the best minds and takes a broad perspective on what critical skills and knowledge all students will need to succeed. This in turn will allow Alberta to be the best it can be for years to come. There has to be a way for curriculum to be developed around sound and shared principles.

In the meantime, the Government of Alberta is seeking input on the draft curriculum, and we urge our parents and community to take the time to review and understand the curriculum first and then share their perspectives. Teachers will be providing input from the classroom perspective, however, all perspectives are vital as part of the curriculum review process.

This new curriculum is important as it will impact teaching and learning for years to come. It needs to set students up for success, so now is the opportunity to make sure we get it right for all of our students.

Click here to view the draft K-6 curriculum, and click here to provide feedback.

Nicole Buchanan                        Chad Erickson
Board Chair                            Superintendent of Schools