Lethbridge School Division has not had the opportunity to look deeply at changes that have been made, but we have had a preliminary overview of the revised curriculum, and have mixed reaction.
"We are pleased to see the province is taking a phased in approach with moving forward three subjects (ELA, Mathematics, PE and Wellness) and pausing other subjects such as Social Studies, Science, and Fine Arts," said Lethbridge School Division Board Chair Allison Purcell.
It will provide opportunity for a higher level of attention to resources, professional learning, and planning for strategic implementation that attends to gaps and change in content and/or approach.
"We are also pleased to hear that there is a commitment to exploring and developing resources in mathematics, social studies, and science as there are limited resources that currently align with the draft curriculum in these areas," said Purcell. "We continue to have concern, that there has not been a “literature” list provided for English Language Arts. We are aware that there was significant feedback given to Alberta Education from the public, from school divisions, and different organizations expressing concern that the list may lack diversity, interfere with teachers’ autonomy to choose literature that reflects local context, and is developmentally appropriate."
The move of financial literacy to PE and Wellness ensures that we move forward with embedding this life skill in curriculum at an early age, which we support, even though we are not quite sure it is properly placed in this subject area.
Given the critical importance of recovering from a pandemic, Physical Education and Wellness requires full attention without added content.
The commitment to continuing to refine the draft curriculum documents with a curriculum advisory committee is encouraging.
"We believe it is critical that the Minister and Alberta Education recognize that there is a lot of work that remains," said Purcell.
It will be critical that the advisory committee represents different stakeholders with membership weighing heavily on practicing teachers who can provide insight into what a curriculum will look like in the classroom.
"We are cautious to overly commend at this time for the changes, as it appears that they are somewhat superficial," Purcell added.
For example, it was stated that the ELA curriculum further emphasized critical and creative thinking at the grade 4 through 6 level. The “shift” was substituting the words “use” to “develop” and “identify” to “relate.” This is one example of a common trend identified when comparing the draft curriculum with the revisions announced by the Minister yesterday. The mathematics curriculum has yet to be changed and continues to have content at grade levels that are not developmentally appropriate. It is our understanding that changes will be forthcoming.
Overall, the changes do not move a curriculum into what is necessary for contemporary learners. Content is clearly still taking precedent over process and critical thinking. Student learning competencies continue to be neglected and overshadowed by what is referred to as essential knowledge. Certainly, it is critical that students have foundational learning, and at the same time it needs to be furthered with enhanced thinking skills.
"Students need to be able to act and change the world, not simply acknowledge the world," said Purcell.
More information on the government's curriculum announcement can be found here: CURRICULUM