Edmonton public among Alberta school boards that won't pilot controversial K to 6 curriculum

·3 min read
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange introduced Alberta's new elementary school  curriculum on Monday.  (Scott Neufeld/CBC - image credit)
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange introduced Alberta's new elementary school curriculum on Monday. (Scott Neufeld/CBC - image credit)

Edmonton Public Schools and Elk Island Public Schools have decided not to test out Alberta's controversial new K to 6 curriculum this fall.

The decision for Edmonton Public was based both on the content of the proposed curriculum and a need for continuity as the children who choose to learn at home in the fall switch to in-class learning in January 2022, board chair Trisha Estabrooks said.

Estabrooks said she and other trustees have heard from parents who are worried that the curriculum isn't age-appropriate, doesn't uphold the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and creates an "us-versus-them" mentality that could hurt students who may not see their background and life experiences reflected in learning materials.

"There are some pretty serious concerns that have been raised about this curriculum that I'm hearing about from constituents," Estabrooks said Thursday. "I would hope that the minister listens to those and that she hears those over the course of the next year."

Elk Island Public Schools, which covers Sherwood Park and other areas east of Edmonton, said on Thursday that its schools would not participate in the pilot project.

Wild Rose School Division, which runs schools in Rocky Mountain House, Drayton Valley, Caroline and Breton, is also opting out.

According to Wild Rose superintendent Brad Volkman, the decision is the result of school resources that have been tied up guiding students through the pandemic.

The announcements are the latest blow to a curriculum that, since it was released on Monday, has generated widespread criticism for being Euro-centric and outdated.

Protests have popped up across the province. A new Facebook group called Albertans Against the New Curriculum Draft had 22,500 members as of Thursday afternoon.

Pilot will inform frontline feedback, gov't says

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said school district participation in the pilot project was voluntary, but she hoped to have representation from urban and rural schools. The ministry intends to have the curriculum taught in all Alberta elementary schools by September 2022.

Education press secretary Justin Marshall said the point of the pilot project is to give schools a chance to provide feedback on the curriculum.

"School divisions can opt to pilot all or some of the draft curriculum subjects (math, language arts, etc.)," he wrote.

"If some school divisions do not wish to pilot, they simply will not be able to provide direct, in-classroom feedback on potential change."

Other school divisions contacted by CBC News on Thursday are taking a wait-and-see approach to eventual participation in the pilot project.

Edmonton Catholic Schools, the Calgary Board of Education and St. Albert Public Schools plan to review the curriculum before making a decision.

Calgary Catholic School District will not force any of its teachers or schools to pilot the curriculum if they choose not to.

"We're still dealing with COVID-19 and that's taking its toll on all of our teachers," said Bryan Szumlas, chief superintendent.

"And so we will not be forcing or designating that this school or that school has to do the new curriculum. But we won't say that teachers can't participate in it either, because there are some of our staff that have an interest in this area and would want to pilot either an entire grade or maybe one subject or perhaps two."

Every board plans to send feedback to LaGrange and Alberta Education this spring.

Conseil scolaire Centre-Nord, which runs francophone schools in Edmonton, Sherwood Park, St. Albert, Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Camrose, Wainwright, Lloydminster and Jasper, had originally planned to participate but said Friday it would wait until the curriculum was revised before making a decision.