GYPSD will not pilot complete draft curriculum

·4 min read

Teachers within Grande Yellowhead Public School Division (GYPSD) that wish to pilot an aspect of the curriculum can do so with the support of their school and parent community.

“A teacher that may want to pilot a portion of curriculum would need to have the support of the community and the principal to do that, that the will of the community is taken into consideration and as is the community of the school is taken into consideration,” clarified Hinton trustee, Ellen Aust, at the board meeting on April 21.

If a teacher desired to pilot an aspect of the curriculum, they would have to work through the principal, who would work through the central office with the parents and school council, explained Carolyn Lewis, GYPSD superintendent.

“If the community, the parents, were not in agreement with that, then obviously the teacher would not be piloting the curriculum,” Lewis said.

She explained that there are some teachers who have publicly stated they are in support of the curriculum, and the division respects all its employees’ opinions.

“GYPSD is about dialogue, it’s about respect, it’s about coming into a conversation with many different perspectives and respecting all of them,” Lewis said.

A central-office curriculum working group will continue to review the entire draft Alberta K-6 curriculum during the 2021-2022 school year on behalf of GYPSD.

Lewis said the decision to review via the working group pays respect to all parents, students, teachers, and support staff.

Aust voiced her appreciation for the feedback she received before the board made its decision, which came from scientist specialists to early educators to indigenous people who didn’t see themselves reflected in the curriculum.

Trustee Shirley Caputo, also from Hinton, noticed this curriculum drew some attention throughout the community, with many people claiming it is a lot to expect of children.

Caputo trusts that with the experience and expertise of the working group, input will be shared with Alberta Education on behalf of GYPSD.

Jasper trustee, Dale Karpluk added that concerns with the draft include a shift to knowledge from critical thinking, age appropriateness, focus on European history, focus on Christian and monotheistic religions, a lack of indigenous representation, inaccurate outcomes, and Canadian and local knowledge being replaced by American knowledge.

Aust asked if additional staff would have an opportunity to join the working group as there has been renewed interest with the release of the draft.

Carra Aschenmeier, GYPSD’s managing director of learning services, explained that teachers will have an opportunity to share their input but won’t be at the table for every single working group meeting.

“Our curriculum working group will certainly devise a way for our teachers who wish to provide input to definitely do that,” Aschenmeier said. “Collectively we are certainly better experts than in smaller groups.”

The working group has been in place for nearly three years and is made up of teachers and central staff.

“On our curriculum working group we have teachers from kindergarten, elementary, middle school, we also have Indigenous representation and a French immersion teacher,” said Aschenmeier.

Over the next school year, the curriculum working group, which meets multiple times during the school year, will unpack the draft documents page by page, explained Dr. Kelly Harding, GYPSD assistant superintendent.

They will carefully consider each outcome through their lens as learning leaders, subject-area experts, and with their knowledge of students’ abilities at each development stage, she said.

“They will then share that comprehensive review with Alberta Education. Given the expertise and experience of the curriculum working group, no classroom piloting with students is required,” Harding said.

Minister of Education, Adriana LaGrange communicated that she is seeking Albertans’ input on the draft curriculum and identified that School Divisions have flexible options for how they provide feedback.

Aschenmeier and superintendent Lewis both acknowledged the hard work being done by teachers during the pandemic and said the working group allows GYPSD to provide feedback without asking every teacher and school to pilot.

“Board, I know how much you care about our teachers, as do I, and so we thought this action proposal would respect and care for our teachers but still keep us at the table with government. It is really important to be at the table, whether you agree with something or not. You can’t have a say if you’re not at the table and we don’t want GYPSD to be shut out of the government conversations,” Lewis said during the meeting.

Aschenmeier noted that the board would never put staff in jeopardy, but she would have voted to pilot the draft in “regular times.”

She explained that it is important for GYPSD to be heard and provide valuable feedback.

Trustees encourage parents, teachers, and subject matter experts to continue providing feedback on the draft curriculum throughout the next school year.

The Evergreen Catholic Separate School Division (ECSSD) decided not to pilot the draft curriculum in the upcoming school year, mainly due to the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To read through the draft curriculum and provide feedback, go to alberta.ca/curriculum.

Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice