A provincial job posting for a consultant to evaluate K-12 curricula and assess how teachers are using it in classrooms is raising eyebrows among educators.
The Manitoba government recently issued a request for proposal to create a system that will monitor how curriculum is implemented across four official school programs: English, French, French immersion, and senior years technology. A quarter-of-a-million dollars has been set aside for the contract.
There is currently no formal set-up in place to measure and report on the effectiveness of course content or understand how a syllabus is taught in every corner of the province, according to the RFP.
“The development of such a system is essential to understanding when and what in our curriculums needs to be reviewed and what supports are required for high-quality implementation,” states an excerpt, which was made public via Merx, a contract and tender site, July 11.
Officials are looking for an applicant who can determine what indicators are necessary to track progress and what data every teacher, principal, and division office, as well as the education department, should start collecting to introduce province-wide monitoring.
“Teacher autonomy is essential. The curriculum is a guide, but the teacher knows the students the best,” said James Bedford, president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society.
Bedford, who represents upwards of 16,600 teachers, said educators have become less involved in curriculum review and development work in recent years — a concerning trend, given they are experts and are also more likely to follow a framework if they know their colleagues built it.
The union leader said he is curious about why the province is reaching outside of the education department for expertise and how genuine consultation will be — especially given a group of education leaders, community members and students were tapped for a so-called curriculum advisory panel in autumn.
The province said the above panel informed the development of curriculum, whereas the program evaluation contractor will create a process to determine how effective syllabi is at achieving Manitoba’s education goals.
Per the RFP, the successful candidate will be required to scan curriculum monitoring options from other jurisdictions, undertake consultations with stakeholders, and train education department staff on the final model before the end of the 2024-25 school year. Proposals are due before July 29, at noon.
Citing the value the K-12 education commission placed on “strengthening curriculum implementation,” Education Minister Wayne Ewasko said the province needs to introduce systematic evaluation.
In the commission’s 2020 report, 10 of 75 recommendations to improve the public school system and student outcomes explicitly discuss curriculum.
Commissioners called on the province to address issues related to rigour and standards and introduce new standardized math and literacy tests, with school-level scores made available to the public.
The authors recommended the province focus on the holistic nature of curricula, bolster relevant content, and incorporate student leadership, environmental stewardship, character, citizenship, and career exploration outcomes across subjects. They also noted the importance of incorporating Indigenous perspectives and creating unique French-language education rather than simply translating English resources.
In a prepared statement, Ewasko said the purpose of the education department’s latest project is to understand how schools are accessing and implementing curriculum, in addition to finding out what factors are supporting implementation and whether there are any barriers to it.
The teachers union is in favour of more consistent curricula reviews, on a roughly seven-year basis. Bedford does not, however, support standardized testing as a way to assess individual students or teachers, nor the possibility of publishing school-level scores.
“For all the wrong reasons, it gives the public the impression that there are good schools and there are bad schools,” he said, adding such tests fail to take into account factors such as class size and student demographics, while parents can keep tabs on their child’s learning via report cards and communicate with teachers.
Dynamic Solutions, Matrix Management, UpFront Consulting, FWCO Management Consultants, and KPMG LLP — which penned the province’s health-care reforms — are among the firms that have requested the provincial RFP documents to date.
“This money needs to go into the classroom, instead of consultants telling them what they want to hear,” said Nello Altomare, the NDP’s education critic
The retired principal said curricula development requires extensive consultation with educators, teacher pilots, and adjustments before it is introduced. “You really can’t shortcut it.”
Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press