Teachers call for stop to curriculum implementation

Sask Bulletin
June 24, 2021
By Tony Vandenberg

The Alberta Teachers’ Association is calling for the Government of Alberta to stop all work on the piloting and implementation of the draft curriculum until an independent, open and full review and rewrite can occur.

The Association has published full-page ads in daily newspapers across Alberta to issue the call for a moratorium and to show support for school boards and teachers that decide not to participate in piloting.

“Alberta’s students and teachers require an appropriate and workable curriculum,” says Jason Schilling, President of the ATA. “The government is being told loudly and clearly that this curriculum is unacceptable. We now need the government to announce a stop to their implementation plans and to spell out a new way forward.”

“I don’t see any current educational research in this curriculum. Educators were clearly not at the forefront of the development process and the language and some content is inappropriate at best and racist and offensive at worst.” - Alberta teacher

Schilling also says the Association supports school boards that have decided not to pilot this draft curriculum and he calls on all school authorities to refrain from directing their teachers to participate in piloting.

“Teachers who believe this curriculum is unsound and potentially damaging to student learning have the professional responsibility and moral right to refuse to participate in voluntary piloting. The government and school boards must respect the decision of individual teachers to not participate in piloting.”

Although the teaching profession is frustrated by being left out of the curriculum development process, Schilling says teachers are more than willing to assist the government with a rewrite that reflects their extensive expertise and knowledge.

“We are committed to supporting the development of a high-quality curriculum, and the ATA is prepared to work constructively in partnership with the Government of Alberta toward that end,” he says. “It is the only workable path forward. We just need to be invited.”

Teachers identify fatal flaws in draft curriculum.

Preliminary results from an extensive survey on the draft curriculum show that 91 percent of teachers are unhappy with the draft, including three in four teachers stating they are “very unhappy.”

“We wanted to give teachers time to review the documents and provide their feedback to us since the government failed to engage teachers in the curriculum process,”
says Schilling. “But the preliminary data is overwhelming: this draft curriculum is fatally flawed.

“Teachers are the experts. Teachers know what will work in a classroom and what will not, and they are overwhelmingly telling us that this curriculum won’t work for Alberta’s elementary students.”

Over 3,500 teachers, including school and central office leaders, completed the survey between March 29 and April 7, 2021. The respondents make up a highly representative sample of the Alberta elementary teaching population.

Schilling says that teachers’ analysis included assessing the curriculum in terms of the government’s own pre-set measures for success, including whether it was logical and developmentally appropriate and reflected diverse perspectives, lifestyles and beliefs.

“It is clear that the problem with this curriculum is that teachers were not sufficiently engaged in its development and their concerns were not addressed,” says Schilling.

“The feedback shows that the government has failed its own mission. If the government is serious about producing a strong curriculum, it needs to listen to what teachers are telling them.”

The project features an online questionnaire open to all teachers and principals in Alberta’s public education system, including hundreds of elementary subject and grade-level specialists. A number of round-table discussions with subject-matter and curriculum development experts will follow in late spring.

Schilling says the ATA will provide updates and a final report to the government and the public throughout the process. The Association is prepared to make a positive contribution to addressing the curriculum’s flaws in an effort to develop a curriculum that is appropriate and coherent and enjoys broad public support among Albertans.

Teacher feedback on the draft curriculum

  • 91 percent are unhappy with the new K-6 draft curriculum.
  • 90 percent of teachers are uncomfortable moving ahead into the future to teach the new K-6 curriculum.
  • 95 percent of school leaders and central office leaders are uncomfortable moving ahead into the future to support this new K-6 curriculum in their school and/or school community.
  • Key areas of concern for certificated Alberta teachers, school leaders and central office leaders
  • 89 percent disagree that the draft curriculum has age-appropriate content that is logically sequenced within each grade and from grade to grade.
  • 86 percent disagree that the draft curriculum is developmentally appropriate with high academic standards.
  • 81 percent disagree that the draft curriculum is inclusive of opportunities for all students to reach their personal best.
  • 71 percent disagree that the draft curriculum is scientifically rigorous, while respecting a variety of beliefs.

In teachers’ own words

“This is such a huge step back for education in Alberta. We’re being asked to teach developmentally inappropriate curriculum and it goes against my professional judgment.”

“I cannot in good conscience teach a curriculum (and invest in creating materials and resources) that is flawed at its very core. I would rather quit teaching than expose my students to this curriculum.”

“I don’t see any current educational research in this curriculum. Educators were clearly not at the forefront of the development process, and the language and some content is inappropriate at best and racist and offensive at worst.”

Note: This item originally appeared in the ATA News and has been reprinted with permission.