June 23rd, 2024

School division responds to curriculum announcement

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on December 15, 2021.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Lethbridge School Board chair, Allison Purcell speaks to reporters about their reaction to the announced curriculum changes on Tuesday at the the Lethbridge School Division Board room.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge School Division had a mixed reaction to the curriculum changes announced earlier this week by Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange.
Even though they says they have not had the opportunity to look deeply at changes that have been made, they have had a preliminary overview of the province’s controversial revised K-6 curriculum.
  “We are pleased to see the province is taking a phased in approach with moving forward three subjects, English Language Arts, Mathematics, Physical Education and Wellness, and pausing other subjects such as Social Studies, Science, and Fine Arts,” said Lethbridge School Division Board Chair Allison Purcell during a press conference on Tuesday at the division office.
Purcell said that it is very important that they look at the Indigenous components of the curriculum as well as many other areas, as much review still needs to be done.
“I think it is very important that this advisory committee does have the correct participants on it and that they look deeply into the feedback that was obtained throughout the province by parents, school boards, and teachers alike, and that information needs to be reviewed before anything goes forward with that Social Studies curriculum,” said Purcell.
Purcell added that this 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.
Purcell added that they 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,” said Purcell.
She added that 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.  
“If we are going to look to add more content, we are concerned about is that taking away time from PE when those students need to be active? Is that taking away from wellness time, when we need to be covering those very important subject areas as well?” said Purcell.
Given the critical importance of recovering from a pandemic, Physical Education and Wellness requires full attention without added content. According to the division, the commitment to continuing to refine the draft curriculum documents with a curriculum advisory committee is encouraging.  
Purcell said that at this point they need to see who is on the advisory committee as well as what recommendations they made for going forward with the implementation of those three subject areas.
“We definitely want to ensure that there is current teacher participation in that advisory committee so that so we know and can see the changes that are necessary in those subject areas that they are looking forward with,” said Purcell.
She said they believe it is critical that the Minister and Alberta Education recognize that there is a lot of work that remains.
“We are cautious to overly commend at this time for the changes, as it appears that they are somewhat superficial,” said Purcell.
Purcell said 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.  
“I think that it is really important when we look at 21st century learners, some of the curriculum is over 20 years old,” said Purcell.
She said she has been involved with curriculum development over the last 10 to 12 years and she thinks it is very important that they move forward and get a new curriculum for the students so they can be contributing members of society.
“I think it is important that we move forward with the curriculum but it is not ‘lets rush something through just to get something through’. There needs to be a proper process and we need to be providing them with what is going to make them a great work force and they can be contributing members,” said Purcell.

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