April 23rd, 2021

Hat’s school divisions opt out of piloting Alberta’s new curriculum

By KELLEN TANIGUCHI on April 8, 2021.

ktaniguchi@medicinehatnews.com@@kellentaniguchi

The Medicine Hat Public School Division and Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education are joining a growing list of institutions choosing to opt out of piloting Alberta’s new proposed K-6 curriculum draft this fall.

“Following the release of the draft curriculum last week, we began to review the content of the curriculum across the disciplines and found within it challenges that we thought would be better addressed prior to any piloting with students,” said Mark Davidson, superintendent at MHPSD.

“We received a considerable amount of feedback through direct message on our website, emails to me, certainly private messages through social media and so on about the curriculum and about concerns within our community about it.”

Dwayne Zarichny, superintendent of the MHCBE, says the scale of change from the old curriculum is larger than usual.

“We spent the last number of days looking through the initial draft of the document and one of the things that’s become abundantly clear is that the scope of the curriculum was changed significantly,” he said. “Normally, when curriculum are updated there’s still a connection to the former curriculum.”

The two school divisions join others in the province such as Edmonton Public Schools, Edmonton Catholic Schools, Elk Island Public Schools and Wild Rose School Division in opting out of piloting the curriculum.

“We as a jurisdiction try to make decisions that will result in the best learning opportunities and best working environment for our students and our staff. Using that vantage point is why we made the decision that we did,” said Zarichny.

Davidson says the proposed curriculum is “poorly constructed,” and lacks a scope and sequence logical to the teachers who reviewed it.

“There are considerable challenges in terms of outcomes being placed at a grade level that is developmentally inappropriate for the children who would work in it,” said Davidson.

He adds there is a move toward more memorization and rote learning, and while there is a place for that, there needs to be balance.

“Stepping away from higher order thinking in curriculum, or largely away from it, moves us backward in terms of the progress we made over the last 30 years,” said Davidson.

Davidson emphasizes that although they are opting out of the piloting of the new curriculum, it should not be seen as a rejection of Alberta Education, and the division plans to continue working and communicating with them on how the curriculum can be improved.

“It’s really important to know that MHPSD isn’t suggesting that the curriculum can’t be improved, nor are we suggesting that we can’t improve our approach to learning,” he said. “What we are saying is that the way we do it needs to be built on a curriculum that is thoughtfully developed by professionals and engages the latest research … so we produce citizens that are able to work in the economy, that as of yet doesn’t exist, that are prepared to respond to challenges that emerge as they move through life.”

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