Alberta government cancels partnership with teachers’ association

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WATCH ABOVE: The UCP government announced on Friday it has terminated the 2016 memorandum of understanding, a partnership with the Alberta Teachers' Association on the provincial curriculum – Aug 17, 2019

The Alberta government has cancelled a partnership with the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) on provincial curriculum development.

The ATA said it was notified by the government on Friday afternoon that the 2016 memorandum of understanding was being terminated.

“This partnership engaged the Alberta Teachers’ Association in assisting government in the curriculum design process and played an important role in mobilizing teachers’ practical expertise and support for the redesign of Alberta’s decades-old curriculum,” ATA president Jason Schilling said.

READ MORE: Curriculum review stirs debate among Alberta political parties

The memorandum provided teachers the opportunity to have input in the province’s curriculum.

The association said the partnership allowed it to deliver advice on all aspects of the new curriculum and resulted in the ATA recruiting hundreds of teachers to work on drafting and validating material.

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“Teachers live the curriculum; they know what works and what doesn’t work in today’s diverse and complex classrooms,” Schilling said. “Ultimately, if a curriculum does not work for teachers and support student learning, it will fail and, for us, failure is not an option.”

READ MORE: Alberta promises to fund fall school enrollment growth

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange released a statement confirming the memorandum was being cancelled and is one she would have not signed because it was too restrictive.

“There are many partners within the education system that have a role in determining what Alberta students should learn,” LaGrange said. “It is important that we open up the process so that more stakeholders are involved.”

Schilling rejected the statement.

“The minister and department officials can talk to whomever else they want, when they want, and they should be seeking advice from a broad cross-section of Albertans about what Alberta students should be learning. The agreement with the association did nothing to prevent that,” he said.

“This decision and this government’s approach seems to be motivated more by ideology than by a desire to ensure authentic engagement to benefit students.”

LaGrange said despite the cancellation teachers will “be very involved in the design and field-testing of Alberta’s new curriculum.”

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Schilling said he is not optimistic that will happen.

“Given the way this decision was sprung on teachers late on a Friday afternoon without any conversation, I am not left with a whole lot of confidence in this minister’s commitment to consultation on curriculum. I hope I am mistaken and proven wrong.”

READ MORE: Alberta government bringing back Grade 3 standardized testing

In June, the province announced it was bringing back standardized testing for Grade 3 students.

Alberta got rid of the Provincial Achievement Tests (PATs) in 2013, replacing them with the Student Learning Assessments (SLAs). The province is encouraging the administration of SLAs until the PATs are put into place.

Greg Jeffery, president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, said teachers are against the standardized tests because they are time-consuming and not useful.

“We just don’t need to return to this exam. We got SLAs in a form now that are good for classroom teachers and good for kids. Let’s stick with that and not go to the backways of the past that just don’t work,” Jeffery said.

“Anything that takes away from the work our teachers are doing with kids affects the quality of the system. I think by putting these exams back in, we’re actually going to lower effectiveness of the school system here in Alberta.”

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WATCH BELOW (July 5, 2019): A marathon debate has wrapped up in the Alberta legislature. MLAs debated a controversial education bill for more than a day and a half straight. The Opposition NDP was fighting the UCP’s proposed Education Amendment Act. Tom Vernon was there for the vote. 

Click to play video: 'Marathon debate on education bill wraps up in Alberta legislature' Marathon debate on education bill wraps up in Alberta legislature
Marathon debate on education bill wraps up in Alberta legislature – Jul 5, 2019

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