A group of teachers, teachers’ aides and their supporters rallied at the Alberta legislature Wednesday at noon to protest the composition of a panel chosen by the United Conservative government to re-evaluate the school curriculum.
“We’ve seen time and time again that governments will cave to public pressure,” organizer Emma Jackson said.
“I want to see the public kind of stand up and say: ‘You know what? This public education system is ours, is rightfully ours, and should be designed by us. And when it undermines public values, then we can rally together and stop that.”
The former NDP government completed a Kindergarten to Grade 4 curriculum review and the changes were set to be tested in Alberta classrooms this fall. However, Jason Kenney’s government decided to halt the roll-out and take another look at the changes.
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The UCP created a panel that would be in charge of the curriculum re-evaluation. However, the United Conservatives came under fire for not including any current Kindergarten to Grade 12 teachers in the group.
“There’s no Indigenous representation on the entire panel, which is unforgivable in this day and age,” Jackson said. “There’s no LGBTQS representation, there are no current, active teachers.
The panel will be chaired by former Edmonton Public School Board Superintendent Angus McBeath, and include members from post secondary institutions and career development organizations.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said she values the work teachers have done to this point, and they will still be involved, but for this panel she is looking for a different set of eyes.
“What I was really looking for were some external eyes on the various pieces we’ve developed thus far,” she said on Aug. 22. “Giving us… just a different perspective.”
“I think what we will gain from this group is a broad-based, knowledgeable perspective on what education in Alberta could look like,” LaGrange said.
The panel will come back with its recommendations on Dec. 20. A fresh round of consultations will follow.
Watch below (Aug. 22): The United Conservatives have launched a promised review into the new school curriculum developed by the previous NDP government. Tom Vernon has more.
“We want to ensure that when we do go out with the curriculum, we have all the accompanying resources available, that we have the time to really support our teachers,” LaGrange said.
In a statement to Global News on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the ministry of education said: “Minister LaGrange is proud of the group that has been assembled to sit on the Curriculum Advisory Panel. The panel will operate independently and is made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds who share a passion for improving our education system,” Colin Aitchison said.
“Development and drafting of the curriculum will still be carried out by the existing curriculum working groups. This diverse group of 350 teachers from across Alberta will provide a variety of perspectives during the development process.”
Teachers are troubled by their exclusion from the panel.
“You work in a classroom and you work with curriculum and students.
“You expect to see yourself reflected in the work on the review panel and that reflection is not there,” said Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers Association.
Meanwhile, the NDP is accusing the UCP of playing politics; re-doing what’s already been done.
“The curriculum development process was the most robust one in history,” NDP MLA Janis Irwin said last week. “I know that. I saw it working day in and day out with Alberta Education.
“We consulted hundreds of thousands of Albertans and it’s really disappointing to see that work is being slowed.”
Here’s a complete list of the panel members:
- Angus McBeath (chair), former superintendent, Edmonton Public Schools
- Jen Panteluk (vice-chair), former president and CEO, Junior Achievement of Northern Alberta and Northwest Territories
- Glenn Feltham, president & CEO, NAIT
- Martin Mrazik, professor, Department of Educational Psychology, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta
- Keray Henke, former deputy minister, Alberta Education
- Amy von Heyking, associate professor, Faculty of Education, University of Lethbridge
- Paulette Hanna, associate vice president academic, Red Deer College and former superintendent, Red Deer Catholic School Division
- Sharon Carry, former president & CEO, Bow Valley College
- Andy Neigel, CEO, Careers: the Next Generation
- Nhung Tran-Davis, founder, Children of Vietnam Benevolent Foundation and family doctor
- Miles Smit, co-founder, Petrarch Institute
- Ashley Berner, deputy director, Institute for Education Policy John Hopkins School of Education
Watch below (Aug. 17): 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.
— with files from Tom Vernon, Global News