Alberta government new school curriculum focused on 'evidence, numeracy & literacy': LaGrange

WATCH ABOVE: Alberta's education minister has announced the next steps in the work to update the K-12 curriculum. Tom Vernon reports.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced upcoming changes to Alberta students curriculum Thursday.

During a teleconference, the government said it will maintain its commitment to end the focus on “discover” or “inquiry” learning by repealing the 2013 ministerial order on student learning.

Instead, the new ministerial order emphasizes “civic virtues, core knowledge and outcomes students need to succeed in school and throughout life.”

An extensive curriculum review began in 2016 under the former NDP government, which involved all grades.

That review was to be completed in stages, but the NDP lost the April election and the UCP put the NDP plan on hold while doing its own review.

In August 2019, a 12 person independent panel was appointed by the UCP to develop new school curriculum for kindergarten to Grade 12 students across the province.

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On Thursday, LaGrange was joined by former superintendent of Edmonton Public Schools, Angus McBeath. McBeath is also the chair of the government-appointed curriculum advisory panel.

“We’ve gone away from the ideological that was in the previous government. We heard that strongly from parents that it was something they wanted addressed,” LaGrange said.

LaGrange discussed “bias” in the current social studies curriculum, but only provided a vague example when pressed by reporters.

Alberta’s Opposition party said Thursday it did not “politicize curriculum” during its own review.

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman called the announcement a “distraction” from concerns about sending kids back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In my opinion, this review should’ve happened a year ago. The Minister didn’t act a year ago. Now her job is to keep kids safe. All of her energy should be focused on keeping kids and staff safe .”

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw mentioned during Thursday’s COVID-19 update that parents could take children for a “baseline test” ahead of a September return.

“We are looking at decreasing turnaround times for all testing to make sure there is availability for anyone who may want to be tested before returning to school,” she said. “If a child has allergies or another chronic condition that could be symptoms of COVID-19, they can get the test to ensure they have at least one negative result.”

The new curriculum plans to “place an emphasis on essential core knowledge, evidence and fact-based materials, and focuses on literacy and numeracy as foundational elements.”

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With the new ministerial order in place, the 2018 draft kindergarten to Grade 4 curriculum will be reviewed and future changes drafted for upcoming grades.

“I expect an enhanced, finalized version of the K-4 curriculum will be in my hands by late fall and that I will be able to put a copy online for parents and teachers to see by early 2021,” LaGrange said.

COVID-19 has created delays in the implementation, as timelines for piloting the new draft curriculum are being adjusted.

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Participating schools will being to pilot the new curriculum in September 2021. It is expected a draft curriculum for Grade 7-10 will be ready by September 2022.

The government release said all Alberta students will be learning from the new K-6 curriculum by the 2022-2023 school year.

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