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Staggered curriculum seen as positive step, local officials say

By Kendall King, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News
Alberta Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange. (Photo by Government of Alberta)

By Kendall King, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News

Alberta’s government announced on March 10, it would implement updates to K-6 curriculum in two phases, dependent on grade and subject.

“We are taking a thoughtful, measured approach and implementing three new subjects in elementary classrooms this fall,” Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said in a statement Thursday.

The province received largely negative feedback after the K-6 curriculum draft was released in March 2021. Officials within Medicine Hat and area’s three school divisions expressed concerns and opted out of the curriculum pilot program along with the vast majority of divisions across Alberta.

Following Thursday’s announcement, local school officials agree the staggered phase implementation is an improvement.

Mark Davidson, superintendent of Medicine Hat Public School Division, was pleased with call.

“The decision is a positive one for school divisions and the students we serve,” Davidson told the News. “One of the challenges we had anticipated with the initial plan for implementation were the outcomes students would be expected to have engaged with prior to them being required to use them in a later grade. Because we weren’t staggering the implementation of curriculum, students were going to be out of sync.”

While Davidson considers the updated curriculum an improvement, he has concerns over its overall coherency.

“It is unusual to implement portions of the whole set of curriculum without understanding the scope and sequence for all,” Davidson said. “That doesn’t mean this isn’t a positive step; it’s just a positive step in the middle of what is a really challenging set of curriculum and a plan for implementation, which is less coherent than we’d like.”

Dwayne Zarichny, Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education superintendent, also has concerns about the curriculum, but considers the changes a step in the right direction.

“Because the draft hasn’t been out for very long, the lack of familiarity with the content will be an issue teachers will have to contend with, but I’m sure they’ll be able to overcome that,” Zarichny said.

Alberta’s government has pledged $191 million to help support teacher development and curriculum implantation – something Zarichny says is “really important.”

“One of the difficulties which often occurs when new curriculum is implemented is there will be a lot of time and energy put into the first year of implementation, then it just sort of drops off. Curriculum implementation is a multi-year process and so it’s very encouraging to see there’s funding in place for three years,” he said.

At Prairie Rose Public Schools, staff and educators are preparing for such development.

“As we move forward with this curriculum our hope is now shifting to the professional development which is needed to support teachers,” PRPS superintendent, Reagan Weeks, told the News. “We are anticipating the updated curriculum to be given to us at the beginning of April, so that is a short time to ensure we have the resources in place that are needed, but we also have an excellent team and we’re already working hard at ensuring we have excellent learning environments in all our classrooms.”