Foothills part of curriculum team

Education: Public school division part of province-wide redesign

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 09, 2014 06:00 am

Todd Schmekel<br />Foothills School Division assistant superintendent
Todd Schmekel
Foothills School Division assistant superintendent
Photo submitted

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Foothills School Division is at the table in changing the Alberta school curriculum.

Alberta Education announced in March Foothills will be among 19 school boards and other community partners to study new curriculum design.

“The advantage for Foothills is we will have people on the ground-floor providing input,” said Todd Schmekel, Foothills assistant superintendent of learning services. “It (curriculum redesign) has never been done like this before. It’s been very top down in the past — bring a couple of teachers in, a couple of consultants in and here is what the curriculum is going to look like. It’s more of a grassroots thing.”

The division will work with the team to look at curriculum options for Grade 4 to Grade 12. The Calgary Board of Education leads the team.

Although it won’t deal specifically with kindergarten to Grade 3 curriculum, much like being a student, the team can’t work on Grade 4 without having a lot of knowledge about previous grades.

“We will be providing some very rough stuff from K to 3 and very specific stuff from Grades 4-12,” Schmekel said after the division’s board meeting on April 2.

He stressed it is a redesign, not a complete overhaul of the Alberta curriculum. It will mean some fine-tuning of subject curriculum.

“The content is not going to change significantly,” Schmekel said. “For example, let’s say there are 100 objectives in the Social Studies, we might say, that’s too many let’s get it down to 10. We aren’t supposed to provide more than 10, but they will be pretty big objectives… The real advantage is we can find the best pieces being used across the province and put them in the curriculum.”

The team is taking the lead provided by information from parents and education stakeholders held during open houses concerning Inspiring Education, which started in 2009 under the guidance of former Alberta education minister, Premier David Hancock.

“Their say is what was in the Inspiring Ed document,” Schmekel said. “They got tons of stakeholders input. Now where we are is what I would consider ‘tall grassroots’ where teachers are having impact on the curriculum and not curriculum brought down to them.”

Dan Powers, Alberta Education press secretary, emphasized the redesign teams are providing input, they do not have the final say on what will be taught to Alberta’s students.

Alberta Education came under criticism when it was discovered companies such as Syncrude, Cenovus Energy and other corporations were part of teams working on redesign.

Cenovus is part of the team looking at Grade 4-12 curriculum along with FSD.

“At the end of the day Alberta Education is the one who writes the curriculum,” Powers said. “The notion that we are handing over curriculum redesign to the private sector or any other groups is just false.”

He said the curriculum change is just a part of Alberta’s Inspiring Education, which is a comprehensive look at how a student will be taught and what he or she learns in the future.

He could not give a specific date at to when the curriculum change will come into affect.

“There is no timeline on it,” Powers said. “The ministry initially said two to three years. But as the minister (Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson) said we will take our time. We are going to take our time to get it right.

“The engagement and consultation with everyone involved —parents, students, teachers, private sector, non-profits — will be extensive. We will take our time.”

Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools is not part of any of the curriculum redesign teams.

bcampbell@okotoks.greatwest.ca


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