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Candidate Q&A #2

The Gazette asked the 18 St. Albert-area candidates running in the upcoming provincial election to talk to us about what they would like done with the curriculum rewrite.
0304 Q2 file

Over the past several years, Alberta Education has been undertaking a complete curriculum rewrite. This is the first time the curriculum has seen a complete overhaul. Right now, parts of the current curriculum range in age from eight to approximately 30 years old.

The Gazette asked the 18 St. Albert-area candidates running in the upcoming provincial election to talk to us about what they would like done with the curriculum rewrite. Each candidate was given a 150-word limit. Blake Vanberg is running for the Freedom Conservative Party in the riding of Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland but did not provide a response to the question.

Q: If you are elected what would you want done with the curriculum rewrite?

Marie Renaud
NDP – St. Albert

If re-elected as MLA, I will support the continuation of the curriculum review that Rachel Notley’s government began.

When it comes to education, every government’s priority should be ensuring we give our kids the best education possible. That’s why, since 2015, Rachel and our team have fought to ensure our kids have had good classrooms to learn in and teachers to support them. That’s also why we began a common-sense, long-overdue modernization of the curriculum – replacing decades-old content, some of which predates the internet. This will help ensure our kids learn today’s basics and have the problem-solving skills they need to be successful in today’s fast changing world.

Pausing or cancelling the curriculum review would be a disservice to our province’s younger generations who deserve to be prepared for Alberta’s future.

Jeff Wedman
UCP – St. Albert

A United Conservative government will pause the current curriculum review and broaden consultations to be much more open and transparent.

In recent years, Alberta has been losing its edge in academic excellence. Math scores in particular are declining. This means that our students will be less well-equipped to compete in the globalized digital economy.

A United Conservative government will focus the curriculum review toward teaching methods which produce the best outcomes, such as phonics and proven math instructional methods. The social studies curriculum should be taught without political bias, offering an objective understanding of Albertan, Canadian and world history, geography and civic literacy. We do believe there are many good improvements which have already been made during the existing review; they will be retained.

Every student should be provided the opportunity to reach their full academic potential, while at the same time ensuring every child's learning needs are supported.

Barry Bailey
Alberta Party 
– St. Albert

The education curriculum re-write is long, long overdue. A great deal of work has already been carried out on the curriculum. Not surprisingly, the process has been “politicized,” which does not benefit either our children or teachers.

To start all over again would be a disaster. Let’s be clear: politicians are not experts on curriculum. How does being a politician suddenly make you an expert on education? I want to hear from teachers, the people actually in the classroom charged with educating our children. I want to hear what parents have to say and especially from people whose passion and profession is education.

Let’s base the final decision on what is best for our children as opposed to what aligns with any particular ideology or special interest group. Re-instating a decade-old Education Act does not speak to the wants or needs of Alberta in 2019 and toward the future.

Kevin McLean
Liberal Party – St. Albert

The current curriculum review isn’t perfect but it has made good changes. It would be a waste of taxpayer dollars to throw it out. We support continuing to fund the curriculum review.

We support the curriculum changes but are calling for further improvements, including: teaching K-12 students about emotional and mental wellness, expanding financial literacy, education, updating age-respectful early education on LGBTQ2S+ issues and revisions to the curriculum to accurately explain the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada and the injustices of the residential school system.

Cameron Jefferies
Green Party – St. Albert

I am a law professor at the University of Alberta and a graduate of Alberta’s public education system. As an educator, I believe that delivering the best K-12 education that we can for Alberta’s youth is not something that our provincial government ought just try to do, it is something that our government must do. Education is the most important investment our government can make in our future.

Achieving this outcome requires thoughtful curriculum review and a vision that extends beyond a four-year political cycle. My oldest son will start kindergarten next year, and as he embarks upon his education path, it is imperative that his curriculum reflects contemporary and innovative knowledge and skills. Logically, this means his curriculum must be different than mine was 30 years ago. I wholly support the completion of the ongoing curriculum rewrite and commit to fully supporting the critical work of Alberta’s teachers.

Don Petruka
Alberta Advantage Party – St. Albert

As a father of a 13-year-old, I can confidently say that we are failing our children. I had the advantage of comparing our education system from a decade ago from my two adult children to today.

Math is a universal language. Two plus two equals four, regardless of age, race, gender or location. The only thing that has changed is how we teach it.

Sixty per cent of Alberta students are failing standardized general testing in math. Our educators have the tools and knowledge to teach our children, but are now being told they need to teach using different methods that even they do not fully understand.

I believe it is time to get back to the basics. Leave politics out of education and let our teachers do what they were trained to do. If revisions are needed to our curriculum, they should be done by educators. Not politicians.

Because that's using common sense.

Sheldon Gron
Alberta Independence Party – St. Albert

I think an important ability for any key leader or representative is an ability to step back and listen to the professionals. The ability to recognize when to be silent and listen to those with more knowledge and experience. I’m not a teacher, so I won’t try to tell you that I know better than one.

In 2016, Alberta ranked first in Canada and second between 72 countries in education. If you ask me, our educators are doing pretty good. But if our school system feels a curriculum rewrite is needed, then I trust they have identified issues that need attention.

I think it’s important to note, one needs to tweak things occasionally, despite how good they may look. Until you do, you never know if something can be improved or not. Like our children, our teachers are always learning, adapting and innovating.

Natalie Birnie
NDP – Morinville-St. Albert

If elected as part of Rachel Notley’s team I want to see the current curriculum review continue.

Alberta families can trust Rachel to keep fighting for what matters – like good schools for our kids – ensuring they get the best possible start in life. Part of that start will include an enhanced curriculum, preparing our students for the demands of a modern workplace and a modern economy.

I’m happy to see that, under Rachel Notley, Alberta students will learn more about the history of Canada’s Indigenous peoples and the legacy of residential schools, and have access to language programs that represent our province’s growing diversity. This is important progress for our education system and I will fight to keep it going for our students.

Stopping this work would turn back the clock for our teachers and be detrimental to our kids and their chances to succeed in the 21st century economy.

Dale Nally
UCP – Morinville-St. Albert

Should the UCP form government, our plan is simply to pause the NDP’s curriculum re-write. We intend to broaden consultations to be open and transparent, including a wider range of perspectives from parents, teachers and subject matter experts.

We should begin by determining the key knowledge and skills that Alberta students should possess by the time they finish high school, and ensure that the curriculum supports this. The curriculum should focus on developing foundational competencies.

Teaching methods should focus on those that produce the best outcomes, such as phonics and proven math instruction methods. Furthermore, the social studies curriculum should be taught without political bias, offering an objective understanding of Albertan, Canadian and world history, geography and civic literacy.

Additionally, basic financial literacy should also be included in the curriculum.

Neil Korotash
Alberta Party – Morinville-St. Albert

The curriculum rewrite is long overdue and “shredding” it or doing anything to delay it even further would be a mistake.

I currently teach a Science 9 curriculum that was written in 2003, and as it stands, the new program won’t be ready until at least 2021. We need new 21st century programs that allow teachers more flexibility to teach competencies like critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration, rather than the content-heavy programs of the past.

Though the consultation process has been lengthy and cumbersome, the new programs have been developed by experts in their field and there has been no partisan interference. Age-appropriate sex education, Indigenous history and climate science are not ideological and all have a place in the program. The Alberta Party believes we need to get on with the implementation of the new curriculum and is committed to more timely program reviews in the future.

Cass Romyn
Green Party – Morinville-St. Albert

As your elected MLA of Morinville-St. Albert, I would encourage the continuation of shorter development cycles for the curriculum, while also considering the need to incorporate the use of technology in a safe and intelligent manner.

There should be an increased focus on inclusion of all students in all schools, with tested strategies and methods being utilized, along with either a decrease in class size or increase in educational assistants throughout schools.

I also see the need to develop improved education of Indigenous cultures and languages, along with Francophone culture and language throughout the province. Our current curriculum subjects should all be encouraged in ways that develop tolerance, good citizenship and sustainable, healthy living.

I will also push to reinstate funding for extracurricular sports, fine arts and student clubs that encourage healthy community spirit, creativity and leadership, as I support school programs geared toward improving civility and eliminating violence.

Mike Van Velzen
Alberta Independence Party – Morinville-St. Albert

Families who vote for Alberta Independence will see an instant savings of $3,200 per child. Without adding ANY additional taxing or subsidies, I will be able to add funding for tutoring.

Children who are actually failing are passed on up to the next grade. This creates complexities between teachers and families. Bringing back the grading system will bring back adequate development in critical thinking skills.

We’ll add funding for technology programs such as the STEAM for all schools and proper allocation for each town to receive chrome books per jurisdiction. All current core subjects to be updated and administered. I will ensure life management courses to start at the junior high level, starting with basic banking and money management. High School will have mandatory (optional credit) courses to be administered by teachers, deeper developments of everyday banking/credit/debit accounting. Career monetary independence will be mortgages, loans, lines of credit and deeper look into accounting and fund managements for personal independence.

Tamara Krywiak
Alberta Advantage Party – Morinville-St. Albert

Albertans’ children and youth attend school to be educated so that when they graduate, they can contribute to our local communities and economy. For this to happen, they must be taught the basics, along with participation in learning enhancing activities like physical education, music and art. Teachers have told us they want greater ability to discipline their students so their classes are not interrupted and they can teach. Prohibit cellphones in class for focused attention.

We believe parents have the right to choose where their children will be educated – whether in public, private, Catholic or home schooling – as well as being informed of what their children are doing in school.

Standardized testing needs to be revisited. We also need a new grading system. If the work is not completed, the student will receive a zero. Giving students an “incomplete” won’t prepare them for the reality of adulthood.

Oneil Carlier
NDP – Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

I will support continuing the review of our curriculum if re-elected.

Albertans deserve a government committed to preparing Alberta’s kids for the future by building good schools, properly funding our public education system, hiring teachers and creating safe welcoming classrooms to learn in.

Our curriculum is being reviewed after 30 years of neglect. Our kids need to be better prepared for the changing world around them. Thousands of parents have participated in the review, sharing their voices on what their kids need to succeed.

Cuts to education and cancelling the curriculum review mean a return to the past. Our kids deserve so much better. Rachel Notley is the only leader who can be trusted to protect our education and fight against cuts. I will continue the curriculum review and work to ensure our schools and teachers have the resources they need to implement it and support our children.

Shane Getson
UCP – Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

As a father of four, who has seen first-hand the impacts of the changes in the curriculum with my kids over the last four years, and with speaking with many other parents and teachers in our constituency, we share common concerns which need to be addressed.

The primary concerns are regarding core competencies in Math, English, Social Studies and the delivery method, ensuring political ideology is not part of the curriculum. In addition, ensuring effective communication between teachers and parents. The UCP platform on education addresses these concerns.

A UCP government will create opportunities for young Albertans to learn practical job skills that will help them succeed, reinventing the vocational high school. A focus on apprenticeship learning will provide students who choose this learning path with a career that ensures their success and contributes to the Alberta Advantage.

Don McCargar
Alberta Party – Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

I would want to see an increased focus on learning about respecting diversity and differences within our local communities. Students should reflect on the effects of European colonization and its impact on Indigenous people. Aboriginal history, culture and perspectives should be integrated in all the new curricula. The authentic and respectful inclusion of Aboriginal content, culture and knowledge should be an important part of the curriculum transformation process. Schools should be engaging students in a variety of learning experiences that focus on Indigenous ways of knowing in order to develop empathy, respect and good citizenship in students.

I would also support a back-to-basics approach in reading, writing and arithmetic which would include cursive writing and learning keyboarding skills in the early years of education. Although there is still place for discovery, analysis and group work, rote learning needs to be given more emphasis in the new curriculum.

Gordon McMillan
Alberta Independence Party – Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

On the rewrite, I would have the money follow the student. There are several religion-based schools that are publicly funded, and those would have to abide by our oath of rights and freedoms, ”We accept all Rights and Freedoms at no expense, threat or harm to anyone else’s rights and freedoms,” to get funding.

Parental involvement would be encouraged in the system and classes involving politics could only be on information, platform and policy. Totally non-partisan – teach the students to think and analyze facts for themselves.

Darien Masse
Alberta Advantage Party – Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland

What would I want done? Direct our kids in our schools to a more individualistic approach to life when they enter the real world. Prepare them!

For many years, socialism has been promoted in the schools by governments rather than individualism and self-reliance – governments that called themselves conservative but were really socialist.

The adjustments to the school curriculum being introduced by the Notley administration will do nothing to improve the situation. If no corrections are made, we face a future where everyone will believe that big government is the answer to all problems. Individual initiative will be crushed by over-regulation and excessive taxation as we head down the same road as Zimbabwe, South Africa and Venezuela. Socialism always leads to impoverishment and tyranny.

I stand opposed to this proven road to ruin. Please have the courage to vote for me, Darien Masse; I stand for Individual rights, as does the Alberta Advantage Party. Look after the trees and the forest will look after itself.

Jennifer Henderson

About the Author: Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson is the editor of the St. Albert Gazette and has been with Great West Media since 2015
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