What are trustees overseeing?

It’s hard to imagine anything that could have a greater impact on students in classrooms than curriculum or the content that teachers are expected to teach. Alberta Education has begun a project to redesign curriculum and has asked the Calgary Board of Education to prototype the changes for grades four through twelve. On June 23rd, CBE administrators held a press briefing to provide an update.

Notably absent from the event were any trustees. The trustees have received no public reports from their administrators on how the curriculum prototyping project was structured, who was involved or what the goals or timeline were. Trustees represent the public that elected them, they represent the owners of the public education system. Their role is to oversee the actions of administration, to ensure it meets the needs of students, families and the community. Why wouldn’t trustees, on behalf of the public, be involved in and informed of proposed changes that have the potential to make a huge difference to what our children are learning?

It appears the “brain trust” who ruminate in swanky offices far removed from the classroom want to remove what little accountability is left in the education system. According the the Calgary Sun: “The incoming learning will be less content focused and tend more to “competencies” while doing away with “prescriptive curriculum” in favour of greater local decision-making and learning depth, says the board.” Translated from edu-babble, the board explained that there will be less content, freeing teachers from having to teach so much. “Local decision-making”, in this case, seems to mean that the district and, by extension, trustees and the public can no longer hold expectations of what teachers will teach and what students will learn.”But we want your input”

From the same article: “The new approach risks creating different standards among schools, he added.” What will a diploma be worth, if parents, universities and employers can no longer depend on the knowledge and skills that went into earning the diploma? It may become unclear if an individual graduating student can read, spell and do math, is capable of critical thinking and questioning, can be innovative in new environments, or any combination of those abilities. 

Who chooses what’s important enough that it will be taught in these classrooms of the future? Metro News explains: “The CBE, meanwhile, is working with 18 other school jurisdictions as well as business and post-secondary institutions to develop the curriculum.” But not trustees. Special interest groups: in; the public and their elected representatives: out. 

The trustees shouldn’t allow themselves to be sidelined in this way. There is nothing that is more central to their role of protecting the public interest in public education, but they are allowing their employees to run entirely unchecked, and have shown no intention of even staying informed, much less advocating for the needs of students, families and the community. If you care what your children, grandchildren, neighbours, future coworkers and employees will be learning in school next year, and over the coming decade, write your trustee.

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