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Teachers Should Exercise Extreme Caution Before Volunteering for Curriculum Work

June 16, 2021

The Government of Alberta has initiated a process to recruit teachers for curriculum working groups (CWGs) to help develop new curriculum for Grades 7–12. The Association has serious concerns about how teachers have been affected by their involvement and how the work of teachers has been misused and misrepresented.

While the Association regrets that the minister is not working through the profession for identifying teacher nominees as was the case under previous governments, it will not attempt to oppose the voluntary participation of individual teachers.

The decision is left to the individual to exercise their professional judgment as to whether they wish to let their name be advanced by their superintendent to Alberta Education as a nominee for consideration to the CWG.

Those teachers considering to allow their names to be forwarded to the ministry should think carefully about the following:

  • It is of utmost importance to carefully read all documentation that is received prior to participation.
  • Your name and the school jurisdiction where you are employed will be published on the Alberta Education website with the names and employing school jurisdictions of the other members chosen to be part of the CWG.
  • Participating teachers should expect to be required to sign a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA) that likely will remain in effect until at least the release of draft curricular documents to the public for their review and potentially after that date. Participants in prior “consultations” have expressed deep dissatisfaction that they have not been allowed to comment on the drafts they had been working on even while misleading statements were being made about their representations and conclusions in public. Some have, in retrospect, described the NDA as a “gag order” that is contrary to fostering constructive public dialogue.
  • The NDA used previously has been reviewed by Association legal counsel who advise that participants who sign the document should ensure adherence to it at all times. Due to its legalistic and technical language, participants should request a copy of the NDA in advance and read it very carefully before signing. Questions arising prior to signing may be addressed to Mark Swanson at mark.swanson@ata.ab.ca. Teachers may wish to make their participation in the consultation conditional on not having to sign the NDA and leave it to government to determine whether they are still invited to engage in the process.
  • The minister is not obliged to adopt any of the suggested changes, modifications, additions, deletions, etc to the documents that participants will be asked to review and comment on. Teacher input may be restricted to advising on minor changes around very specific and limited content in the curriculum with comments on general design, structure, integration, scaffolding, scope and sequencing, underlying pedagogy, developmental appropriateness or disciplinary integrity not being solicited or entertained. Teachers engaged in previous “consultations” have expressed concern that they were given only limited access to documentation and insufficient time to respond meaningfully.
  • Much of the advice given by teachers who reviewed the draft K–6 curriculum last December was not adopted or, for that matter, even considered.
  • Be aware that the Terms of Reference clearly indicate that Curriculum Working Group members will be expected to be curriculum champions throughout the development and implementation process. Participants should be aware that their involvement in this process will be used to legitimize and justify the final product produced by the government, regardless of the participants’ evaluation of its merits or suitability for use.
  • Teachers should exercise great discretion if asked to comment on matters related to Indigenous history, experience and narratives, especially if they are not Indigenous themselves. Indigenous people who participated in earlier consultations and who may even have been characterized as supporting the curriculum have subsequently expressed grave concerns and even renounced their participation. Development and approval of curriculum content related to Indigenous people and their experiences must be led by legitimate and recognized representatives of First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities.

For advice or further information related to this message and to curriculum development, contact Mark Swanson at Mark.Swanson@ata.ab.ca.