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Alberta presents students with first phase of curricula review

Following several years of declining and stagnant student performance, the new curriculum delivers on the province’s commitment to give students the best possible chance at success.

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Advocates of curriculum reform need to wait no longer as the Alberta government updated its draft kindergarten to Grade 6 curriculum with a renewed focus on literacy, numeracy, citizenship and practical skills.

Alberta’s students faced several years of declining and stagnant student performance, notably in literacy and math and science.

Alberta’s grade 4 student results for reading literacy in the Progress in the International Reading Literacy Study have declined over 10 years.

Between 2006 and 2016, their score dropped from 560 to 547, ranked 1st of 45 countries to 17th of 50 countries.

Trends in International Mathematics and Science studies also declined between 2007 and 2019 for the same grade.

Alberta’s grade 4 student results for reading literacy in the Progress in the International Reading Literacy Study have declined over 10 years.

Between 2007 and 2019, their math scores dropped from 505 to 490, ranked 16th of 65 countries to 39th of 64 countries. For science during the same span, science scores dropped from 543 to 530, ranked 4th of 65 countries to 16th of 64 countries.

The revised and strengthened K-6 curriculum culminated in more than a year of consultations with parents, teachers, and subject matter experts and prefaced on proven research designed to improve student outcomes across all subjects.

The new curriculum delivers on the province’s commitment to give students the best possible chance at success, said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange on Monday.

“The new K-6 curriculum is inspired by the science of reading and brings to our teachers, parents, and children what is currently known around the world as best practice to support our children to become successful readers and writers,” said University of Alberta professor at the Faculty of Educational Psychology Dr. George Georgiou.

Greater emphasis on phonics and other proven best practices to master reading, writing, speaking, and listening will provide students with a strong foundation for learning, said a government press release Monday.

By focusing also on numbers and equations, the education ministry believes students will gain essential knowledge for everyday tasks and a foundation for more complex learning in the future.

“I am excited for both the teachers and their students, as it is a huge step towards evidence-based best practices in math education,” said parent and math advocate Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies.

“The new draft curriculum is clear, concise, concrete and comprehensive … [and] will give many parents great confidence that all our children will develop the mastery of fundamental knowledge, understanding, and skills in mathematics necessary to succeed in life.” 

Former Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, who is also a former member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in Alberta, said the province was the first to publicly declare it was launching its initiative to develop a mandatory curriculum on the Treaties and residential schools for all students. 

On the topic of citizenship, LaGrange said students will draw from history, geography, economics, civics, and other studies to develop an appreciation of how Canadians have built one of the most generous, prosperous, and diverse societies in the world.  

Littlechild said: “We believed that education, in general, is the key to reconciliation and with the work done to date; it is consistent with the United Nations Declaration in the promotion of respectful relationships between citizens and as a Chief, I am honoured to be a validator to the new education curriculum and look forward to its transforming and positive change.”

For practical skills, students will better learn household budgeting, digital literacy, business planning, healthy relationships and the importance of consent to learn a new set of essential skills to prepare them for success in the real world, said the press release.

The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce applauded the new focus of the curriculum on financial literacy and the foundational skills employers and entrepreneurs rely on daily. 

“This will help spur creative thinking and fuel a new generation of Alberta entrepreneurial leadership,” said Janet Riopel, its president and CEO.

Sheldon Kennedy, co-founder of Respect Group, said he is “thrilled” the Alberta government mandated consent as an essential part of the K-6 curriculum. 

“I have been advocating for these changes for many years and applaud this leadership. We know that this topic thrives on society’s ignorance and indifference, so the sooner we give our young people the tools and confidence, the better,” he said.

“To prevent maltreatment, we need to start at the youngest age possible, so, in my mind, this education will not only change lives, it will save them.”   

Alberta’s government has said it remains committed to a transparent review process. 

The draft K-6 curriculum is now online for all Albertans to provide feedback until spring 2022.  

The next steps include classroom validation, a process where school authorities are invited to test the draft curriculum, which is targeted to begin in September with schools across the province that choose to participate. The feedback from Albertans and the classroom validation will be incorporated into the draft K to 6 curricula before it is implemented across the province.

Six million dollars have been set aside this fiscal year to support the new K-6 curriculum in select schools supporting validation. These funds will be used to develop critical resources and professional development to support teachers through this important validation phase.   

Additional funds will be made available to support further implementation efforts in future budgets.  

Students are expected to be learning from the new curriculum during the 2022-23 school year.  

Dhaliwal is a Western Standard reporter based in Edmonton

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Opposition MPs ask government to ‘show them where the money is coming from’

“Say it’s $10 billion by July. There is no accountability for that.”

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The Liberal’s latest pandemic relief plans may actually be billions of dollars higher than estimated, says Blacklock’s Reporter.

The Department of Finance was in a “continued race to push money out the door,” said one MP.

Bill C-2 proposes benefits including lockdown subsidies for employers and workers estimated at $7.4 billion. The cost covers payments retroactively from October 24 to next May 7, though the bill allows cabinet to extend subsidies to July 2.

“The issue of course that we’re looking at here is accountability,” said Conservative MP Greg McLean (Calgary Centre) at the Commons Tuesday finance committee.

“If there’s an obvious extension, how do we hold the government accountable for that extension when it’s more money going out the door, more on top of the $7 billion you’re already planning to spend?

“Say it’s $10 billion by July. There is no accountability for that.”

Department of Finance managers said they did not know the cost to taxpayers if the program runs to July 2, 2022.

“I can’t answer that at this stage,” said Max Baylor, senior director with the department.

“It would presumably depend on the parameters.”

“I don’t know if it’s because things have been lax during COVID but this is something you need to get right for the country,” said McLean.

Bill C-2 was “just a blank chequebook,” he said.

“I know the government has had a blank chequebook for far too long,” McLean said.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre (Carleton, Ont.) questioned the bill’s impact on deficit projections.

“My question relates to the cost,” said Poilievre.

“How is the government paying the $7 billion associated with this proposal?”

No official answered, though 10 departmental witnesses appeared before the finance committee.”

“If they have anyone over there who is concerned about where the money comes from, that person could speak up,” said Poilievre:

  • MP Poilievre: “Clearly they’re getting the money from somewhere. Anyone here from Finance Canada?”
  • Director Baylor: “I can provide a high-level response but I’m afraid I won’t be able to answer directly…”
  • MP Poilievre: “Where is the money coming from?”
  • Director Baylor: “That is within the government’s broader macro-economic framework and I’m not responsible. I can’t speak to that.”
  • MP Poilievre: “You don’t have anyone? It’s just that we’re being asked to vote in favour of another $7 billion in spending. The obvious question is, where is it coming from?”
  • Director Baylor: “I appreciate the question, but I can’t answer that question.”

New Democrat MP Daniel Blaikie (Elmwood-Transcona, Man.) called the testimony “a waste of time” and complained the finance committee could not get straight answers to its questions.

“We’ve been here almost four hours and I haven’t gotten one thing I would classify as an answer to a question,” said Blaikie.

“I’ve asked for a breakdown of the budget. I don’t know if they really don’t have that answer or are on a mission of obfuscation.”

“You have to conclude that our civil servants who ought to be treating the legislature with respect aren’t being upfront about some of these questions, or you have to conclude the people who are running the country never bothered to ask them. Neither one is a very good outcome for Canadians.”

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland called Bill C-2 the last emergency appropriation for pandemic relief spending. Freeland is to release a fiscal update on deficit figures next Tuesday.

Parliament last May 5 voted to increase the federal debt ceiling to a record $1.831 trillion. It represented a 57% increase from the previous $1,168,000,000,000 limit under the 2017 Borrowing Authority Act.

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Flights from Vancouver to Kamloops priced more than $1,200 over Christmas

BC flight prices have skyrocketed over the Christmas season following flood damage to highways.

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Following substantial flooding in November, which led to savaged highways and infrastructure, many of those planning to visit family out of town for Christmas are forced to fly — and some will be paying exorbitant prices for it.

For example, a WestJet round trip — listed on Expedia — from Vancouver to Kamloops, BC on December 22, with a return flight on December 27 is listed at $1,264 as of Wednesday morning.

The normally 30-minute flight includes a nearly four-hour layover in Calgary.

On TripAdvisor, the same round trip is priced similarly.

Those planning a round trip from Vancouver to Kelowna, BC on the same dates will save a few hundred bucks in comparison to those headed for Kamloops. For example, one round trip with WestJet from Vancouver to Kelowna — December 22-27 — is listed at $741 on Wednesday, although it includes a six-hour layover in Edmonton.

Normal flight times between the locales are 55 minutes.

Prices on WestJet’s website are comparable. On Air Canada’s site, all are currently sold out for the aforementioned dates and locations.

However, those travelling between Vancouver and Kelowna can find cheaper trips on Swoop if they fly out of Abbotsford, BC. On Wednesday morning, a non-stop round trip from Abbotsford to Kelowna, departing on December 22 and returning on December 29, is priced under $300.

Reid Small is a BC-based reporter for the Western Standard
rsmall@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/reidsmall

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Top Ontario doc says separating vaxxed and unvaxxed best way to get COVID under control

Ontario has had more than 626,000 cases of COVID-19 which has left more than 10,000 people dead.

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One of the ways to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control is to stop “the mixing of unvaccinated and vaccinated,” says Ontario’s chief medical officer.

“Basic means of protecting individuals is stopping the mixing of unvaccinated and vaccinated,” said Dr. Kieran Moore at a Tuesday press conference.

“And if our cases continue through and after the holidays we would make recommendations of government to continue the certification process in play. But we’ll continue to review the data. We do have a very robust testing strategy in Ontario for the winter months as we’ve released previously. We’ve purchased … 11 million rapid antigen test for all students in Ontario.”

Moore was asked whether COVID-19 is “something we’re just going to have to learn to live with” and whether it would ever go away.

“We have a long ways to go with the World Health Organization and other international organizations to try to decrease the number of individuals in which this virus can mutate and/or spread,” he said.

“But I do see a time when we’ll have low, endemic rates and it will turn out to be like influenza or other winter respiratory viruses where there’s a seasonality to it, where it does have an intermittent impact on our health-care system and like influenza, you need an annual vaccine to protect against it.”

Ontario has had more than 626,000 cases of COVID-19 which has left more than 10,000 people dead.

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