Better Education, Brighter Future

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"As math scores plunge and report cards become increasingly difficult to understand, a United Conservative government will reset the curriculum rewrite, restore fundamentals to math and affirm the primary role of parents in choosing how their children are taught. It's time to bring common sense to education."

  • Under the NDP, class sizes in Alberta have continued to increase, math and reading scores have declined, Alberta's successful tradition of school choice has been under attack, the carbon tax has taken valuable resources away from classrooms, and curriculum have been taking place largely in secret.
  • Alberta’s children deserve an excellent, world-class education that will equip them intellectually, socially, and with jobs-ready skills for life.
  • To ensure that education is a key advantage for Alberta, a United Conservative government would work with parents, teachers, and principals to once again make Alberta’s schools the choice-based, excellent classrooms that all Albertans desire and deserve.
  • The United Conservatives recognize that every child is unique and that parents, not politicians, know what is best for their children.

A United Conservative government will:

Maintain or increase education funding while seeking greater efficiency by reducing administrative overhead and pushing resources to front line teachers.

Continue to build new schools. This will include ordering an immediate audit of class sizes to determine what happened to previous funding dedicated to class size reduction, and prioritizing public infrastructure funds for schools and health care infrastructure.

End the focus on so-called “discovery” or “inquiry” learning, also known as constructivism, by repealing Minister Order #001/2013. A UCP government will develop a new Ministerial Order which focusses on teaching essential knowledge to help students develop foundational competencies.

Pause the NDP’s curriculum review, and broaden consultations to be open and transparent, including a wider range of perspectives from parents, teachers, and subject matter experts. Curriculum reform should begin by determining the key knowledge and skills that Alberta students should possess by the time of their high school matriculation, written in plain language that students, parents, and teachers can understand. 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. The social studies curriculum should be taught without political bias, offering an objective understanding of Alberta, Canadian and world history, geography, and civic literacy. Basic financial literacy should also be included in the curriculum.

Reform student assessment so that students, parents and teachers can clearly identify areas of strength and weakness. This will include:

Bringing back the Grade 3 Provincial Achievement Test

Returning to a 50/50 split between Diploma and school grades for Grade 12

Implementing language and math assessments for students in grades 1, 2, and 3 to help both parents and teachers understand and assess progress in the critical early years, and remedy where necessary

Require clear, understandable report cards that make sense to children and parents to address areas of competence and areas that need to be improved upon.

Focus on excellence in outcomes, including benchmarking the Alberta education system against leading global jurisdictions; ensuring teachers have expertise in subject areas by introducing teacher testing; expand options for schools to facilitate expertise; requiring that the education faculties in Alberta’s universities themselves require that teachers take courses in the subjects they will one day teach in schools.

Support safe schools that protect students against discrimination and bullying; and reinforce the need for open, critical debate and thinking as key to lifelong learning.

Proclaim the Education Act (2014), taking effect on September 1, 2019.

A UCP government will trust the hard work done by those who created the 2014 Education Act, and proclaim that legislation, already passed by the Legislature. Unlike the NDP’s curriculum review, conducted largely in secret, the 2014 Education Act resulted from years of widespread public consultation.

Alberta has a strong legacy of diversity in education. A UCP government will uphold the established right of parents to choose the education setting best suited for their children including: public, separate, charter, independent, alternative and home education programs.

A UCP government will:

Introduce a Choice in Education Act which will

Affirm parents have primary responsibility for the education of their children

Add to the preamble of the Education Act recognition of Section 26.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

Protect the status and funding of independent schools in legislation given that they save the public education system $168 million annually.1

Facilitate the creation and operation of new charter schools by

Lifting the cap on the number of charter schools

Lifting charter school enrolment caps

Allowing charter schools to own property

Treat charter schools as priorities above other possible uses for surplus public-school infrastructure

Support and encourage an expansion of alternative programs in the public system

Respect the constitutional right to separate schools

Maintain funding for independent schools and home schoolers at current levels

Encourage the sharing of busing and infrastructure where appropriate, while respecting the distinctive nature of both systems

Amend the Education Act to implement the Leadership Quality Standards

Ensure that requests from parents for blended homeschool programs are facilitated

Reduce paperwork burdens on teachers, principals and other school staff, and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens throughout the system.

This will include:

Establishing alternative pathways to teaching certification for those in specialized areas of knowledge

Introducing more regular assessment of teacher performance

Ensuring subject-matter competence

A UCP government will work with parents, teachers and principals to once again make Alberta’s schools the choice-based, excellent classrooms that all Albertans desire and deserve. A UCP government will defer to parents as the natural guardians of a child’s best interests and will trust teachers as professionals.

Currently many rural schools are unable to offer programs that the Department of Education requires of them because of small and shrinking enrollment. This sometimes causes families to move away, exacerbating the problem of population and funding decline. A UCP government will determine how modifications to the funding formula could resolve these challenges.

For More Information, Please See Below

In the recent past, Alberta had a world-leading education system. Reforms that created choice, competition, and a standard of excellence led to Alberta having world-leading educational outcomes.2 And of course, report cards used to make sense to children and parents. 

Unfortunately, in recent years, Alberta has been losing its edge. Math scores in particular, once an Alberta strength, are declining rapidly.3 At the same time, international test scores such as PISA show more general performance declines,4while scores in other countries are rising. This means that Alberta students will be less well equipped to compete in the globalized, digital economy of the future.

United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney said today, “It just doesn’t add up. As education spending has been increasing, scores and outcomes have been declining. We owe it to parents and children to get better outcomes for the money that is being spent on education. A United Conservative government will ensure that money is reaching the classroom, that we end the failed experiment with discovery math, and focus the curriculum on teaching critical knowledge so students are prepared to succeed in the future. We will also strengthen standardized testing, and require clear, understandable report cards. We have to turn this around.”

Alberta’s declining scores are not for lack of taxpayer spending. As the Fraser Institute noted in January, per-student spending in Alberta is above the national average ($13,430 compared to $12,791) and well above neighbouring British Columbia ($11,656).5

Another report from last November points out that whereas Alberta used to outperform both, it now ranks below British Columbia and is essentially tied with Ontario. The government’s own Provincial Achievement Tests also show a downward trend: “In short,” said Fraser, “spending is up but student outcomes are down.”4

The NDP government’s own provincial testing confirmed lagging performance in October: “Just half of ninth-graders who wrote the math provincial achievement test last spring passed a new calculator-free segment that requires students to plow through 20 questions in 20 minutes, according to a report released by Alberta Education.”6 

In 1995, nine per cent of Grade 4 students in Alberta ranked at the top level for math, but just 2.4 per cent students hit that mark on the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), while Alberta’s percentage exploded in the category of students who lack even a basic knowledge of math. It went from six per cent of Grade 4 students in 2011 to 13.2 per cent in 2015.7

Last year, 2,400 Grade 9 students in the Calgary public school system failed the provincial standardized math test, and that was with a pass standard of 42%.

The decline in student performance in math shown by PISA results is confirmed by the province’s own standardized testing. Indeed, the share of Grade 9 students scoring “below acceptable standards” has increased from 24.8 per cent in 2013/14 to 33.3 per cent in 2017/18—an increase of 34.3 per cent.8

Last year at the Calgary Board of Education, only 59.4 per cent of students achieved acceptable standards in the Grade 9 math provincial achievement test – in other words, 40.6 per cent failed. Meanwhile, in the Calgary Catholic School District, 73.4 per cent received 50 per cent or more – in other words, 26.6 per cent of students failed the test. Provincewide, only 66.7 per cent of students passing the achievement test last year, a nearly ten per cent drop from 75.5 in 2016-17.9

Parents have been forced to respond to this huge decline in math proficiency by spending thousands of dollars to enroll their kids in private tutoring programs.10

This leaves lower income children, and often the children of immigrants, at a growing disadvantage. It also has troubling implications for Alberta’s future economic competitiveness in a globalized, digital world.

Class sizes have continued to grow under the NDP, despite additional money dedicated to classroom size reduction.11

The NDP has attacked Alberta’s successful tradition of school choice, capping the number of charter schools, trying to shut down the largest home schooling board until stopped by the Courts, and picking fights with independent schools.

The NDP Minister of Education has increasingly centralized decision making in his office, undermining the authority of school boards, superintendents, principals and teachers.

The NDP carbon tax has taken valuable resources away from school boards. The Calgary Public School Board had to take five busses off the roads in order to pay for its $3.3 million carbon tax bill.12

Changes the NDP made to school fees caused the cancellation of bus service for children from low income areas attending alternative programs.13

Math and reading scores have continued to decline under the NDP.

The NDP led curriculum reforms have largely taken place in secret, with a total lack of transparency about which experts are being consulted.

The government’s draft K-4 curriculum has been criticized by parent groups for failing adequately to address the precipitous decline in math proficiency and reading. As education advocate Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies has said, “Vague language referencing unspecified ‘strategies’ places students at risk of not learning any one method, or even the algorithms, consistently and adequately to master the fundamentals of mathematics. This vague K-4 math draft language (as with the 2007 discovery- based curriculum) is a serious disservice to students.”7

Education commentators have also remarked on the lack of objective historical and geographic knowledge in the draft K-4 social studies curriculum. As Edmonton Journal columnist David Staples recently noted, there is not a single word about Albertans or Canadians per say in the draft social studies curriculum. He also observed, “There’s barely a mention of geography in the document and only one reference to any kind of history being taught. That particular reference tells us Grade 4 students are to engage in ‘analyzing various actions taken to address historical injustices.’…  For now [I] can only suggest this curriculum needs to be completely reworked by apolitical subject experts in history and geography, or at least by experts with wide viewpoint diversity.”14

To ensure that education is a key advantage for Alberta, a UCP government will embrace and expand Alberta’s world-leading model of school choice, a model that recognizes that every child is unique, and that parents, not politicians, know what is best for their children.

Alberta’s children deserve an excellent, world-class education that will equip them intellectually, socially, and with jobs-ready skills for life.

If elected, a UCP government will:

1) Maintain or increase education funding while seeking greater efficiency by reducing administrative overhead and pushing resources to front line teachers.

2) Continue to build new schools. This will include ordering an immediate audit of class sizes to determine what happened to previous funding dedicated to class size reduction, and prioritizing public infrastructure funds for schools and health care infrastructure.

3) End the focus on so-called “discovery” or “inquiry” learning, also known as constructivism, by repealing Minister Order #001/2013. A UCP government will develop a new Ministerial Order which focusses on teaching essential knowledge to help students develop foundational competencies.

4) Pause the NDP’s curriculum review, and broaden consultations to be open and transparent, including a wider range of perspectives from parents, teachers, and subject matter experts. Curriculum reform should begin by determining the key knowledge and skills that Alberta students should possess by the time of their high school matriculation, written in plain language that students, parents, and teachers can understand. 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. The social studies curriculum should be taught without political bias, offering an objective understanding of Alberta, Canadian and world history, geography, and civic literacy. Basic financial literacy should also be included in the curriculum.

5) Reform student assessment so that students, parents and teachers can clearly identify areas of strength and weakness. This will include:

Bringing back the Grade 3 Provincial Achievement Test

Returning to a 50/50 split between Diploma and school grades for Grade 12

Implementing language and math assessments for students in grades 1, 2, and 3 to help both parents and teachers understand and assess progress in the critical early years, and remedy where necessary

6) Require clear, understandable report cards

7) Focus on excellence in outcomes, including benchmarking the Alberta education system against leading global jurisdictions; ensuring teachers have expertise in subject areas by introducing teacher testing; expand options for schools to facilitate expertise; requiring that the education faculties in Alberta’s universities themselves require that teachers take courses in the subjects they will one day teach in schools.

8) Support safe schools that protect students against discrimination and bullying; and reinforce the need for open, critical debate and thinking as key to lifelong learning.

9) Proclaim the Education Act (2014), taking effect on September 1, 2019. A UCP government will trust the hard work done by those who created the 2014 Education Act, and proclaim that legislation, already passed by the Legislature. Unlike the NDP’s curriculum review, conducted largely in secret, the 2014 Education Act resulted from years of widespread public consultation.

10) Affirm parental choice through a Choice in Education Act Alberta has a strong legacy of diversity in education. A UCP government will uphold the established right of parents to choose the education setting best suited for their children including: public, separate, charter, independent, alternative and home education programs.

A UCP government will:

Introduce a Choice in Education Act which will

Affirm parents have primary responsibility for the education of their children

Add to the preamble of the Education Act recognition of Section 26.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

Protect the status and funding of independent schools in legislation given that they save the public education system $168 million annually.1

Facilitate the creation and operation of new charter schools by

Lifting the cap on the number of charter schools

Lifting charter school enrolment caps

Allowing charter schools to own property

Treat charter schools as priorities above other possible uses for surplus public-school infrastructure

Support and encourage an expansion of alternative programs in the public system

Respect the constitutional right to separate schools

Maintain funding for independent schools and home schoolers at current levels

Encourage the sharing of busing and infrastructure where appropriate, while respecting the distinctive nature of both systems

Amend the Education Act to implement the Leadership Quality Standards

Ensure that requests from parents for blended homeschool programs are facilitated

11) Reduce paperwork burdens on teachers, principals and other school staff, and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens throughout the system.

12) Review and implement selected recommendations from the Task Force for Teaching Excellence. This will include:

Establishing alternative pathways to teaching certification for those in specialized areas of knowledge

Introducing more regular assessment of teacher performance

Ensuring subject-matter competence

A UCP government will work with parents, teachers and principals to once again make Alberta’s schools the choice-based, excellent classrooms that all Albertans desire and deserve. A UCP government will defer to parents as the natural guardians of a child’s best interests and will trust teachers as professionals.

13) Review the current funding formula to ensure that rural schools have adequate resources to deliver programs in an equitable way.

Currently many rural schools are unable to offer programs that the Department of Education requires of them because of small and shrinking enrollment. This sometimes causes families to move away, exacerbating the problem of population and funding decline. A UCP government will determine how modifications to the funding formula could resolve these challenges.

Appendix: Stakeholder support

“The UCP Education Plan re-establishes priorities in Alberta that are of significant importance to the education of our children. To meet the demands of an increasingly competitive job market, our schools must prepare students by clearly establishing standards of excellence, caring learning environments, and supporting parent choice. The Plan recognizes and asserts these ideals by affirming stable funding, a focus on needed student skills and outcomes, and by promoting a sensible curriculum.  The Plan also recognizes that teaching is a noble profession that should both demand and support teachers to be role models who spark creativity and maximize the ability to learn in each and every child. Albertans should feel a great deal of optimism about the plan outlined by the UCP.”

Dr. Martin Mrazik, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta, Clinical Neuropsychologist.

To read the News Release, please click here

  1. https://tinyurl.com/y3du2xo9[🠝][🠝]
  2. https://www.macleans.ca/education/uniandcollege/why-albertas-education-system-is-better/ inter alia[🠝]
  3. https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/government-edmonton-school-districts-release-2017-18-test-scores.[🠝]
  4. https://www.fraserinstitute.org/studies/k-12-education-reform-in-alberta[🠝][🠝]
  5. https://www.fraserinstitute.org/sites/default/files/education-spending-in-canada-2019_0.pdf[🠝]
  6. https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/government-edmonton-school-districts-release-2017-18-test-scores[🠝]
  7. https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/david-staples-new-k-4-math-curriculum-promising-but-has-some-defiencies[🠝][🠝]
  8. https://www.fraserinstitute.org/blogs/alberta-needs-education-reform[🠝]
  9. https://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/more-than-40-per-cent-of-grade-9-cbe-students-failed-math-pat[🠝]
  10. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/why-discovery-based-learning-doesnt-add-up/article14402103/[🠝]
  11. https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/alberta-school-class-size-crowded-rooms-surged-as-spending-remained-untracked[🠝]
  12. https://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/carbon-tax-takes-huge-bite-out-of-cbe-budget-taking-five-and-a-half-buses-off-the-road[🠝]
  13. https://globalnews.ca/news/3729753/calgary-parents-pay-for-their-own-alternative-to-cancelled-school-bus-service/[🠝]
  14. https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/david-staples-in-new-social-studies-curriculum-theres-no-such-things-as-albertans[🠝]
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