School board issues open letter regarding curriculum changes
By Chad Ingram
Published July 26, 2018
The Trillium Lakelands District School Board has issued an open letter to students, staff and parents regarding changes to the public school curriculum under Ontario’s new provincial government.
“Over the past several weeks, there has been widespread speculation and opinion in mainstream and social media about recent decisions by the newly elected government,” the letter reads. “This includes information about changes regarding the Health and Physical Education (HPE) curriculum, mathematics instruction and the cancellation of the Indigenous Education curriculum writing that was to occur in July. We want to clarify our position with each of these issues since many are wondering what September and the upcoming school year holds for us all.”
Since his majority win in early June, Premier Doug Ford has announced that a planned Indigenous curriculum will not proceed, and the PC government has also revoked the sex ed curriculum put into place by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government in 2015. Until a new curriculum is drafted, the plan is for students to learn the previous one, which was instituted in 1998, when they return to school in the fall. However, that plan has drawn criticism since the old curriculum does not deal with issues such as consent, gender identity and Internet safety. Ford has said there will be public consultation in the creation of a new sex ed curriculum.
“With regard to the HPE curriculum, and more specifically, concerns about the so called ‘sex ed’ component, we understand an additional review will be undertaken by the government,” the letter reads. “Reports suggest 4,000 respondents took part in the previous review, which essentially equates to less than one respondent from every elementary and secondary school in the province. We will certainly participate in that review if given an opportunity, and we encourage you to personally engage in any way you are able. All voices need to be heard on this issue and it is our hope that the views of TLDSB, our staff, students, and parents will be given consideration as part of the upcoming review. In the meantime, our shared responsibility to our students must not be ignored. Teaching about gender identity, acceptance, and understanding for our LGBTQ community members, sexual health issues including consent, making appropriate personal choices, and internet safety must continue at home and at school. We will continue to seek ways to teach our students these very important lessons through the various curriculum guidelines we follow. We will of course respect the direction the government has chosen to take, always remembering that the curriculum guidelines in any subject are viewed as a starting point to teaching, learning, and assessment and that there are always additional avenues we can follow.”
Ford has also promised to change Ontario’s “discovery math” curriculum, which focuses on critical thinking about mathematical concepts, putting concept before procedure. Discovery math has been criticized by some, and standardized test scores in math have dropped throughout the province during the past several years.
“In mathematics we, like many other boards, continue to struggle on standardized assessments,” the letter reads. “It is important to remember that external assessments are intended to be a snapshot of student achievement. We will continue to place our confidence in daily and ongoing assessments in our classrooms by our teachers who know our students best. We will continue to seek greater balance in our instruction. This may mean additional practice opportunities for students, balanced with appropriate amounts of group and independent problem solving. To suggest one size or strategy will solve our math challenges would be irresponsible and is not something we have historically done in TLDSB. Our curriculum services teams will continue to build on our work in mathematics, and continue participation in professional learning opportunities that come our way.”
The letter also indicates that Indigenous education will continue within the area served by the board.
TLDSB we have made enormously positive strides with regard to
Indigenous education,” it reads. “This is something we are very proud
of, and will not retreat from.”