PORT HAWKESBURY: Despite the reported impact of this past year’s job action by the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union (NSTU), officials with the Strait regional school board (SRSB) are continuing with mentorship programs and other initiatives designed to solidify recent results from provincial assessments of students from Grades 3-6.

As part of his report to the latest regular SRSB meeting at Port Hawkesbury’s SAERC Auditorium, superintendent of schools Ford Rice presented the results from math and literacy assessments carried out within elementary school levels over the 2016-17 academic year. SRSB students exceeded the provincial average in 10 of the 12 assessment categories, landing first overall in Grade 3 Reading, tying for first overall in Grade 6 Reading, and tying for first place in three of the four Grade 6 Writing categories.

At the same meeting, during an update of the SRSB’s Education Business Plan for the 2016-17 academic year, Rice noted that all Strait region teachers from Grades 4-6 received professional development on curriculum, assessment of reading and writing, using assessment to guide instruction, and language and literacy development. Teachers also received professional development to administrate writing development, to assess writing, and to use the data to improve student achievement, Rice noted.

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However, the superintendent said this training and the introduction of math and literacy mentors at the senior elementary level “might have been interrupted” due to the NSTU work-to-rule job action that took place briefly in December and was re-launched in January and February. He said this activity also scuttled plans for professional development that was to be provided to classroom teachers in the area of literacy training.

“Our program staff has still been able to do as much as we can under the circumstances that we found ourselves in,” Rice told the June 7 board meeting.

“But even though the job action lasted [several weeks], we were still able to do some really good work – not to the extent that we had hoped, but we were still able to do it.”

In the meantime, Rice reported that three more literacy mentors have been introduced within the SRSB’s Grades Primary-to-12 framework, and added that Individual Program Plans (IPPs) for SRSB students have now been completed by their respective teachers, despite delays in this process that the superintendent also attributed to the NSTU job action.

“Even though it was an incredible year, a unique year, we were still able to confirm our responsibility by completing our IPPs,” the superintendent declared.

While West Antigonish board member Richelle MacLaughlin stressed the importance of the public’s acceptance that “the schools shouldn’t be held accountable for something that was out of their control,” African-Nova Scotian representative Joanne Reddick praised the SRSB and its teachers and students for the recent assessment results.

“I know that this is a complete turnaround from years ago,” Reddick remarked, “and I’d like to acknowledge that I’m very pleased with the programs that we have.”