SRSB tackles recommendations of classroom council

PORT HAWKESBURY: Concern with regards to new formats for math and literacy assessments frequently arose during the Strait regional school board’s (SRSB) latest public meeting.

The SRSB’s superintendent of schools, Ford Rice, presented the 40 official recommendations from the province-wide Council to Improve Classroom Conditions (CICC) that was established by then-Education Minister Karen Casey as part of the new contract imposed on members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) last winter.

Of these recommendations, 13 were listed as “complete,” with 13 more characterized as “in progress,” another 12 described as “ongoing,” and two more to be completed within the 2017-18 academic year.

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Several board members expressed concern with changes that are proposed for assessments to be carried out at the senior elementary and high school levels. This process was suspended last November when the NSTU launched its work-to-rule job action, but the superintendent noted that several levels of this assessment process are slated to resume in the fall.

“We will continue to have an assessment in Grade 3 reading, writing and math and Grade 6 reading, writing and math, and we’re going to have reading, writing, and math in Grade 8,” Rice said. “It’s just that, where everything was sort of put on hold, it’s sort of stopped right now.”

The superintendent’s comments came in response to concerns raised by African-Nova Scotian representative Joanne Reddick, who expressed fears that students from the communities she represents could be placed at a disadvantage by any changes to the assessment process.

“We’ve been left behind so many times and it’s taken decades upon decades to get to where we’re at now, and I would not want to see us left behind [again],” Reddick warned.

“I understand everything that happened to get us to this point, and I understand how strong the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is. But I also understand how strong my community is, and how it can pull together.”

Similar concerns were echoed by West Antigonish representative Richelle MacLaughlin, who asked about the possibility of individual board members having more input on the implementation process for the council’s recommendations.

“We might have different ideas – there are 12 of us, and we could have 10 really different suggestions coming through,” MacLaughlin said at the August 16 meeting.

Rice responded that such discussions have taken place among the SRSB’s principals, and insisted that the board will do all it can to ensure that its students are properly assessed at the board level and the provincial level alike.