Nova Scotia

Education plan promises to modernize curriculum, improve teaching

The McNeil government has released its response to a task force on Nova Scotia's public school system.

McNeil government releases response to ministerial panel report into public education

Education Minister Karen Casey today released the government's response to October's ministerial panel report on public education in the province. (iStock)

The McNeil government has released its response to a task force on Nova Scotia's public school system.

The five-year "action plan" contains dozens of promises to modernize education, create an innovative curriculum and improve teaching.

The province is also calling in the auditor general to assess school boards. The audit will examine the effectiveness of board management, governance and ability to deliver on key initiatives.

On Thursday, Education Minister Karen Casey declined to say whether she was considering eliminating school boards.

“I’m awaiting the report from the auditor general and then I will make my decision,” she told reporters.

The Liberals said in September, parents will see a stronger emphasis on math and literacy in the early grades. Their plan promises more access to modern technology.

The government is avoiding directly dealing with contentious recommendations concerning teachers. The ministerial panel called for more accountability for poor teacher performance.

It also said principals should be removed from the teachers union and teacher assignments should be tied to credentials and experience.

The action plan says such issues will be dealt with in negotiations with teachers during collective bargaining or through legislation.

Shelley Morse from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union says they are not keen on losing principals from the union.

"Certainly something we would not be looking forward to, so we will be having that discussions as well with our administrators and see what direction we will take."

The Liberals call their plan "sweeping."

But some of it is plain mushy. For instance, the province pledges to introduce "character development" in elementary school to promote empathy, honesty, respect, accountability and responsibility.

Below are the highlights of the 43-page report.

Coming September 2015

  • Create a streamlined, coordinated and innovative curriculum for P-3
  • Discontinue use of current homework guides and develop new homework standards
  • Funding for math tutors in P-3
  • Develop and implement a new school code of conduct with clear and concise standards for behaviour
  • Develop new province-wide criteria for placing a student on an Individual Program Plan or IPP
  • Add more Discovering Opportunities 9 programs across the province

Overall Action

  • Clarify the roles and responsibilities of all education partners
  • Review the efficiency and effectiveness of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in providing public education
  • Increase community access to schools
  • More time in school for math and literacy in the early grades
  • More hands-on learning
  • New provincial math tests in Grade 2
  • Make Grade 11 math a full-year course and cap Math 10, 11 classes to 24 students
  • Crack down on unacceptable behavior in the classroom
  • Report annually to public on the progress of the action plan

Issues to be negotiated with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union

  • Changes to the school year
  • Removal of principals and school board administrators from the union
  • Creation of a robust teacher evaluation
  • New requirements for teacher certification

Morse says any changes will have to wait until the next round of talks.

"Well we certainly won't be negotiating outside our collective agreement," she said. "We will be going into our negotiations later on this year and we will discuss those issues at the table."

For Morse, one thing is for sure, the union will fight for their principals.

"We will protecting our PD (professional development) and we would be protecting our administrators," she said.

About the Author

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.

With files from Jean Laroche

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