Nova Scotia

Teacher assignments under review

Nova Scotia's education minister is creating a committee to examine why some teachers are assigned to teach topics they know little about.

Nova Scotia's education minister is creating a committee to examine why some teachers are assigned to teach topics they know little about.

It's not a new problem. But with enrolment shrinking, teachers who want to keep their jobs are often assigned subjects outside of their areas of expertise.

Education Minister Ramona Jennex said some teachers have complained to her about their assignments.

As a former Grade 1 teacher, she admits she wouldn't want to be in that situation.

"I would never feel comfortable being put in a Grade 11 chemistry class. I would be literally a few hours ahead in trying to catch up because I couldn't remember my chemistry. I don't have the expertise in that," she said Tuesday.

Jennex wants to know how many teachers are struggling to keep ahead of their students.

"We want to make sure the teachers that are moving are going to be comfortable in the positions that they're placed," she said.

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The most recent data on teaching assignments is five years old.

According to a 2007 report, only 37 per cent of junior high math teachers had a background in that area. For English, it was 59 per cent.

Teachers can bump up their salaries by upgrading their skills. On professional development days, teachers sometimes take courses out of the province or country.

Jennex wants to know the value of those courses.

"We want to make sure that the work that teachers are doing actually benefits the students in our classroom. It's actually going to inform their classroom practice," she said.

NSTU to participate

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union has been asked to take part in the process, along with school boards and universities. Parents may be consulted too.

NSTU president Alexis Allen welcomes the review.

"This opportunity to get more recent data is welcome as we want to clear up any misinformation around teacher effectiveness," she said in a news release Wednesday.

Last week, the union organized rallies outside MLA offices to demand more money for education. It says there will be more than $65 million in cuts by the next school year.

Allen said they expect to lose 300 teaching positions this year after losing 300 last year.

"Class sizes are going up, and that means there are limited opportunities for teachers to be assigned to their area of expertise. We hope this working group will allow the minister to see the problem more clearly," she said.