Nova Scotia

A look at student assessments and how they're used

As the education minister suspends student assessments, teachers say there is little value for all the work they require while some boards say they provide important information.

Teachers don't see much use for the added work, although boards use data to help direct resources

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union says assessments required by the province and school boards amount to extra work from which they see no benefit. (Tom Woodward/Flickr Creative Commons)

Education Minister Karen Casey suspended all provincial student assessments on Tuesday and called on school boards to do the same.

But what does that mean? A lot of people were spending the afternoon trying to figure it out.

Provincially, the following assessments have been suspended:

  • Grade Primary — early development instrument
  • Grade 1 — observation survey of early literacy achievement
  • Grade 2 — Common classroom math assessment
  • Grade 3 — Nova Scotia assessment reading/writing
  • Grade 3 — French immersion Nova Scotia reading/writing
  • Grade 4 — Nova Scotia assessment math (French and English)
  • Grade 5 — n/a
  • Grade 6 — Nova Scotia assessment reading/writing/math
  • Grade 7 — n/a
  • Grade 8 — Nova Scotia assessment reading/writing/math
  • Grade 9 — n/a
  • Grade 11 — n/a
  • Grade 12 — n/a

Of note, all of the assessments have already been completed this year, with the exception of the Grade 8 assessment scheduled for May 23 to June 2; the second round of the Grade 1 and Grade 2 assessments (both scheduled for May/June); and the Grade Primary work, due in February.

Casey did not cancel the Grade 10 provincial English, French and math exams because they count toward students' final mark.

Teachers see little value in assessments

The board assessments vary from board to board, although Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Liette Doucet said teachers have complaints similar to those with the provincial assessments. She estimated the time commitments to be similar to those required by the province.

"I have not heard positive messages about those assessments from teachers," she said. "I expect that teachers believe that the assessments that they are doing with their students are the assessments that have more meaning."

Teachers use their own assessments to inform their teaching, said Doucet, and see no evidence the boards or department use the results of the assessments they require.

Boards still trying to understand implications

Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board superintendent Beth MacIsaac said most of the common assessments her board does relate to numeracy and literacy skills. A Grade Primary assessment due in January will be suspended, for example.

MacIsaac said the information collected is valuable because it gives an indication of what areas need more resources.

"It's an indicator of student achievement, basically, at a particular level and in a particular school," she said.

A spokeswoman for the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board said it would take several days to determine the impact of the minister's decision and couldn't provide a list of their assessments.

"We have some assessments that happen, as well as surveys and other data-gathering initiatives that need to be examined in light of the minister's request," said Debbie Boutt-Matheson.

"At this point we need to look at all of these potential data-gathering tools together to determine what needs to be suspended and what might be able to continue."

A spokesman for the Halifax board said the only assessment it does is a mid-course assessment for Grade 10 math to identify any gaps in the curriculum.