Halifax continues to see “no value” in the data

Halifax The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) today agreed to a compromise to obtain partial historical records about student performance in schools under the Halifax Regional School Board (HRSB). This ends court action taken by AIMS in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia to secure basic performance measures from HRSB under the Freedom of Information Act.

These are measures that are readily available in neighbouring provinces and include average provincial exam and class marks by school, overall average, percentage of students with a grade of 80% or higher, attendance records, discipline statistics, average Grade 9 marks for math and language arts by school and postal code information about the distribution of students.

The deal reached today will see only provincial exam grades, corresponding teacher assigned grades and high school attendance rates released publicly by HRSB for a significantly reduced fee from the original estimate.

“This is a disappointing outcome not just for AIMS but for parents and taxpayers served by the Halifax Regional School Board,” says AIMS acting president Charles Cirtwill. “Simply put, the Institute was not prepared to finance the creation of improved records management processes within HRSB and so only a fraction of the information that should be available will be available.”

In most cases other Boards in the province have released everything that was requested, and for free. Apparently recognizing the value of this information to the public and to themselves, the Cape Breton Victoria, Strait, Acadian, South Shore and Chignecto Central Boards have all either released the information or committed to its release.

This appeal was purely focused on historical data. Nova Scotia school boards have already been ordered to keep better records of student achievement and provide those records to the provincial department of education beginning in 2005-2006 and going forward.

Cirtwill applauded that decision by the province. “We believe the province recognized that for their provincial exam and school improvement planning efforts to have real value for individual schools and school boards this data should be available. It took the steps it considered reasonable to make that happen and has worked with all the boards to start collecting the core data suggested by AIMS.”

Considering the arguments made in the affidavits filed by the Halifax Board in this appeal, the province still has a lot of work in front of it to ensure the new data set actually gets used by Board administrators.

“It is mind boggling that some Boards insist that they do not have this information when all of their counterparts do,” says Cirtwill. “In fact, Halifax secured and filed an affidavit from the Cape Breton Victoria School Board, one of the boards that did supply us with the information we were asking for, saying explicitly that the CB Victoria Board had not created any new records in response to our request. This was entirely our point – CB had the data, CB released the data, CB didn’t charge a fee, why should Halifax be any different? They made our argument for us.”

In its affidavit filed with the court, the HRSB admits that the analysis of average provincial exam marks is useful at the school level regarding the strengths and challenges at each school site, but it doesn’t consider such analysis to be of any value to the Board. Neither does it consider it useful for the Board to collect teacher assigned grades, data about average student progress in grade nine, nor attendance rates. It says it’s sufficient that a school has such information; the board does not need to know.


Follow the links below to read electronic copies of the affidavits filed in this case: 

For further information, please contact:

Charles Cirtwill, President (acting)
902-425-2494 – o / 902-489-7699 – cell

Barbara Pike, Director of Communications
902-446-3543 – o / 902-452-1172 – cell