Ms. Carole Olsen, Superintendent
Halifax Regional School Board
90 Alderney Drive
Dartmouth, NS  B2Y 4S8

Re: OPEN LETTER – The public has a right to know

Dear Superintendent Olsen:

You were recently quoted as saying “we believe we have more in-depth data that’s more directly related to student achievement than what the AIMS report provides us”. Your statement raises serious concerns about the state of the relationship between public educators and the people they serve and about your understanding of what, exactly, the AIMS Report Card is.

First, what are these measures that you speak of? Since the launch of the AIMS Report Card five years ago, AIMS has been asking the Departments of Education and school boards for a list of alternative measures of student performance.

Second, why has your school board not released this information? If you have in-depth school level data more directly related to student achievement than the data your school board has already released to the public and the department of education then it is inexcusable that such information has not been released.

Students, parents, and the general public deserve to know how their schools are doing. The province has recognized this by offering the early literacy assessment data on a school by school basis and by instructing all boards in the province, including yours, to collect and report on a go forward basis school level information about teacher assigned grades, provincial exam marks, attendance, and discipline.

The provincial government has taken the first baby steps to get beyond the old approach of managing the release of information to avoid having to answer tough questions. It has begun to trust the public (not to mention the public’s elected representatives in the Legislature) with school level data.

School level data is reported to everyone, not the people the province judges best capable of understanding or using the information. Will you commit to doing the same?

Third, the AIMS Report Card on Atlantic Canadian High Schools is based entirely on data reported and/or collected by the provincial Departments of Education, local school boards and individual postsecondary institutions. As you are well aware, AIMS has spent considerable time and effort working for better public reporting in Nova Scotia. Your board has been a special barrier to this effort. We spent five years fighting you through legislation and finally the courts to make what data you collect public. Even then in sworn affidavits your staff said they did not consider most of the data they now report to the province as being useful for the work of the Board.

It is time to stop responding to the crisis in our education system with assurances that “if you knew what we knew you would not be worried”. It is not good enough to say you have it unless you are willing to share it with everyone who has a stake in public education, with every parent, every child, and every citizen.

Hoarding such valuable information does nothing to help our students be the best that they can be.  The public should know what you know, and they should know it now.

Kindest Regards,

Charles Cirtwill
President (acting) and High School Report Card Co-author

cc: Howard Windsor