In Brief: Finally, the Halifax Regional School Board is going to do what AIMS has said is in the best interest of public education – release school by school results. In this article in the Chronicle-Herald, AIMS Executive Vice President, Charles Cirtwill, speaks about the Nova Scotia Teachers Union’s objection to publishing the results from the standardized tests.
Nova Scotia teachers don’t want to show us their own report cards.
The Halifax regional school board is planning to start releasing school-by-school results of standardized testing. But the union representing the people who teach the municipality’s 52,000 students are opposed to the move.
“This is a form of ranking,” said Alexis Allen, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. “The school board is indicating collectively how they compare with other schools, and I think that sets up a school for failure.”
Publicizing low marks on the tests will hurt school morale, she said.
“Then you’re under the microscope, and people are looking, saying, ‘Well, why didn’t your school do as well as that other school down the street?’ ” Ms. Allen said.
She questions how posting the results on the Internet will help students learn.
“If more literacy support or more math support is required, the school board can say, ‘Let’s support that school by providing more.’ They don’t need to post it there for all to see, and that’s a real concern.”
The testing, which does not affect students’ marks, fails to take into account contributing factors such as class sizes and socio-economic conditions, she said.
“All you get is a snapshot,” Ms. Allen said. “I see no value in this.”
Howard Windsor has been acting as a one-man school board since December 2006, when Education Minister Karen Casey dismissed the elected board because of infighting. A new board will be elected next month.
Board superintendent Carole Olsen, who insisted the literacy and math tests in question be called assessments, said publishing test results is not meant to be a form of ranking schools.
“What we’re trying to do now is to set the standard that every school over the next five years will demonstrate some improvements against itself,” Ms. Olsen said.
“The purpose of this is to show where we’re strong in terms of our programs and show where there are some areas where we can improve.”
No decision has made yet about what grade level results will be released publicly, she said.
The issue will come before the board later this month “so that we can be open and transparent and accountable for how we’re going to go about improving student achievement for all of our students,” Ms. Olsen said.
Publishing test results “allows people to focus their energies on real problems,” said Charles Cirtwill, president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, which has produced a report card on the province’s schools for six years. “It allows you to identify schools that are doing well in areas where you’re not, so it encourages you to pick up the phone and call them.”
He had several ideas about why teachers don’t want the test results posted online.
“People are uncomfortable with having their work assessed,” Mr. Cirtwill said. “And, of course, the unions are worried that this is going to lead to the next step around school choice, that it’s going to attack their monopoly control over the supply of education services in the province. And then there’s the entire question around actually shifting the balance of power in the education system. The more parents and students know, the more they’re able to actually take control.”
The province’s Education Department conducts standardized testing on students in grades 3, 6, 9 and 12. Some of the results have been available on the Internet since 2003.
“We do it for Grade 6 at the moment, and this 2007 Minister’s Report to Parents — that’s going to have school-by-school breakdowns in early elementary math, that’s Grade 3 math; early elementary literacy, which is Grade 3 literacy; and the junior high literacy exam,” department spokesman Peter McLaughlin said.