Provincial assessments stopped as teacher strike looms

Education Minister Karen Casey says this isn't meant to influence labour dispute with teachers

Provincial school assessments have been suspended to lighten the workload for teachers.
Provincial school assessments have been suspended to lighten the workload for teachers.   Rowan Morrissy

Karen Casey, minister of education and early child development, announced on Monday that most provincial assessments and testing are suspended for primary to Grade 12 students in Nova Scotia.

Casey said that this is being done to help the province determine if these assessments should continue and which ones are most beneficial.

“Teachers are raising legitimate issues affecting their classrooms,” she said during a news conference. “I want them to know that I am listening and want to work with them, their union and school boards in resolving those issues.”

This announcement comes in the middle of a labour dispute between the province and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. On Thursday, the minister will sit down with teachers to talk about issues they have, primarily those concerning wages and workload. The union argues that teachers spend too much time on paperwork instead of creating lesson plans and that paperwork for these assessments is only adding to this work.

“This (decision) is not intended to influence the teacher strike,” said Casey.

Casey said teachers voiced concerns regarding these tests because they take up “valuable” class time. With the younger grades, these assessments are individual interviews with students that can take up to 15 minutes per student. If a class has 20 students, that’s five hours being dedicated to the interviews.

Outside of class time, teachers must record all the information collected into programs like PowerSchool. PowerSchool is used by the Halifax Regional School Board to monitor attendance, behaviour and class scheduling.

‘Symbolic’ move

Liette Doucet, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, said that while she appreciates this change, the suspension seems “symbolic in nature.”

Almost all of the provincial assessments for this school year have already been administered,” she said in a news release. “Data has been entered and teachers have already felt the overburdening of this process.”

Academic assessments take place in the fall for elementary schools and in late spring for junior high schools. Students in grades 3 and 4 students completed their reading, writing and mathematics assessments between Oct. 3 and 7.

Teachers will still be expected to monitor student success through their own assessments and Grade 10 provincial exams won’t be affected by the suspension.

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