Category Archives: Nova Scotia Education

Forget test scores: fight poverty and keep education public

Two opinion pieces in a recent issue of the Chronicle-Herald, one an editorial and the other by Paul Bennett, spoke of the difficult learning conditions in some of Nova Scotia’s most impoverished neighbourhoods. Both are to be commended for highlighting the clear connections between poverty and school success (Be bold first in education, Radical intervention for faltering schools; both April 19).

But in the Ivany-report-inspired rush to “be bold,” we should be cautious about some of the solutions proposed.  Continue reading Forget test scores: fight poverty and keep education public

Union concerns are community concerns

Led by the Portland Student Union, about 400 people rallied at a Portland Public School Board meeting in support of their teachers in January. (photo: oregonlive.com - http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/01/portland_students_and_teachers.html)
Led by the Portland Student Union, about 400 people rallied at a Portland Public School Board meeting in support of their teachers in January. (photo: oregonlive.com – http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/01/portland_students_and_teachers.html)

The provincial budget was tabled in Nova Scotia earlier this month, with education funding being increased by $18.6 million.

I don’t have time to crunch the numbers here to analyze what they really mean. (e.g. to what extent do they compensate for cuts to the P-12 education budget in recent years? And what year would we use as a benchmark, anyway? 2010? 2001?)

For the moment, teachers seem pleased by the budget announcement (despite the fact that Liberal government had promised $65 million in additional funding for education in the first year of its mandate, not over four years as the budget announcement now says).

In any case, though, it’s hard to be too happy about education funding right now: the day before the budget was announced, the government rammed through Bill 37, the law which effectively removed the right to strike from nearly 40,000 public-sector workers in Nova Scotia.  Continue reading Union concerns are community concerns

On teaching Aboriginal history to non-Aboriginal students

Last week I gave a webinar presentation called “Aboriginal history is everyone’s history” for Canada’s History, a society that promotes Canadian history education. The goal of the webinar was to highlight the idea that all Canadians, not just Aboriginal people, have the responsibility of teaching and learning about the history of Aboriginal people in Canada.

Here in Nova Scotia, many non-Native students choose to take Mi’kmaq Studies 10 to get their high school Canadian Studies credit. How can non-Indigenous teachers teach this course to these students in a way that is respectful and culturally appropriate?

You can see a recording of the webinar here. Below is a transcript of the presentation, edited for easy reading.

Continue reading On teaching Aboriginal history to non-Aboriginal students

What Educators Really Need

Saulnier
Christine Saulnier, director of the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives – Nova Scotia, and economist Michael Bradfield unveiled the Nova Scotia Alternative Provincial Budget last Wednesday in Halifax (photo courtesy of Robert Devet, Halifax Media Co-op)

The authors of a couple of reports by right-wing think-tanks have been doing their best to discredit teachers in Nova Scotia this past month.

I’d rather not mention the names of the think-tanks or their authors, so they don’t get any more attention than they already have. If you’re familiar with the political landscape in this province though, you probably know who they are.  (If not, one of them is the first hit when you Google “Nova Scotia think tank.”)

Continue reading What Educators Really Need

Talking education with Rick Howe

Rick Howe invited me on his show on News 95.7 in Halifax today to discuss the education review panel that was recently announced for Nova Scotia.

girl-drawing-back-to-school-1239803-mWe talked about the broader context in which the review is taking place – the “education reform”/privatization movement – and how we need to be wary of simplistic ways of thinking about education. Lots of ink has been spilled about the so-called math wars, some going so far as to talk about a “math crisis” in Canada. The government has talked about aligning the curriculum with the “needs of the economy,” and business and finance are well represented on the panel itself.

But math scores on standardized tests are not the most important thing in our schools. A narrow focus on basic math and literacy skills means our kids miss out on learning about empathy, political engagement and the arts, among other things.

Educational “success” for all depends on us addressing overarching issues like poverty and inequality.

You can hear the entire interview here.

Who’s reviewing Nova Scotia’s education system?

magnifying glass

A teacher told me the other day she’d like to be on an official panel that reviews dentistry practices. As a person with teeth, she feels she has a good understanding of how the job works.

She was joking, of course, and in reality commenting on the comprehensive P-12 education review panel named by minister Karen Casey last week. Casey announced that former lieutenant-governor Myra Freeman would be chairing the panel of six. Continue reading Who’s reviewing Nova Scotia’s education system?

This is about facing, not defacing history

Photo taken from facebook.com/deejayndn
Photo taken from facebook.com/deejayndn

[The party held for John A. MacDonald’s 199th birthday last weekend and consequent outrage expressed via the #SirJAM hashtag, along with the push to name more things after Sir John A., have given me an excuse to re-publish this piece from a couple of years ago about the re-naming of Cornwallis Junior High School. (The school ended up being re-branded “Halifax Central Junior High.”)

To make it more current, you could substitute “Cornwallis” with “MacDonald” and “put a bounty on Mi’kmaq scalps” with “deliberately starved Indigenous people of the Prairies,” and so on; the idea is the same. While there are still lifetimes of work for settlers to do in terms of redress for the calamities of colonialism, it’s good that conversations about historical memory are at least starting to happen.  Continue reading This is about facing, not defacing history