HALIFAX, N.S. - A dysfunctional education system is causing Nova Scotian students to fall behind their peers elsewhere in Canada, an education consultant warned Tuesday in Halifax.
Dr. Avis Glaze’s report titled Raise the Bar calls for the axing of Nova Scotia’s seven regional school boards, in favour of a province-wide approach to educational challenges led by local offices.
Her report likens the present system to nine conflicting groups: the provincial education department plus eight individual school boards, preventing Nova Scotia’s 118,000 students from reaching their full potential.
“We do not want to have any throw-away kids,” Glaze. “The view from the desk again: the children cannot wait.”
If the province acts on Glaze’s report, only the conseil scolaire acadien provincial board would remain intact.
The other seven elected school boards would be replaced by regional education offices to help take some workload off teachers and principals.
Non-core administrative roles should be reviewed as part of a shared services model to reduce administrative costs and create a more flexible system, says the report.
Such duties include IT, payroll, facilities, finance, freedom of and access to information and protection of privacy and human resources. Many of these jobs are performed by principals or teachers.
According to the report, teaching support staff such as math mentors will be in classrooms four days a week, with the fifth day dedicated to assessing students’ progress and planning for the week ahead.
The recommendations also include removing assessment responsibility from the Department of Education and establish an independent Student Progress Assessment Office that will also report directly to the public.
In addition to the above proposed reforms, the report calls for an education ombudsman to investigate education-related complaints.
Her report also calls for a bigger say for Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotians at the ministerial level. This includes the Council on Mi’kmaq Education and Council on African Canadian Education offering policy counsel to the minister of education.
“Everyone I met with in the system is trying to do his or her best,” said Glaze in an earlier release. “They all have enormous commitment and dedication, but the system is not working the way it should for students, parents, teachers, and principals.”
In response to possible concerns that the axing of elected school boards would be undemocratic, Glaze said that schools will have advisory councils in all communities to help guide the province. These will include parents, students, principals and community members.
“I think they will play a key role,” Glaze told media.
However, teachers will face more oversight by a proposed provincial college of educators, an independent body to license, govern, discipline and regulate the teaching profession. Glaze said such a measure was needed to improve public confidence in the education system.
Principals and vice-principals would also be removed from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union under a new professional association. Seniority, pension, and benefits should not be impacted and there must be an option for those administrators who may wish to return to teaching and the NSTU, says the report.
Glaze’s review is the first in more than 20 years to look into how public schools are run, including elected school boards and their central offices, along with administration at the provincial Department of Education.
Last fall, Glaze met with more than 500 stakeholders during 91 consultations across the province. Another 1,500 people responded to an online survey on the issues.
Education and Minister Zach Churchill thanked Glaze and said his government will respond to her report Wednesday.
“Our government is focused on building a stronger education system by putting more resources in classes. Student success is our singular focus,” said Churchill in an emailed statement to media.