Skip to main content

Nova Scotia must reverse downward student test-score spiral: Education expert


Coming out of COVID-19, it was assumed students in Nova Scotia would perform poorly on the province’s academic assessment tests.

“We’ve got a pandemic generation who’s going to struggle because learning loss is real and every set of tests that are released indicate just how serious it is for this generation of students,” says Paul Bennett, the director of the Schoolhouse Institute in Halifax.

Scores released Tuesday show that in math, from Grades 3 to 10, students performing at or above expectations fell by between 2 and 8 per cent.

Meanwhile for English, reading scores were down between 1 and 5 per cent -- and writing too, except for a small improvement by students in Grade 8, who scored 1 per cent higher.

Bennett says the challenge is reversing the trend that started before the pandemic and was made worse by a lack of in-class learning.

“It’s taken a few decades to get where we are so we need to get started right away,” Bennet says.

The province’s education minister says some supports are on the way: things like a focus on phonics and phonological awareness for students in Grades primary to 2, software to support students’ learning in math, reading and writing and more physical activity.

The president of the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union says with staffing shortages, teachers shouldn’t be expected to take on more responsibilities.

“Initiatives coming from the department need to be funded with proper staffing, with proper human resources, otherwise, all those initiatives are just doomed to fail,” says Ryan Lutes.

Liberal Leader Zach Churchill has concerns that the strategies the province wants to implement don’t do enough for students who are behind right now.

“The education minister doesn’t have anything targeted for this particular cohort of students. The supports they announced we’re fairly broad and I think we need to have a very strategic focus to help this cohort of kids get caught up,” says Churchill.

Bennett would like to see provincial testing turned over to an independent student assessment agency.

“It’s not right that the results generated by our provincial test are reported by the same agency that authorizes them. There’s no accountability whatsoever, there’s some transparency but no accountability,” Bennett says.

He says assessment scores have been in a steady decline for a decade and may take the same amount of time to rebound. Top Stories

Stay Connected