Nova Scotia commits to improve supports for black students in school system

HALIFAX, NS – Nova Scotia’s education minister said Monday the government is accepting all 68 recommendations from a report that examined the education of black students.

Marilyn More said several steps will be taken to track the progress of an estimated 4,000 black students while increasing support and educational opportunities.

Included in the 57-page minister’s response were commitments to increase black curriculum development, recruit more black teachers and improve communication with the black community.

"I encourage all of us to begin working more as a team to gather all the necessary data … and together adjust our programs and strategies to ensure all African Nova Scotian students have a richer educational experience," More said in a news conference.

But she said there would be no new money behind the commitments and no additional support workers.

Still, she said she believed all of the goals were achievable.

"It’s a matter of fine tuning, just making sure that the money is going where it can be of most support for students," said More.

In a report released last December, consultant Enid Lee raised concerns about the number of students in special programs for those with academic difficulties.

However, she couldn’t be specific about how many are in the programs known as Individual Program Plans because school boards don’t keep records identifying their students by race.

She recommended the government identify the number of black students in special programs and then consider ways to help them return to the regular program stream.

More said work is already underway to track data through a computerized system that will be fully in place by the fall of 2011.

But she said more crucial work would have to be done to convince members of the black community to identify themselves by race so that appropriate supports can be offered to those who need them.

Lee said she felt that could be done in part by consulting with those in the education system who already have connections in the community, including school support workers.

"If that happens, it will work," said Lee. "This is going to happen because we already have people who are in place who can help this."

Bernadette Hamilton-Reid, who sits on the board of the Black Educators Association of Nova Scotia and has a daughter in high school, welcomed the minister’s response.

She said although it would have been nice to see more of a financial commitment and "concrete numbers," she believes much of the work can be done with what’s already in place.

"A lot of it can be done without dollars," she said. "It’s just a matter of finding where learners are and putting in the resources … to help our students achieve what they need to achieve."

Other steps the government is promising to implement include enhanced roles for student support workers, a review of structures in place to address racism and an annual progress report by the minister to the legislature.

Lee’s report came 15 years after the government at the time acknowledged that it had to do more to combat racial inequality in the school system.

It examined 12 programs created following a 1994 report by the Black Learners Advisory Committee, a group composed of community leaders and educators.


Nova Scotia commits to improve supports for black students in school system