Nova Scotia Parents for Teachers

Myth Busters

Myth 1:

The “No Fail Policy” is a myth. There has been a “movement” within the system over the last 15 years to move students along with their peers.

Karen Casey-Minister of Education


Any of us that have been involved with the education system for any length of time are quite aware that the “myth” has been the reality for much more than the last 15 years. My wife first starting teaching in 1982. At her first assignment at George P. Vanier Junior High School a mere 35, not 15, years ago, she had given a student a 43. Her principal said, Joey gets a 50. Joey got a 50 and passed the course and was moved to the next grade as the scenario was repeated one by one with all of Joey’s teachers.

When I was a member of the Halifax County Bedford District School Board from 1994-1997 it was well known that children were not held back unless all stakeholders were in agreement. This was over 20 years ago. My point is the “myth” has been reality for several decades and not just a “movement” the last 15 years.

Unfortunately, the movement, which began at least 35 years ago, has morphed into something far more insidious in today’s education. The house of cards is now built something like this, particularly at the high school level:

  1. Jonny does virtually no work all year and has a failing grade at the end of May.
  2. Admin then exerts pressure on the classroom teacher to modify the curriculum that essentially guarantees Jonny is “successful.” To the uninitiated “successful” is a code word for “does not fail.”
  3. Sometimes this modification is called an IPP, although IPPs can be used for legitimate purposes as well.
  4. Meantime in the background the school administration is getting pressure by a former classroom teacher (usually a former school administrator, now working at the School Board office) to have a “successful” school.
  5. This pressure flows down to the classroom teacher who gets the ultimatum that Jonny is to be “successful.”
  6. If the classroom teacher has too much integrity to compromise standards and give Jonny a 50 or better when he only deserves or has only earned a 25, the school administration and guidance take care of things after the fact and change Jonny’s report card.
  7. Administration at the school punishes the teacher who has integrity by giving them an assignment the next year, teaching 6 different subjects so in the future they will learn to comply. Former Liberal MP Ken Dryden wrote a great book about this problem in the education system over 20 years ago.
  8. Simultaneously, while Ms. Integrity is being punished for her integrity, the Dukes and Duchesses at the board office reward the school administrator for having such a “successful” school.
  9. You are quite correct as officially there is no such thing as a “no fail” policy. In fact, it is a myth.
  10. This allows the Minister of Education to stand in the town square and honestly proclaim, “The Department of Education does not have a no-fail policy.”

“Taught for 34 years in HRSB. Watched the board and staff cripple youth so that the former could perpetuate a fallacy of “success”. Staff who spoke out against it were silenced. A member of our “leadership team” said to me once when I protested, ” Our job is not to prepare them for the work world; our job is just to get them across that stage.”

“I’ve often been told to find ‘one thing’ that the student can do at the end of the year, with one on one assistance that will allow him/her to move on! I protest, I protest, I protest but Johnny moves on”!

“The truth can be twisted simply by saying a “no-fail policy” does not exist. That is true, in the sense that the name does not exist. However, as a policy we are not allowed to retain students”.

“They refused to hold back our child after we told them that’s what was best for him! School refused”!

“I had a teacher tell me last year when my son was in grade 6 that he wouldn’t fail because they don’t fail kids anymore. I was surprised to hear her say that”.

“I spent less than 4 months in school in both grade 9 and grade 10, wrote no exams, did hardly any work during my time there and still passed both years. If there is no “no fail” policy, how the heck did I manage that”?


Myth 2:

The True Casualties of Work To Rule

“I know that there was a lot of alarming information put out there during the last conflict but be assured, that is not the norm. For the last while students and their activities have been put on the back burner by the job action. The money that was available because of the day of strike by the teachers should go to help those children. They were the true casualty of the job action and now will be the priority”.

Margaret Miller-MLA for Hants East


True Casualties of The Nova Scotia Government

The true casualties in our education system, are all other children. Government gave the one day strike savings of $3.4 million dollars to sports teams, sports uniforms/jerseys and road trips. Children who are without support, EPA’s, are waiting months and even years for assessments, kids who have no desks to sit in due to overcrowded classes, and Teachers, who do not have material and supplies including textbooks, to teach the curriculum. These are the true casualties.


Myth 3:

Teachers are greedy. They make more money than other government employees, don’t work Christmas break, March break, and have July and August off.


Teachers are contract workers, and their salaries are based on a wage scale like all other government employees. That scale is based on their education and the number of years they have taught. Their salary is based on 195 teaching days a year, not including holidays or summer breaks. Their pay is spread over a full year so there is no eligibility to collect Unemployment Insurance, during periods of school holidays. That is why some people think they get paid for Christmas break, March break and summer break. The perception among some in the public, is that Teachers get paid for having 8 weeks off during the summer months. The many Teachers with whom we spoke, all spend a large part of their time off, doing school work for their classes.
Teachers are not generally hired in full-time positions starting their first year of teaching. They start off with term positions. In HRSB alone there are 700 teachers on term positions. They can go years on term positions, meaning they aren’t paid as full-time teachers, instead are paid based on the percentage of time they work. Like many jobs in government, there is a seniority list, and it takes years to climb that ladder.

1. “I have been a teacher for more than six years. I am in an 80% position now, and last year made $35,000 dollars. It takes most of us 10 years to get a permanent position. Many people I graduated with are still only subbing, and that can mean incomes are as low as $18,000 a year”.

2. “I have been teaching for four years in a permanent position and make $52,000. Like most teachers, I still have work to do during Christmas break, March break and part of the summer months”.

3. “I am a TC5 and have 17 years of service. My income last year, was $73,000. (substituting doesn’t count toward your service and if your service under a contract is interrupted, you lose that time of service, and must start building service all over again). You only receive a permanent contract when there is a permanent position available. For example, if five teachers retire, but enrolment declines, these five teaching positions will not be filled so there will be no permanent contracts given that year. A first year teacher with a contract, and a TC5 (BA or BSc, BEd) starts at $51,711.00”.

4. “I have been teaching less than five years. I am making close to $35,000 a year, but that is because I also sub whenever I can. I am only in a 50% teaching position, so I only get half days. I have a BA and a B.Ed, and can’t go any further until I am working full-time. I spend at least half my breaks doing school work”.

5. “I have been teaching for eight years now. I have six years of subbing and two 50% terms. I have a four year BA from MSVU, and a two year Bachelor of Elementary Education. 6 years of university. Last year I made $28,000. My husband with a one year training Certificate makes the same level of pay”.

6. “I have 10 years of university education which includes two Masters degrees. I have been teaching full-time for seven years now. Last year my salary was $74,000”.

We compared salaries of one government department; Communities, Culture and Heritage. Salaries ranged from $27,000 up to $187,000. Can we assume that many employees in this department are making the same or more than teachers, because they have the same level of education or better? The longer you are employed by government, the more paid vacation you are entitled to, until you reach the maximum number of weeks allowed for the years of service.  During vacation,  you are not required to work.


Myth 4:

The McNeil Government says there is no New money for classrooms..


When Teachers and parents asked for more funding for classroom improvements, Premier McNeil asked, “Where am I supposed to find the money”.

New Funding Announcements

  1. Wellington Connector -Fall River Wellington $11.5 million
  2. Arena in Whitney Pier riding – undisclosed
  3. Glace Bay Miners Museum. $500,000
  4. Elite 10 Grand Slam of Curling event in Port Hawkesbury $35,000
  5. Hockey Heritage centre in Windsor. $3 million
  6. Improvements to the St. Peter’s road. $3.5 million
  7. Fall River water main. $2 million
  8. Sydney harbour cruise ship berth $7 million
  9. Lantz interchange $26 million
  10. 102/103 interchange. $10.6 million
  11. Cumberland Senior Safety Society $20,000
  12. Enfield Water Transmission main installation $489,720
  13. Lantz Water Transmission main installation $368,750
  14. Expanding access to naloxone, $564,000
  15. Canada 150 initiatives. over the next three years, $375,000 with an additional $45,000 this year
  16. Affordable homes for seniors in Mahone Bay $1.3 million investment from the Investment in Affordable Housing Agreement through the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia
  17. Improvements to the Employment Support and Income Assistance Program The allowable asset levels have doubled for people receiving assistance from $1,000 to $2,000 for individuals and from $2,000 to $4,000 for families.
  18. Age-Friendly Community Grants to support, engage and include older adults in the community. $285,000
  19. Upper Clements Park Face Lift $300,000

These were just a few of the New Funding Announcements.

March 2017 announcements amount to more than $16 29 65 million. Where is Premier McNeil finding the money for these funding announcements? Why did the McNeil Government cut so many programs and services over the last four years, yet suddenly, they have lots of money to make New Funding Announcements, before an election?




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Nova Scotia Teachers