Choosing a School

At KVA we often receive inquiries from parents and students asking about our programs, our approach, our support, and our abilities to help potential students to not only be academically successful, but for those students to reach their potential.  I applaud all of those parents and students who are taking the time to explore their options; to investigate potentially suitable schools and approaches, and to make hard decisions about spending a large amount of money on education when there is a "free" system accessible to all Nova Scotia p-12 students.  This page is designed to describe various components of different education systems and approaches to help with this important decision.

Current Education in Nova Scotia

Currently there are around 125,000 students enrolled in public school in Nova Scotia (see  There are another 4,000 or so students attending one of the 41 private schools in Nova Scotia, and there are another 2,500 or so students being homeschooled (1,700 or so are identified within a school region - see  Of the 41 private schools in NS around 10 of them have the permission to grant the NS High School Diploma (are accredited.)  There are a multitude of online schools available to NS students, across the world.  In the past, the NS Dept of Ed offered a Correspondence Study Program (CSP) in which students were sent materials to study on their own, but this program no longer exists.  The Nova Scotia Virtual School seems to have replaced the CSP and can be seen here.  There are other provincial education on-line systems across Canada, and courses offered worldwide.  Keep in mind that completing an online course does not automatically add it to your graduation checklist so please check that any online course being considered is accepted by the school to which you wish to transfer it, and/or the post-secondary institution to which you are applying.

What to Consider When Choosing a School

"Accreditation" / Permission to Grant the NS High School Diploma   Accreditation (permission) assures the students and parents that the school's courses, programs, policies and facilities have approval from the accrediting body.  In Nova Scotia P-12 education, the only accreditation recognized by universities and colleges is that of the NS Dept of Education.  Any school can offer any course.  Just because a course is called "Mathematics 10," for example, does not mean that it builds upon the concepts from Mathematics 9, or that it prepares students for Mathematics 11.  Different educational administrations have chosen pathways for students to develop their knowledge in various subject over years of schooling.  In Canada the provinces are responsible for Education but there is no guarantee that Math 10 in Ontario covers exactly the same content as Math 10 in Nova Scotia.  However, all provinces share their curricula and negotiate pathways, suitable for their students, but responsible to those who may change provinces during P-12 schooling.  Within Nova Scotia the same is true: the NS Dept of Ed has a P-12 program (Learning Outcomes Framework - probably best experienced through this site: that lays out the NS pathway from pre-school and primary to high school graduation.  Schools with permission from the NS Dept of Ed to grant the NS High School Diploma have had their courses approved.  In other words, when a student attends a school in NS with this permission, these courses are interchangeable with the same course in a NS public school, and recognized by post-secondary institutions.  Without this permission, a school could offer any content under the same name (for example, "Mathematics 10") and give any final grade, but without the NS guarantee.  For example, some non-permission school offers a course they are calling "Mathematics 10" which includes ONLY the first 50 outcomes of the provincial mathematics 10 course.  It will be easier to pass this course, which is roughly 1/3 the content of the provincial course, and the final grade will likely be higher, but the student with this "success" will not be prepared for the provincial mathematics 11 course, and the credit may not be accepted as a transfer credit at another high school, or accepted as an admission requirement for post-secondary study.  Taking a course at a non-permission school in Nova Scotia leaves these possibilities.  Check out this site for the list of NS private schools with this permission.

It is very important to verify the school you intend to attend is accredited.  All public schools in NS are, and all Councils (former Boards) are as well.  But (at the moment) only 8 of the 41 private schools are.  Check to make sure that it is, most importantly if you plan to use credits from that course to graduate and seek admission to post-secondary studies.

Instruction  Schools with permission to grant the NS High School Diploma are required to provide 110 instruction hours per course.  In a public high school this is normally 75 minutes per day (6 1/4 hours per week) for a semester.  In a regular high school class that spans 75 minutes there are many various activities (taking attendance, listening to announcements, handing out or collecting work, lecture/instruction, discussion, presentations...) so actual instruction is much less than 75 minutes.  Most schools (public and private) in NS follow this or a similar model.  It does require a certain level of passivity on the part of the student (show up to the class when and where it is offered, listen to and follow the teacher's instructions, and generally follow the evaluation schedule of the teacher, among other features of this approach.)

Engagement   Instruction is designed to support students' learning.  Teachers are instruction experts and have many ways to show students specific content.  But ultimately, instruction is another resource, like a one-on-one discussion or a YouTube video, or hands-on trial-and-error.  At the center of any education system is the vision of students having mastered the content.  if the student does not have the motivation or interest, the instruction does not matter.  Education is a partnership that REQUIRES the students to engage.  According to the Oxford Dictionary, to engage is "to succeed in attracting and keeping somebody’s attention and interest."  Teachers can engage students, by this definition.  Students can also engage themselves.  In either case there is a sense of agency.  Who is responsible for creating the engagement?  Clearly, young students typically need help with engaging in their academic work, rather than playing all the time.  High school students, with goals for post-secondary academics and life, realizing the importance of this transition, will engage themselves to ensure the highest level of high school success and the most/best options for life after high school.  But where is the transition from students' engagement originating from teachers, to originating from themselves?  When is the appropriate time/grade for students to become self-directed, self-engaging learners, no longer depending on teachers for engagement?  For parents this is usually the most significant and most important factor in choosing a school.  We all want our kids to be engage, learn, progress, do well on assessments, master the curriculum, and end up with a final grade that indicates success.  And for some students this is the only approach to school that makes sense.  But for other, it may be more difficult.  Perhaps the students are distracted by friends or other non-academic interests.  Perhaps the students do not have any real goals of their own about completing courses, graduating high school, and following a specific post-secondary path.  Perhaps the students have been "successful" in previous courses but have not retained the material, so they feel behind or lost in current courses.  Perhaps some form of anxiety and/or special need is hindering the student's experience and ability to succeed.  There are all very real and common in our community.   

Evaluation and Assessment  In a school situation, quizzes, tests, probes, exams, term papers and essays, and presentations comprise the main methods of evaluation as used by teachers to assess students' mastery of the course content.  Teachers tend to collect these marks/grades and combine them in a way that represents the student's mastery of the course content.  So, if a student achieves a 75% in a course, this is supposed to represent the student having learned and mastered 75% of the course content.  The course content itself is articulated, in Nova Scotia, as outcomes (see for the list of courses, and look for the outcome documents for each to see how course content is specified.)  Technically, students can only be assessed on the outcomes.  It is in appropriate for a teacher to give a lower grade because that student was not in attendance for an assessment.  A student achieving a low mark on that assessment is an appropriate reason to give a lower grade.

There has always been some controversy around who is best served by the different assessment methods.  The public school system is a large and complicated system that supports many thousands of students in hundreds of schools across Nova Scotia.  The system wears many hats and has many mandates.  A typical high school teacher has between 75 and 90 students across 3 courses taught in any given semester, and that teacher is responsible to evaluate, assess, and report each student's mastery of the course content.  Therefore, the evaluation methods of tests (including quizzes and exams) are effective in collecting the evidence of many students' mastery of the outcomes at once.  These evaluations tend to be pre-scheduled around the teacher's plan for the course delivery, across the semester or school year (and thus not around individual students' learning, progress and mastery of the content.)  Unfortunately, within this system of assessment, students sometimes are not prepared for evaluation, and thus their test scores reflect their mastery at a specific time and not so much their capacity to master all of the content addressed by some or all of the outcomes of the course.  If a student is learning at a pace ahead of the class, it is likely that he/she will do well on any evaluation.  But is a student is experiencing life, for example (sickness, vacation, athletics, drama, anxiety... or anything that may have an effect on learning) he/she may not be ready for the scheduled evaluation, and thus the mark achieved may not reflect his/her mastery.  Ideally, if a student is in this situation, the teacher will provide another evaluation for the student to provide the evidence of his/her mastery.  Ultimately the course will end, and the potential for additional evaluations will end, and there will be a number reported that represents the teacher's assessment of that student's mastery of the content.  Within that comprehensive system, courses have to end because new courses start and there are only so many teachers with so much time available.

At KVA the assessment and reporting of a student's mastery of the course content is based on the actual evidence of a given student's mastery of the content (content that is specified by the course outcomes) and not "test scores."  At KVA our content experts (what we call "teachers") use the evidence of a student's learning and mastery to assess and report mastery.  For example, a student can show that they can add fractions by writing it out accurately in a testing situation.  If that test has 20 questions on it, how many does the student have to correctly answer to show he/she has mastered the content?  All 20?  What if he/she gets 18 correct?  Is that enough to show mastery?  How does human error and "silly mistakes" affect the evidence of mastery for that student learning and mastering that content?  How about in life after high school?  How do you know that you have mastered some content?  If it is the content needed to solve a problem, like a leaky faucet or a flat tire, is solving the immediate problem enough?  In fact, is it necessary to master plumbing in general to fix a leaky faucet?  How much mastery is enough mastery?  In the NS curriculum, the outcomes for each course specify exactly what mastery is.  In some cases it takes a content expert to interpret these outcomes and appropriately assess student mastery.  In addition, each outcome is part of a larger set of outcomes (for the course) that is part of a larger pathway to help students prepare for high school completing and post-secondary life and academics.  So "mastery" is not as simple as an answer on a test.

Resources and References/Citations

It is common for teachers to use preferred resources for instruction.  Teachers should review resources offered to the student so that they are relevant and potentially helpful.  many teachers collect many resources for each topic over years.  However, when we become adults, there are often no resources supplied.  Finding, reviewing and validating, and effectively using resources for academic and learning support is an important skill for student to acquire before they complete high school.  In addition,  any student should be able to use any resource as part of their learning and academic progress BUT every one of these resources should be referenced if there is a chance that when the student's work is shared, the reader may believe that it is the work of that student and not someone else.  This is called plagiarism and is like an academic crime.  Passing another's work and intellectual property off as your own (accidentally or on purpose) is misleading and may allow for the reader to create a false impression of the student's knowledge and mastery, thus making assessment invalid.  So look for a school that allows the students to use any resource, at the same time has a plagiarism policy and will help students understand the ideas of intellectual property and referencing another's work.

There are many resources available to teacher and students.  Most teachers have websites.  In addition, YouTube is filled with instructional videos.  In addition, Khan Academy has proven itself to be a comprehensive and valid resource for most P-12 content.  Libraries hold many wonderful resources as well.  Another valuable resource we all use throughout our lives is people.  If your tap starts to leak, often the first thing we will do (if we have never fixed a leaky tap) is to ask questions to someone that potentially will have the answers.  This is also an important asset in teachers - can students ask their teachers questions?  Is there a limit to the number of questions that can be asked?  Is there a limit to the amount of time students have to ask questions?  Are teachers readily available to receive their students' questions?  Inquiry is integral to a learner's making sense of new knowledge.  We are social learners and often depend on other people through the learning process.  A student who knows his/her questions will be respected, received, and answered, has an advantage.  Teachers' main mandate is to support learning.  This is not the same as teaching and instruction.  You can instruct without an audience, in front of a camera (check out YouTube and Khan Academy for millions of examples) but supporting learning is getting to know the learner (learning skills, current knowledge, motivation, self-direction...) and supporting them as they work through learning from the decision to start learning, all the way to mastery.  There will be anxiety and confusion at the start.  Early on the learner will attempt (should attempt) to connect what he/she already knows to what is to be learned.  Every new piece of information that will potentially become knowledge has to be fit in with/around what is already known (or the new information, if important enough, will replace existing knowledge, which requires more validation).  A good resource for a student is someone who can provide support throughout that process, and not only content expertise but can help with learning, organization, motivation and self-direction.

Programming / Courses Available  

Most schools in Nova Scotia offer the NS Learning Outcomes Framework.  These are courses and NS has offered (with periodic revisions) for decades.  In addition, some NS high schools offer the International Baccalaureate program (Diploma Program - grades 11-12).  As of a couple years ago, no school in Nova Scotia was offering the IB Middle Years program (grades 7-10) or any other.  Some NS High Schools offer the Advanced Placement AP) program.  There are other courses that you can take that are not in these programs that are called Personal Development Credits, based around what is offered in the community.  There is an approval process for a provider to have their programs recognized and added to this list.  The site is and the current list of providers and courses is contained in the .pdf found here:    In addition, sometimes students wish to study specific topics that are not found in any of these programs or lists.  Ask the potential school which of the programs/lists they offer, and if they can offer other courses.


The NS Dept of Education Attendance policy is here:

It was developed to promote continual attendance and to reduce lateness and absenteeism.  There is provision for an early intervention if the student misses more than 10% of scheduled classes, and a more serious intervention if the student misses 15%+.  It also states that student are required to attend at least 80% of a course to receive credit (notwithstanding earned grades).  In a semester that has roughly 90 classes, the student will receive interventions but likely be able to pass and receive the credit if they attend at least 72 classes (i.e., missing only 18, or 20%).  Because of the nature of this system, a course that is denied due to attendance has to be re-started, and all instruction received again (i.e., not credit at all for mastery achieved in the initial course that was deemed incomplete due to excessive attendance.)  Check with the admin of the school to verify their attendance policy.  Often times if you are a high level athlete or have some other legitimate reason to miss an excess of classes, by discussing this with the school admin and working to make other arrangements, the student can still pass and receive credit for the course in spite of high absenteeism.

Social Engagement and Programming / Interpersonal Experiences  

Lastly, schools wear many hats.  Public school wears the most and the biggest of all because they provide everything to everyone.  there are always lots of people around to interact with, talk to, and be active with in public school.  At King's View Academy we emphasize the development of self-direction and the learning and mastery of content in our students.  Our content experts support the learning and development of our students, one-on-one.  There are plenty of opportunities for conversation within these activities.  Unfortunately this decision has left our social programming program weak.  The rule of thumb is for student work engage, learn, progress, communicate and master content when they are working on academics, and then to do whatever they choose otherwise.  The amount of academic engagement should be determined by the students' goals and his/her level of progress.  As all KVA students are working independently, we do not schedule social activities at specific times.  In addition, many of our students work from a distance so a social activity would either require travel or online video conferencing.