THERE was a time when parents could scratch out a bit of insight
as to how Manitoba
students were faring in school. Then the
NDP tossed out the standardized exams when it defeated the Filmon government
in 1999. Then the Doer administration, which adopted instead
assessments of Grade 3 pupils, decided even the data of
program's findings should not be published.
Finally, school boards would individually release average marks
scored on Grade 12 provincial exams, school by school. No more, though. On Tuesday, school boards refused to release the 2008/2009
average marks on the provincial exams; the Winnipeg School
Division said it stopped doing this on the direction of the province some time
The NDP agenda to bleach any semblance of accountability from
the education system is complete. Now parents get only a
report card about their child's performance, which says nothing about the
performances of the teacher, the school, the division or the
curriculum, set by the province.
A comparative report from the Frontier Centre for Public
Policy/Atlantic Institute for Market Studies shows how out of step Manitoba is on the trend toward improved accountability by provincial
education departments. Based on data that compare factors
such as socioeconomic status of schools, student-teacher ratios, enrolment and
on the progression of students through high school, their
average marks in core subjects and performance on exams, they conclude that
British Columbia has the most comprehensive reporting,
publishing school-by-school comparisons. Alberta came a close second and
Saskatchewan is working to catch up.
Manitoba Education refused to disclose results of its provincial
assessments and of Grade 12 exams, conducted in math and
English language arts. School boards, too, were resistant. Only the River East
Transcona board released average marks of Grade 12 students
in math and English.
The NDP has bent to the pressure of the teachers' union in this
regressive attitude toward accountability. Teachers fought the decision of the last Tory government to publish results by schools,
insisting it would simply stigmatize schools in impoverished
neighbourhoods, triggering an exodus by those with the resources to move their
kids into more affluent schools.
The Manitoba Teachers' Society could have seen the publication
of school comparisons as useful to amass evidence that the
schools with limited resources and extraordinary challenges deserved greater
attention and, perhaps, funding from teachers, parents, the
school board and the province. But clipping parents' access to this data was an
Now, a parent who is told their child's pre-calculus class has
an average of 55 per cent has no way of discerning if this is because the teacher's methods are inadequate, a previous teacher failed
to lay down the basics, or if the curriculum is flawed. The
lack of public data does not promote excellence, it merely allows systemic
weaknesses to continue undetected.
Education Minister Nancy Allan says her government is
uncomfortable with the idea of publishing comparative outcomes:
"I like to think all of our schools are fantastic schools." Her
bliss is unassailable. Her government has made it practically impossible for parents and taxpayers to prove otherwise.