CORNER BROOK — The Western School District is not into the business of ranking schools.
Instead, the board looks at individual schools to see how they are doing in relation to provincial performance on a course-by-course basis.
That way if a particular school is not performing as well as the province on average in say math, then the board knows it needs to work with that school a bit more to improve its performance, said Jeff Thompson.
Thompson is the board’s assistant director of education for programs.
He was reacting to the recently released Atlantic Institute for Market Studies’ Report Card on Atlantic Canadian High Schools.
The ninth annual report grade schools based on two categories — achievement and engagement.
The AIMS report ranked 73 high schools in the province. At Number 2 was the Western School District’s Canon Richards High School in Flowers Cove with an A-, and at the very bottom of the list was the district’s Appalachia High School in St. George’s with a C-.
Thompson said the report card by the independent, economic and social policy think tank represents a lot of data that is collected over a three-year period that follows students from Level 1 to Level 2. The data collected is then used to rank schools on a number of factors related to achievement and engagement.
“This report is really about trying to give some general sense as to how high schools end up doing on a series of outcomes while acknowledging there are a number of inputs that can impact on achievement,” said Thompson.
He said the report factors in inputs like high school enrolment, relationships with feeder schools and social and economic factors of the schools.
For example, Thompson said School A may be in an area of low social and economic status and have problems with its feeder schools, but because it is doing better than what it is projected to be, it gets a higher ranking.
Meanwhile, School B which has higher social and economic status, with higher educated parents, is doing worse than where it is projected to be and gets a low ranking.
Thompson said the report and the data it’s based on is different than what is generated internally by the board.
He said the board looks at student achievement in Grades 3, 6, 9 and Level 3 and is very course specific.
The board looks at things like how students did on a Grade 3 math test, or how many students graduated high school with academic/honours versus general status and the high school drop-out rate.
He said the AIMS report gives the broad strokes of how the school system might be doing.
“It’s a report that we certainly read and assess, but it’s a very different report than the reports and the data that we use for our school improvement process.”
While the document serves a useful purpose, Thompson said it is not the kind of evidence the board uses in helping schools improve on how well students do on mathematics or writing for example.
“The data we use for that purpose would be our school-based marks that teachers generate, plus the student performance on standardized provincial assessments.”
Thompson noted that the ranking AIMS gives has not yet coincided with the ranking the Western School District gives its schools.