What message?
In response to the recent list ranking Nova Scotian high schools as to the quality of students and their accomplishments, it is ironic to note that Auburn Drive ranked No. 1 while nearby Cole Harbour High finds itself down as No. 71 out of 75. What message does this send to our children? Just what were the criteria for this poll?
I recall driving along Forest Hills Parkway as the students of Cole Harbour High were heading out on a cold, rainy day to the Halifax legislature to join thousands of other students in support of the teachers. As they passed Auburn High, the student body there remained behind closed doors. Learning to become decent, hard-working individuals who make positive contributions to their community and stand up for what they believe in is to be applauded and does not warrant being made to feel less worthy than your neighbouring counterparts.

Hopefully, the students of Nova Scotia do not take this disparaging exercise too seriously and they continue to realize that their parents, friends and neighbours are proud of them, no matter what school they attend.

Peggy McGuigan, Dartmouth

Criteria relevant
So here they were, the Department of Education and the NSTU, telling us in the Town of Pictou and in the East Pictou District that our schools were not serving our children and that our small schools, including Pictou Academy, should be shut down in favour of “bigger and better.”

Now, let’s get real! The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies recently graded Nova Scotia high schools. Essentially, they were graded by much the same criteria as the Maclean’s magazine standards for universities.

How does one judge the performance of an educational institution? Surely the criteria delineated by AIMS are relevant: 1) How does the school retain its students? 2) How does the high school serve the students, with differing academic aptitudes, who come in from lower grades? 3) How does the school serve students who come in from different socioeconomic backgrounds? 4) How many students from the school, based on academic performance, go on to post-secondary institutions? 5) How do the graduates perform in post-secondary institutions? 6) How does the town or community support the high school?

What other relevant criteria would one use to judge a school?
Thankfully, Pictou Academy, founded in 1816, has the foundation and alumni behind it to see that it will always be viable, despite the bureaucrats and megalomaniacs, in the Department of Education and NSTU, who try to convince us otherwise.

Elwin Hemphill, Pictou

Rating concept good
The president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union said it all: “You cannot judge a school with a number or a letter,” Brian Forbes said. “Education is much more complex than that” (March 6 story).

Schools can rate our students with a number or a letter, but God forbid we rate our schools in a similar fashion! With such poor results recently on provincial math tests, it is time that our schools were held accountable for the quality of education our students are receiving. We, as taxpayers, should demand nothing less.

While I agree there were probably flaws in the survey, the concept is a good one; so let’s perfect the survey and try to come up with an improved method of rating our schools and holding them accountable for the quality of education they deliver.

In Bill Power’s March 7 article, he quotes an Auburn student as complaining that the school is “pretty strict.” As the parent of three children, two graduates of Auburn and a current student, I applaud the school for its strict policies and its dedicated staff.

Way to go, Auburn!
Shelagh Wolfe, Dartmouth

Mission accomplished
What could you possibly hope to accomplish by your March 6 attack on Nova Scotia’s schools?

To demoralize hundreds of soon-to-be graduates who now believe admissions offices will think twice about their value as scholarship recipients because of their schools’ poor grades in the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies report? If so, then you have succeeded.

To further tarnish the questionable image the media have already helped to establish of the current state of Nova Scotia’s schools? If so, then you have succeeded.
To test the depths to which you can sink into the mire of irresponsible journalism by publishing results of a study whose very foundation reveals a complete lack of definition of good educational practices? Then you have, again, succeeded.

Do you truly agree with the criteria used by AIMS to sit in judgment of today’s schools? Are they enough to satisfy you that the 1-to-75 ranking is fair, let alone accurate? Did you know that the tool used to determine academic achievement was deemed outmoded and unreliable in just about the same time period (seven years ago) from which AIMS drew its statistics?

Among the insulting statements of AIMS president Brian Crowley that you printed, I did find one truth: Schools and educators need to be accountable. In 30 years of teaching, I have never lost sight of who it is I serve and why I chose teaching as my career. I see the same commitment to teaching excellence in my colleagues.

Margaret Stevens, Oxford

Anti-poor prejudice?
As a former student at No. 51 on the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies’ list of Nova Scotia’s 75 high schools, I am dismayed and frustrated over the institute’s rankings and the media coverage given to them.

Basing a school’s value partially on the socio-economic conditions of the students attending the school is not only ridiculous and inappropriate, but also highly offensive.

Brian Crowley, president of AIMS, said that the “single most important” factor affecting a high school’s performance is the quality of students arriving from lower grades (March 6 story). Well, Mr. Crowley, how then is your study a ranking of the education that students are receiving in our province’s high schools? To me, it sounds more like you are ranking the quality of the students attending each school, and are doing it with a prejudice against the poor.

That the study is to be published in Atlantic Progress leads me to believe that AIMS undertook this study with the business community in mind, and not in the interests of secondary students. I hope that the readers of Atlantic Progress take the study for what it’s worth – very little – and do not base a student’s value on what AIMS believes is the value of their education.

Finally, I would like to thank all of the teachers and staff at No. 51 for their wonderful commitment to education and the preparation they gave me for my post-secondary studies.

Nathan Kenney, Dartmouth

Welcome glimpse
Finally, thanks to the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, we are given a glimpse of what our schools look like compared to each other.

For far too long, schools have been considered make-work projects for the teaching profession, unions, school boards and bureaucrats. Students are cruel necessities who are fed Mickey Mouse courses, requiring little or no effort on the part of teachers and educators. Just push them through the system and make way for the next lot.

Judging by the howls of the responsible mutton-heads in government and on school boards, the study scored a few direct hits. Now that you have our schools cleanly in your sights, Brian Crowley, keep firing. The future of this province depends totally on what is graduated out of these schools.

Carl Sollows, Halifax