The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies issues an annual report card on the region’s high schools. New Brunswick’s record improved this year, with the gap between the highest- and lowest-ranked schools shrinking.
Some educators seem cool to the report, arguing there is little data on which to base the evaluations. This is a legitimate concern, but the flaw lies with the school system. Without common measures and independent analysis, it is difficult to track and improve performance.
Rather than rejecting the comparisons in the AIMS report card, parents and educators should be challenging legislators to introduce province-wide performance indicators and benchmarks for high schools. The result would be comparable to the annual report card on health outcomes produced by the New Brunswick Health Council.
The provincial government has an obligation and the authority to mandate province-wide comparisons for the sake of ensuring that New Brunswick students are keeping up with their peers. The Department of Education has made good progress tracking performance in the early grades; it must take a similar approach to high-school students.
A certain amount of comparison already takes place, based on standardized Program for International Student Assessment exams. But province-wide examinations devised in and for New Brunswick were discontinued in anglophone school districts in 2004 as a cost-saving measure.
Whether the data is gathered by the Department of Education, a provincial Education Council or independent researchers does not particularly matter. What does matter is collecting, tracking and publicizing the results – a process that would bring greater transparency and accountability to the education system.