Another think-tank study assessing the performance of B.C. secondary schools will be available this fall.
The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, in conjunction with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, is developing a report card for high schools in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
The Fraser Institute, a Lower Mainland-based right-wing think tank, already releases an annual report card for B.C. secondary schools, which the B.C. teachers’ union criticizes because it ranks schools using what the union says are narrow criteria.
The Atlantic Institute has created a report card for the eastern provinces for the last eight years, said research manager Bobby O’Keefe, and the same formula will be applied to the western provinces.
He said the AIMS report looks at a wider range of information than the Fraser Institute, which bases its rankings mainly around exams.
“We want to give people a different look at student performance,” said O’Keefe.
The B.C. report card will include information from 2005 to 2008. Schools will be ranked on a range of variables, including exam marks, teacher-assigned marks, attendance and student participation in university preparatory classes.
The study also evaluates schools based on affluence of the neighbourhood, student and parent satisfaction surveys, student-teacher ratios and student achievement before and after high school.
“It’s not simply a comparison of how wealthy a particular area is,” said O’Keefe, adding the information will appeal to parents who want a comparison of schools but tend to look beyond just standardized test results.
Studies by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found a correlation between schools that had achievement information made public and academic improvement, he said.
“Getting down to the school level to see what’s happening at the school level is a way of evaluating how education systems are working,” he said. “If nobody wanted the information, it certainly wouldn’t be received the way it is.”
Most of the data is already public information, as there is a 51-page school data summary available for each school on the province’s website.
Kip Wood, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said any report that ranks schools discredits the schools that are lower in the ranking.
“On the surface, it looks like it’s a little more comprehensive, but who knows?” he said. “What are they putting value on? What are they neglecting? What assumptions are they making?”
Measures like the student-teacher ratio are unfair, Wood added.
“That’s like ranking governments on the amount of money they’re putting into the system – that’s not a measure of how well the school can.”