A Winnipeg-based think tank says the Manitoba government is doing its citizens a disservice by refusing to publicly release exam results and other academic data.
The government, however, says releasing such data may do more harm than good and defends its decision to restrict academic performance data to the eyes of teachers, parents and students.
The Frontier Centre for Public Policy released a report Monday called Report Card on Western Canadian High Schools, which was meant to compare and rank high schools in Manitoba and Saskatchewan based on things like attendance, provincial exam results, and the number of graduates who move on to post-secondary education.
Manitoba’s Education Department did release some information, but refused to turn over any data related to performance or academic achievement, resulting in a study that was unable to compare or rank the schools in most categories or overall.
Saskatchewan provided about 75% of the requested data.
“The story really is the lack of disclosure,” said David Seymour, a Regina-based policy analyst with the Frontier Centre.
“We believe the education system is there for the parents and the students,” Seymour said. “They should be able to make their own decisions based on data that’s available.”
Manitoba Education Minister Nancy Allan said the data was refused because the government doesn’t see any value in comparisons between schools. Allan said no parents’ groups, teachers or schools have ever asked her for such comparisons or ranking.
“I don’t think parents are concerned about that. They want to know how their kids are doing in school,” she said.
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society agrees.
“The primary obligation is to relate that information to the student and the student’s parents,” said Pat Isaak, president of MTS.
“Ranking schools and saying ‘this school is better than that school’ without putting it in context is fairly damaging,” Isaak said.
“People think one school must be better than another school because they have better test results, and that’s just not valid.”
Progressive Conservative education critic Cliff Cullen said his party isn’t interested in comparing and ranking Manitoba schools.
But Cullen said, however, it’s important for the government to release performance data to compare Manitoba students as a whole to those in other provinces.