By David Shipley
As appeared on page A2
New Brunswick must reintroduce provincial high school exams in order to meet its goal of going from worst to first in education, says the head of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.
“You can’t go from worst to first unless you know where you are today,” said Charles Cirtwill, acting president of the Halifax-based think-tank.
“Until you’ve got a concrete plan, a promise to go from worst to first is just a promise.”
The province scrapped standardized exams for anglophone high schools in 2004 in favour of focusing on testing of younger students.
Cirtwill’s comments come as AIMS releases its fifth annual ranking of high schools in the province.
École Marie Gaétane in Kedgwick led the province and Atlantic Canada with an A+. The top anglophone school in the province was Upper Miramichi Regional High School, which earned an A this year.
The complete rankings and individual school reports can be found at www.aims.ca
This year’s ranking was based on data collected from the 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 school years. While the lack of provincial exams has changed school rankings, there was enough information from sources such as individual teacher grades for students and the number of students who went on to post-secondary education to score the schools.
Education Minister Kelly Lamrock said Thursday he agrees on the need for more assessments of how students and schools are performing.
But just assessing where things stand isn’t good enough, he said, adding there is a need to show what’s going to be done to improve results.
“We will be releasing an accountability plan that will not only increase the number of assessments but what happens afterwards,” he said.
“I also must say I value more assessments at an age when a child can still be helped.”
Lamrock wouldn’t say if his accountability plan would include the reintroduction of provincial high school exams, a promise the Liberals made in the last election.
“I’d rather release the accountability plan as a full document “…,” he said.
The plan, which will be unveiled at the end of the month, will take between four to five years to fully implement.
“To me the best education system is one that is forceful about making sure that children get the core competencies at the early grades, and we are flexible so that students can develop their individual strengths and passions in the later grades.”
Cirtwill said while the province had a few high schools with As and Ds this year, most schools received Bs and Cs.
“Pretty much everybody is bunched in the middle and staying right there,” he said. “What is clear over time is New Brunswick, much like its neighbours in Atlantic Canada, tends to lag behind the rest of the provinces.”