All four provincial departments of education in Atlantic Canada immediately went on the defensive following the release of the AIMS Report card on Atlantic Canadian high schools. While claiming the AIMS methodology was flawed, none of the departments provided any supportive evidence. Now professional researchers and noted academics from across the region are providing their input.

Recognized as one of Canada’s leading educators, Dr. Jacquelyn Thayer-Scott is a former President & Vice-Chancellor of the University College of Cape Breton, a member of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council on Science & Technology and a tireless champion of lifelong learning. She serves on more than a dozen boards and recently chaired the Government of Canada Expert Panel on Skills. Her comments on the report card,

“Of all the so-called reports and rankings of educational institutions in this country, the AIMS methodology is, by far, the fairest and most illuminating. It is firmly grounded in the known research — that is, variables that are not known to make any difference are not included in the multiple regression model.

Importantly, however, the model was built on the fundamental assumption that those schools with a greater number of advantages should be expected to do better than those that face a more difficult operating environment. Thus, the performance measurement model accounts for: differences in previous academic achievements by students in middle or junior high schools; the different economic and social climate and indicators in the primary catchment area of the school; the student-to-staff ratio (reflecting different distribution formulae within and between school boards); and the size of the school (to reduce false comparisons between larger and smaller entities, which offer different strengths).

What could be fairer? No model is perfect (and I’m certain AIMS will continue to refine this one), but the model used in this study is vastly more sophisticated and superior to any of the other, more simplistic and flawed, measurement models used regularly by governments or periodicals in this country.”

Dr. David Zitner M.D., Director of Medical Informatics at Dalhousie Medical School and a specialist in accountability measures for complex public services remarked,

“The AIMS education report is an exceptional contribution to education because it will promote citizen participation and engagement in the important issue of the quality of public education. It was refreshing to see an objective evaluation which recognizes the purpose of education and reviews worthwhile outcomes including performance on standard achievement tests, high school completion and proportion of students going on to post secondary education. It was a bonus that the report considered socio-economic status, and previous school performance to develop performance expectations for each school. The report is a contribution to our understanding of school performance and to the evaluation literature.

Your thoughtful reflections on the causes of decreased entry to post secondary education including the disadvantages of being poor and the recognition that inadequate education “tends to increase the divisions between rich and poor in our society” presents important reasons to dedicate energy to improving the education we provide our young people.

I hope your report succeeds by leading to improved school performance and therefore to improved economic, social and cultural opportunities for children.” Dr. Robert Richards, the Chair in Youth focused Technological Entrepreneurship at Memorial University of Newfoundland in September of 1999 received his PhD from Brigham Young University with a specialty in education of the gifted and talented. These are his remarks on the Report card, “Having read your study, and your subsequent commentary upon the release of the report, I want to lend a supporting voice. The response of the education establishment is predictably defensive. John Milton, if he were around, would still lament the lack of education reform . . . “for the want whereof this nation perishes”. I have been a teacher, a principal and an education consultant. I have lived the system from the classroom to the Ministry. As a researcher I have reviewed and characterized the literature of criticism and reform over the last fifty years. Education’s collective response to reform imperatives has been that ‘it ain’t so’. While there is some tolerance for friendly internal critics, assertive nonpartisan attempts to hold the system accountable are often characterized as unfounded, based on poor research or otherwise the invalid ramblings of outsiders who really don’t understand. Education is not a great mystery. Educational processes can have clearly defined outcomes. Sound curriculum is rooted in learning objectives. There are results to be delivered, and progress that can be measured. However, the inhibitors to change from within public school systems are rooted in powerful emotional, structural, philosophical and political factors. These are serious impediments to objectivity and to genuine systemic improvement. If reform occurs it may only be in response to voices from beyond the schoolyard gates.” Dr. Rick Audas, the principal researcher for “Grading our Future: Atlantic Canada’s High Schools’ Accountability and Performance in Context” is pleased with this endorsement from the academic community. “Three prominent Atlantic Region academics have provided ringing endorsements of our methodology,” says Audas, “they have supported their position with thoughtful, specific comments on the AIMS approach. Similar complete commentary has been totally lacking from government critics.”

For further information, please contact:

Jordi Morgan
Director of Communications and Development
Atlantic Institute for Market Studies
AIMS (902) 429-1143
Direct (902) 446-3532
Fax (902) 425-1393
jordimorgan@aims.ca