CORNER BROOK — When the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies puts out its annual Report Card on Atlantic Canadian High Schools it hopes that the schools ranked in the report recognize it as a supplemental tool for them to use.
“It’s not the end all be all,” said Jamie Newman, an AIMS policy analyst and co-author of the report.
He said AIMS collects the information that tells them how well schools are achieving their objectives and then feeds it back to the schools.
Newman co-authored the recently released ninth annual report with Charles Cirtwill, president and CEO of AIMS. Rick Audas of the faculty of medicine at Memorial University of Newfoundland served as principal researcher.
The AIMS report assesses data collected over a three-year period. The most recent one covered the school years from 2006 through to 2009.
The information gathered in the report, which ranks schools on engagement and achievement, comes from the provincial Department of Education.
Newman said engagement looks at how the schools keep students interested and engaged in learning. He said this can be judged in terms of attendance because if the schools can’t get the students in their chairs then it can’t engage them in learning. Besides attendance, AIMS will look at how many students graduate from grade to grade all the way to graduation, the number of students enrolled in academic/honours versus general programs and the number who attend or intend to attend a post-secondary institution.
In terms of achievement, AIMS looks at provincial exam marks in math, science, language arts and humanities, at school marks and at post-secondary achievement in the first year of post-secondary studies.
Newman said 21 out of 23 post-secondary institutions in Atlantic Canada now contribute data to the report.
All of those factors are combined to give an overall mark in each category. Then those marks are combined to give an final mark. AIMS then combines the in-context and absolute final marks to give the overall final mark or ranking for each school. That data is outlined for each province in the report in a chart format.
Newman said AIMS completes the report for a couple of reasons.
The first being to provide a resource for parents, students and other interested taxpayers to hold their schools accountable for the education that is being provided to their children and to themselves.
Newman said there are all kinds of assessments for students from mid-term reports to exams but rarely are schools assessed.
He said how schools are servicing students is important because the education they’re getting now impacts them for the rest of their lives.
“So we really want to get people engaged in school administrative matters.”
The second reason for the report is it can be used by administrators as an additional or supplemental tool to know basically how they’re doing in relation to how other schools are doing.
He said it could identify schools that are doing well in areas that maybe a particular school is performing below average in and allow them to engage in a discussions. That way the low performing school can find out what the other school is doing that allows them to get high marks in a math provincial exam for example.
The report ranked 73 schools in the province with two from the Western School District finding themselves at opposited ends of the scale. Canon Richards High School in Flowers Cove came in at number two on the list with a grade of A- and Appalachia High School in St. Georges was ranked the lowest with a C-.
Jeff Thompson, the district’s director of education for programs, said while the board does read and assess the AIMS report, it is very different from the reports the board uses for its school improvement process.
Newman said that is something that AIMS recognizes.
“We want it to be a tool to be used by school boards and schools themselves and principals. But we realize there’s a multitude of tools that good schools are using right now to look at their performance and better their improvement.”
He added AIMS feels the assessment definitely offers some value to these administrators.