Each year the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies publishes a report card on how high schools are doing across this region and each year they are stonewalled by school board and education officials, who question the validity of the organization’s findings.
After four years of effort, the institute gained a valuable ally in the form of Nova Scotia’s freedom of information review officer Darce Fardy.
Fardy, who is retiring as the province’s guardian of freedom of information, recently delivered reports that forcefully stated that the release of the information requested by AIMS is within the public interest. He also ordered that the boards move immediately to release the information requested and put processes in place to ensure the information is readily accessible in the future.
AIMS has been forced for several years to apply under the province FOI/POP legislation to access the information because Nova Scotia school boards either refused to provide it or charged tens of thousands of dollars to produce it. It would almost seem as though the board are trying to hide something.
What’s interesting is that while Nova Scotia boards have refused to provide what essentially is public information, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador readily provide it. Prince Edward Island’s three school board provided the information for a $2,000 fell.
“In Newfoundland and Labrador, one click of the mouse and this information is at your disposal, in Nova Scotia we are at four years and counting,” AIMS vice-president Charles Cirtwill said.
Fardy is correct to say school boards should be fully accountable and they should be in a position to release the information in a timely fashion. At the same time, he said schools themselves should provide that information to the boards on a regular basis.
AIMS has prepared three report cards over the years. Many educators have come to dread its findings and boards and individual schools have criticized them for not offering a fair assessment.
For its part, the institute says it is working to make a difference in schools across the Atlantic region. You really can’t blame AIMS for trying, considering this region’s schools placed seventh through 10th out of 10 provinces in the Program for International Student Assessment in 2001.
While other provinces have responded to the AIMS report card by making changes to improve the school system, others have continued to stick their heads in the sand, holding fast to the notion all is well when in fact it’s not.
Parents want to know how their children are doing and if the AIMS report cards are any indication, there is a lot of work to be done before the quality of eudcation our students receive is at the level it should be.