FREDERICTON – The gap between New Brunswick’s best- and worst-performing high schools is narrowing.

The eighth annual report card on Atlantic Canada’s high schools, released by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies on Wednesday, shows overall achievement improving at secondary schools in the province.

“The biggest thing we saw is that, unlike years past where the schools at the bottom of the list would be in the D or F range, the last placed school has a C- and there is only one of those,” said Bobby O’Keefe, AIMS manger of government performance and accountability.

“So the gap between the top and bottom schools appears to be closing.”

The top anglophone high school in the province is Petitcodiac Regional High School, which achieved a grade of B , up from a B last year.

Last year’s top anglophone school, Upper Miramichi Regional High School in Boisetown, saw its grade fall from an A to a B this year.

Saint John’s École Samuel-de-Champlain claimed the top grade in New Brunswick’s francophone sector with a B grade, the same grade it got on last year’s report card.

École Marie-Gaétane in Kedgwick slips to the second spot among francophone schools this year after three years at the top, falling from an A- grade to a B.

While the report shows high school performance in New Brunswick is getting better, the absence of provincial examinations in anglophone high schools makes it difficult to evaluate performance and target areas that need improvement, O’Keefe said.

“It really limits our ability to measure achievement,” he said. “A provincial exam is as important as teachers’ grades because it gives you some measure of student performance across the board.”

In addition to the lack of provincewide exams, which were cancelled as a cost-cutting measure in 2004 under the previous Conservative government, the report said that district-level tests or surveys are often held in-house or reported publicly only at the district level.

“Although there is some criticism about standardized testing, it increases our awareness about what’s going on in schools,’ he said. “When you have the information, you can have a wider conversation about improving education with a focus on priority areas.”

AIMS used two general categories to assess and rank high schools in the province: achievement and engagement.

Achievement measurements included student grades in school and on standardized tests, as well academic performance after high school.

Engagement measurements examine how well students move from grade to grade and how many continue schooling after high school, as well as attendance levels.