By Norm Park
We all know how it works when students are graded and marked for competency within their respective schools, but what happens when the public attempts to get grading and competency reports on the schools themselves?
Well, thanks to the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP) that have carried out some detailed surveys and studies … those marks for Western Canadian high schools are now available.
The 178 high schools across Saskatchewan that have six or more students enrolled in high school classes, and provided information for the study, have been ranked according to their abilities to keep students engaged and attaining expected levels of achievement.
In Saskatchewan it became quite evident that big was not necessarily better since the highest rated schools trended toward smaller facilities while the larger schools such as Estevan’s Comprehensive School ranked well down the list. In Estevan’s case, at No. 121, it was an improvement over the previous year when it was listed at 150.
The survey and ranking agencies noted that the ratings were made based on student outcomes and achievements from 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years, thus making the information received two years old.
This is just the second year that the rankings have been made and published and AIMS and FCPP were quick to praise Saskatchewan’s government and school divisions for their co-operation and commitment to provide comprehensive information as opposed to their Manitoba counterparts who have not been as willing to share information.
On the Saskatchewan scene, the small Glentworth Central School with a high school enrolment of just 40 students, was ranked No. 1 and given a Grade A status while Central Butte School with 54 high school students was second, also with an A. These were the only schools to receive a straight A grade from the rating agencies and both are located in the Prairie South Public School Division. Medstead Central School, which has 123 students and is located in the Living Sky School Division, received an A- minus grade, and was ranked third overall.
It wasn’t until one reached the seventh ranked school, to find a high school that offered up a substantial enrolment and that was Esterhazy where 231 students make their scholastic homes.
The highest ranked high school in the South East Cornerstone Public School Division was Radville Regional High School which with 72 high school students,ranked No. 24 with a B – plus grade. Last year Radville was ranked at No. 50.
Other Cornerstone schools on the rankings list included Midale Central at No. 59 with 58 high school students; McNaughton High School in Moosomin at No. 63 with 195 high schoolers and Arcola School at No. 64 with 62 students.
Lampman was next on the list as far as Cornerstone schools were concerned, checking in at No. 70 with their 71 students in high school.
The Gordon F. Kells High School in Carlyle with their 118 students was ranked No. 102 followed by Rocanville at No. 112 with 101 students and then Redvers at 116 with 96 students.
ECS, as noted earlier came up with a B – minus grade for the 848 high school students in the program, also making it one of the larger high schools in the province.
Two other Cornerstone schools were among those ranked and they were Stoughton’s Central School that came in at 161 with 71 high schoolers and Carnduff’s Education Complex with 133 students and a ranking of 162.
There were five other South East Cornerstone communities that offered high school classes that were unranked by AIMS and FCPP since they did not provide enough information to make a proper assessment and those included the Weyburn Comprehensive School with 531 students, and Oxbow’s Prairie Heights (Horizon) School with 126 students. The other three unranked schools in the local public school system and their enrolments are: Maryfield (23); Ogema (24) and Gladmar (31).
AIMS and FCPP said core objectives were studied by those compiling the information provided as researchers looked for such things as student engagement in learning as well as the facilitation of competencies (achievement). These broad objectives were then broken down into detailed elements to arrive at an overall assessment and that included such things as student enjoyment of learning, continuation of learning, student/teacher ratios in classrooms, teacher certification levels, achievements within the feeder schools, attendance records, passing and failing rates, commitments to learning basic subjects such as mathematics, language, sciences and post-secondary pursuits.
The two agencies stated that to ensure their rankings and grades were not being skewed, they included teacher assigned marks in the main subject areas, as well as making their own grading evaluations based on standardized tests they had presented to high schoolers to complete.
“Saskatchewan is committed not only to making schools better but to including the public as a real partner in that effort,” said Peter Holle, president of FCPP. “We know that engaged parents and communities make for better schools and we know that informed parents are better able and more willing to engage. Saskatchewan should be proud of their government’s leadership on improving openness about education in the west.”