Nova Scotia high schools are earning better grades and leading the way in Atlantic Canada, according to this year’s annual report card by a Halifax think-tank.

The schools in the top spots remain the same – Cape Breton Highlands Academy in Terre Noire and C.P Allen High School in Bedford – but this year’s Cinderella story comes from Hants North Rural High School in Kennetcook.

The Chignecto-Central school had received three consecutive Ds and didn’t receive a final mark last year.

But in the 7th Annual Report Card on Atlantic Canadian High Schools released this morning, Hants North earned a B-.

“While it still sits at about the provincial average, climbing from the bottom to the middle of the pack is no easy feat,” the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies stated n a news release today.

This school was “one of the first … AIMS visited in our effort to show schools how to use the report card to improve performance.”

The group looks at a number of factors, including things like attendance rates, grades in math, science and language arts, provincial exam results, the number of students grading from one level to the next, post-secondary performance, teacher-student ratio, enrolment and even socio-economic status to help determine the final grades.

For the first time, Nova Scotia’s Acadian high schools were reviewed and ranked in this year’s report. The francophone schools were not compared to the anglophone schools because of differences in provincial exams, according to the release.

Ecole du Carrefour in Dartmouth was the top francophone school in Nova Scotia, earning a B. Ecole secondaire de Par-en-Bas in Tusket received a B-, earning the second spot. But only these two schools from the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial’s 10 high schools received final grades and rank, “mainly due to the small enrolment, which brings privacy issues into play,” the release states.

Among the anglophone schools, 15 (not including North Hants) earned higher marks this year compared to last, and 37 of the province’s 55 high schools ranked in this report earned a B- or better.

A total of 18 of the province’s English schools were not ranked and did not receive final grades due to missing information or other factors.

Twelve schools saw their grades fall this year over last, including the last-placed school on the list – Northeast Kings Education Centre in Canning. The Kings County school slipped from a C to a C-, earning the last spot on this year’s list.

But AIMS says that Nova Scotia schools are leading the pack in the Atlantic provinces, with improving schools outnumbering those with falling grades by more than double in the past five years.

The group pointed to five schools: Canso Academy; Drumlin Heights Consolidated in Glenwood, Yarmouth Co.; Holy Angels High School in Sydney; Lockview High School in Fall River and Halifax West High School that saw their marks increase by three grade levels over the past five reports, “showing that big or small, rich or poor, rural or urban, all schools are capable of improvement,” AIMS said in its release.