Saturday, March 20, 2004

The Journal-Pioneer (Summerside)

Prince Edward Island needs better records on students: AIMS

CHARLOTTETOWN – Prince Edward Island keeps a poor record on its students, says a new report.

The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) is urging Island educators to let the public know more about what is going on in their schools. AIMS vice president Charles Cirtwill said P.E.I. was only able to provide a limited set of criteria to help the institute rank Island high schools as part of its annual report card on Atlantic Canada high schools. Cirtwill said with the province having no system of standardized exams, the capacity to compare across schools is limited. Only post-secondary performance was available to assess academic achievement.

“P.E.I. is not even in the game as far as gathering, assessing and releasing information about schools,” said Cirtwill.

Linda Lowther, the Island’s senior director of public education, said the Education Department collects plenty of relevant data, including number of students, teacher-student ratio and retention rates. High school graduates are also surveyed on their expectations. She said standardized testing is expensive and unnecessary. Classroom teachers provide excellent assessment of the student’s academic performance, she said. Overall, AIMS reported to have sufficient information to assess 10 high schools on P.E.I. for 2003.Kinkora regional high school received the only overall A rating with an A-plus for academic achievement and a B-plus for academic engagement. Kensington intermediate senior high school received a failing grade in academic achievement and a B for academic engagement for an overall C rating. None of the remaining eight schools received higher than a B or lower than a C in either of the two categories. Kinkora principal Jeff Squires was pleased to learn of his school’s top ranking.” That’s a complement to the teaching staff and the students both,” he said.” Those are the types of success stories you like to see. We’re extremely proud of the teachers that are at Kinkora high school. “However, Lowther said the Education Department is putting no weight on the report card. She said AIMS didn’t have sufficient data to rate academic achievement. she believes the gap is “really small” in the level of academic achievement from one Island high school to the next. Lowther said the province doesn’t believe that ranking schools serves an educational purpose.” The results don’t give us information as to what the needs are,” she said. “It creates a high stakes, competitive approach which is not a positive learning environment.” Meanwhile, Lowther said the Education Department is already in the process of devising a work plan for improving schools. A full-time co-ordinator will be assigned to help identify a range of data that may be collected, such as measuring parents’ satisfaction and assessing a school’s climate.