REGINA — Regina’s high schools ranked mid-pack and lower based on a new marking system that evaluates how such institutions in Saskatchewan are performing.

The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy on Monday released their first Report Card on Western Canadian High Schools.

The report card ranks high schools from Manitoba and Saskatchewan based on the AIMS model, which has been used in Atlantic Canada for almost a decade.

“We’ve taken a bunch of indicators that school boards generally have, but haven’t made available in a comprehensive and accessible way for the whole province before,” said David Seymour, policy analyst with the Frontier Centre.

Out of the 178 Saskatchewan schools that were scored — there wasn’t enough data for the other 105 that the report looked at — Regina’s high schools ranked as follows:

Laval (47), Campbell (59), Riffel (63), Sheldon-Williams (66), O’Neill (120), Leboldus (129), Winston Knoll (130), Balfour (142), Johnson (151), Miller (153), Thom (169) and Martin (173).

The report card compares the average level of student engagement and achievement at each high school in the province based on the 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years.

“Engagement” measures attendance, graduation and participation in post-secondary education. “Achievement” measures school marks and provincial exam results.

The data is presented as raw scores and with adjustments made for the class sizes, socio-economic status and entrance test scores for each school, Seymour explained.

“What we wanted to do was make sure we allow for the fact that different schools face different situations and challenges,” he said. “We have a formula.”

The highest ranked school in Saskatchewan was the Englefield School — a small school in a rural area at which students are from areas with below-average wealth compared to the rest of the province, according to the study.

“It may be a little bit of a statistical anomaly that smaller schools have done better,” Seymour said. “It’s equally plausible that small schools have inherent qualities (that allow them to perform better.) Our research doesn’t really give explanations for the results.”

Rounding out the top five were Lake Lenore School, Glentworth Central School, 33 Central School in Fillmore and Goodsoil Central School.

Statistically, the results for larger schools are less likely to depart from the average based on a few students whose results are exceptionally high or low, Seymour said.

“We take this information seriously,” said Mike Walter, deputy director for Regina Public Schools. “For the past five years, we’ve been using much of this information. Achievement results are on our website. We’ve been very upfront.

“I don’t know if there will ever be a perfect science when it comes to comparing schools. Our research (shows) it’s the data you use that informs your work, it’s not the comparison piece,” he added.

“We are in the process of reviewing the information,” Rob Currie, director of education for Regina Catholic Schools, said, noting the division already uses its own data, like Regina Public.

“It’s a really challenging task to compare when you have such varying factors from one school to the next with information that is dated. However, it’s always good to look back,” he added.

Schools demonstrating deficiencies in one area are not necessarily poorly ranked overall, the study noted, with the example that Central Butte School received a ranking of 121/200 points on math provincial exams, but ranked sixth overall due to other areas.

Seymour noted that some think school rankings shouldn’t be released because it’s not fair to the schools and students that are ranked lower, but he said the Frontier Centre believes it’s good for the education system, as a publicly funded entity, to have rankings published, noting they’re of “immense public interest.”

CORRECTION: This story should have included Laval (47) and O’Neill (120) within the list of Regina schools. Cochrane, Scott and Luther were not ranked. The story above has now been corrected.