HALIFAX – Just a few years ago, River Hebert District High was a school with an uncertain future.
Constantly faced with the threat of closure and not always getting the best educational results, the community waged a determined fight to save their school and convinced the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board not to close the doors and ship its students to Amherst Regional High School.
That work appears to have paid off as the school is at the top of the list of Cumberland County schools in the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies eighth annual report card. The school, which was not graded last year, sits in 29th position with an overall rating of B- while last year’s county leader Pugwash slipped from 28th spot to 38th.

“There are a lot of wonderful things going on at River Hebert just as there are good things happening at all schools in the province,” report card author Bobby O’Keefe said. “That school is doing a great job preparing students for a post-secondary education and whether it’s the community college route or university, students from that school are doing well.”
Following River Hebert and Pugwash, Parrsboro was in 39th spot, Amherst was 44th, Oxford was 50th and Springhill Senior High 53rd. Advocate District High was not graded.

While it’s nice to see how schools are doing compared to others, O’Keefe said the purpose of the report card is to show areas of success while identifying problem areas and encouraging parents and other stakeholders to ask questions.

O’Keefe said this is the first year in which all school boards have co-operated with the preparation of the report by providing public information. He also pointed out that the report cards have shown consistent improvement in educational outcomes, even among those schools that have been stuck at the bottom of the list.

“Making the information public helps schools improve and getting the information to parents, students and the communities can help find ways to improve things for schools,” said O’Keefe.

The next step, he said, is to allow parents and students to use the information to the maximum advantage and allow for choices.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean moving students from one community to another to go to different schools, it simply means offering as many choices as possible so that students get the education that fits their needs,” he said, adding it should avoid the situation where schools are all things to all people. “When you try to be all things to all people you tend to be in a one size fits none type of situation.”

The three top schools haven’t changed from last year with Cape Breton Highlands Academy in first place, Charles P. Allen High in Bedford in second and Barrington Municipal High in third.

North Colchester, ranked eighth, is the highest graded in this school board.

– Students still scoring below the Canadian average on national and international tests.
– Atlantic Canadian students consistently fail to make decent marks in the core basics like reading, writing and arithmetic.
– With enrolment decreasing and funding increasing, we are spending more on education per student than ever before, but performance is not getting better and some would argue it’s getting worse.
– Some places have thrown up their hands in defeat. Other cities, provinces and states have embraced education reform demanding more and better – and those areas are seeing results.

“The next step is to use that information to demand better results, to demand change to produce better results, to ask  yourself, your neighbours and your community what you are going to do to make it better.” Bobby O’Keefe, report co-author