Many educators dread the annual school report cards produced by groups like the Fraser Institute or the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS).

The reports are often criticized for not offering a fair assessment of individual schools.

But in Metro Moncton’s District 2, staff have embraced the various reports, using them as a tool to help improve the quality of education in their schools, so much so that when Progress Magazine, which publishes the AIMS Report Card, asked AIMS authors who would make a good model of how to use such data effectively, it recommended District 2.

“The key there is District 2 invited us to come and meet with principals of the high schools to talk about our report card and how they could use it, plus they do their own collection,” says AIMS vice-president Charles Cirtwill. “From our standpoint they were looking for someone to hold out as a model and that strikes us as exactly the model to use because they are going for multiple data sources and are using them collectively.”

Besides the AIMS report, District 2 superintendent Karen Branscombe says they take into account the Fraser Institute report, the internationally-collected PISA data, graduate exit surveys, surveys with graduates one-year out of school, class profiles, data on specific programs, and any other relevant information they can get their hands on.

She says staff then put it into context, looking at things like how many students wrote a particular test, were there any staff changes at that school in that year.

“It’s all done to improve student learning,” she says.

Cirtwill says that’s exactly how they hope their report will be used.

“One of the things we say every year is that this is just one piece of information and you need to get other ones and use them collectively to draw opinions of your school,” he says.

Cirtwill says many schools are beginning to see the value of reports like theirs.

“There is no question that it is being used much more proactively today than it was four years ago,” he says. “People are coming to the understanding that they have to have measures of performance to see if the things they are trying are actually working.”

Branscombe says the district is also committed to making the data public.

“We feel it is critical to share it and have dialogue about it, good or bad, and see what we can do to make that better,” she says.