By Rodney A. Clifton

How do parents and taxpayers know if the schools they support are good or bad?

In some provinces, Alberta, BC, and Ontario, for example, parents and taxpayers are fortunate because various think tanks, the Fraser Institute, the C.D. Howe Institute, the Frontier Centre, and the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, have been examining the effectiveness of schools for a number of years.

Unfortunately, no think tank has been successful in assessing the effectiveness of schools in Manitoba largely because the provincial government has buried the data so deep no one can dig it out.

Recently the C.D. Howe Institute released a study by David Johnson, their Education Policy Scholar, on the top-performing schools in British Columbia.  Johnson is an economist who has developed a sophisticated statistical procedure for controlling the effects of the social economic status of the students in the schools.  In this way, he is comparing the performances of schools that have similar students.

Three of the top-performing schools are public schools in Prince Rupert, a small coastal community in the north.  The three Schools are Pineridge Elementary, Roosevelt Park Elementary, and Westview Elementary.  Roosevelt Park Elementary, for example, has over 85% aboriginal students, and the other two schools have over 25% aboriginal students.

The parents and taxpayers in that province should read this report with care.  The provincial government and school board trustees should be asking serious questions why these schools can be so good at improving their students’ academic achievement and what can be done to help other schools do the same thing.

Someone needs to study what these principals and teachers are doing with their students.  And, someone needs to use this data help less successful principals and teachers do better.  Parents and taxpayers should expect the majority of schools to improve.