A new think-tank study rating the performance of B.C. secondary schools is coming out this spring.
The report is being developed by the Nova Scotia-based Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, in conjunction with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
The Fraser Institute, a Lower Mainland-based think tank, already releases an annual report card that ranks B.C. secondary schools, which the provincial teachers’ union says uses narrow criteria.
What the AIMS report does that other report cards don’t do, said president Charles Cirtwill, is take into consideration factors generally beyond a school’s control when ranking schools, such as socio-economic status and student-teacher ratio.
“It makes the report fair,” he said.
The group has produced a report card for the eastern provinces for the past eight years and last year decided to do one for the western provinces also.
Cirtwill said the report card for B.C. secondary schools was supposed to be ready last September, but the lead researcher took another job, so the release date has been bumped to April.
In the meantime, the institute has an interim report card on its website that explains all of the data points that will be used in the making of the final report. People can access it by going to www.aims.ca and clicking on Report Cards.
The data used by the institute to make up the report includes teacher-student ratios, socio-economic status, student satisfaction surveys, parent satisfaction surveys, average exam and school marks in required subjects and graduation rates.
The report is intended to help schools improve over time, said Cirtwill.
“One of the best tools for making individual schools better is to be as open as possible about how that school is doing,” he said. “It gives them something to work from.”
Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, disagrees with ranking and grading schools.
“I still don’t know what the benefits are to ranking schools winners or losers,” he said.
DeGear’s personal experience with the Fraser Institute’s report card is that it has a devastating impact on schools, creating divisions and ignoring all of the incredible teaching taking place in schools.
The Fraser Institute report card ignores improvement in a school where students go from way below meeting expectations to almost meeting expectations, he said, and rewards schools where students are already meeting expectations for continuing to do so.
While the AIMS report isn’t out yet, DeGear is concerned it will contain a similar disconnect between assigned ranks and what is actually taking place in schools.
“I’m still looking into how they are putting this data together,” he said. “No data is ever a sure thing, especially when you’re talking about student achievement.”