A Tale of Two School Boards

Publication, Education, Dennis Owens

Executive Summary

  • Although Winnipeg School Division #1 (WSD) and Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) are similar in important respects, these common characteristics are outweighed by substantial differences.
  • WSD spends more money per student than EPSB, and has a substantially larger bureaucracy. A smaller WSD has five superintendents compared to EPSB’s one, a symptom of generally higher administrative costs.
  • Through school-based management, EPSB allows its principals a significant amount of administrative freedom, while WSD follows a traditional, top-down model.
  • EPSB has embraced diversity by allowing schools to specialize and embracing a rigorous policy of school choice. WSD requires most schools to follow a neighbourhood school model, with much less specialization and limited choice.
  • EPSB holds principals accountable by administering annual math and English standards tests. Principals are expected to ensure that student achievement in their schools steadily improves.
  • WSD has divided its schools up into districts and each district comes up with its own set of goals, which are vague and unable to be measured. Its Comprehensive Assessment Program is subjective, time-consuming, and the cause of significant labour strife.
  • Although the lack of standards tests in WSD make direct comparisons of student achievement between the two divisions impossible, PISA tests indicate much better overall results in Alberta than in Manitoba.
  • EPSB’s strategies have been more successful, and WSD s
    hould emulate them.
  • View entire backgrounder in pdf format