Halifax/Winnipeg– The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) in cooperation with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP) today released the broadest set of public information ever presented on Western Canadian high schools.
Based on AIMS successful Report Card for Atlantic Canadian High Schools (now in its eighth year), Behind the Classroom Door: A Guide to the High School Report Card, examines the information currently available, what that data looks like, and how it would be used in developing a report card for Western Canadian high schools.
“In 2006, an analysis by the OECD found that making achievement data public at the school level resulted in improved student performance,” explains AIMS Research Manager Bobby O’Keefe. “The schools became better regardless of where they were, the types of families they served or the resources each school had. Rich suburbs or poor inner-city neighbourhoods, remote rural schools or schools serving thousands of kids, they all got better the more they told the public about what was going on. Openness matters, a lot, if we want our kids to be better educated and better equipped to take on the world.”
Findings of the Interim High School Report Card:
- British Columbia is perhaps the most open of the four Western provinces in terms of the school level data made available for students, parents, and the public.
- For every high school in British Columbia, one can download a “School Data Summary”, a 51-page document with five-year comparisons of achievement results, enrollment reports, school and community demographics, and even student and parent satisfaction survey results. If there is a complaint about British Columbia system of data collection and distribution, it is that there is not a more user-friendly comparison between schools.
- Alberta currently runs a close second to British Columbia in terms of the amount of school level information made available to the public.
- It scores extra points for the ease of accessing that data. Alberta makes available all exam scores, teacher assigned grades, final grades, and enrolment data at the school level on the Ministry of Education website.
- However, the overall breadth of data available publicly is less than that in British Columbia. As an example, one can find graduation and drop-out rates for every school in British Columbia, while only district level information is available for all schools in Alberta.
- What the province of Saskatchewan lacks in available school level data online, they make up for in cooperation with requests for that data. So while the data for the measures used is not publicly available in a standard report, the Ministry of Education was very willing to participate and respond to requests for school level information.
- The ministry provided school level achievement data for both its provincial Assessment for Learning Program and teacher-assigned grades in addition to a variety of measures on school enrollment demographics and engagement.
- Manitoba has the most limited access to valuable school level data. The department neither provides much school level data publicly, nor were they willing to provide many of the data points that are widely available in other Canadian provinces.
- The province does provide school level grade-by-grade enrollment data publicly. As well, the Manitoba Department of Education did provide student postal codes which enable a socio-economic profile to be constructed for schools (though at a 20 postal code cut-off for privacy purposes, leaving many schools with no data available).
- Manitoba does not, however, provide any school level results of provincial assessments, number of graduating students at schools, attendance, or track participation in post-secondary study. Attempts to gather this additional data from individual school divisions were met with similar resistance; however there were a few divisions willing to provide information for their schools.
Transparency: BC tops list; Manitoba fails
FCPP Director of Research Mark Milke says the interim report shows the four western provinces have varying viewpoints on the collection, use of, and distribution of school level data.
“Some provinces, like British Columbia and Alberta, are quite open with their data and have the majority of their school level information available on their government websites,” says Milke. “Saskatchewan collects it, but doesn’t make it public – and most remarkably, Manitoba operates in the dark ages. It does not make school level information public, will not make it public and refuses to release any information that would allow school level comparisons to take place.”
For methodology and more detail, please see Behind the Classroom Door: A Guide to the High School Report Card online at /publication.php/3162 or www.AIMS.ca/library/InterimWRC.pdf
For more information, contact:
Bobby O’Keefe, AIMS Research Manager
Mark Milke, FCPP Director of Research
Charles Cirtwill, AIMS President & CEO