In Manitoba, however, AIMS and the FCPP say they found themselves stymied by the provincial government’s unwillingness to release most of the requested data.
The same methodology has been used in Atlantic Canada for over a decade, and much like in Saskatchewan, AIMS say they have had no issues in receiving the information they’re after.
“The lack of publicly available school level performance data is in stark contrast to every other province in the country,” said Frontier Centre for Public Policy president Peter Holle. “Manitoba’s Department of Education lacks the transparency and openness required to inform parents, teachers, and taxpayers about how their schools are doing, and it is regrettable that the department did not show any willingness over the course of this project to increase the amount of information made available to the public.”
The survey – which uses data from 2005 through 2008 – provides a mixed bag of results for Northern schools, but generally finds that area schools are below provincial averages even when taking into account factors such as remoteness and lack of resources.
(In some categories, the survey offered up to two grades for the same criteria – an absolute mark, and an “in-context” mark, which takes into account geographic, economic, and other factors beyond the control of any individual school. Where there are discrepancies, this article will use the in-context marks. Independent, private, and otherwise non-funded schools were not included.)
From the data that was gathered, one clear trend stands out for Northern Manitoba schools – a lack of teachers. Three of the province’s five highest student-to-teacher ratios can be found in the North – led by 56.6 students per teacher at the Grand Rapids School, followed by 47 at the Mary Duncan School in The Pas and 45.6 at the Helen Betty Osborne Iniwiw Education Resource Centre in Norway House.
Other high ratios could be found at Mel Johnson School in Wabowden (ranked seventh out of 226), Gillam School (ranked 12th), West Lynn Heights High School in Lynn Lakes (18th), the Duke of Marlborough School in Churchill (35th), and the Leaf Rapids Education Centre (54th).
Closer to the middle of the pack – or the back, with the lowest ratio of students per teacher – were the Many Faces Education Centre in Flin Flon (74th), the Joseph H. Kerr School in Snow Lake (82nd), Margaret Balbour Collegiate Institute in The Pass (110th), R.D. Parker Collegiate in Thompson (119th), Frontier Collegiate Institute in Cranberry Portage (166th), and Hapnot Collegiate in Flin Flon (196th).
Also measured by the survey were student move-on rates – exact rates of students moving from one grade to the next over the three-year period were not published, but each school was assigned a rank and a letter grade for its performance in this area.
Most Manitoba high schools, including those under the auspices of the Frontier School Division, only provided this data for students moving from Grade 10 to Grade 11, and from Grade 11 to Grade 12. Nonetheless, these schools were assigned an overall mark for move-on rates along with those who provided data for three or all four years.
In this category, the highest grades in the North were scored by some of the smaller schools in the area, led by Mary Duncan School (A+, ranked seventh out of 228), Many Faces Education Centre (A+, 15th), and Mel Johnson School (A-, 21st).
After that, there was a steep drop-off to middle-of-the-pack schools such as Gillam School (B-, 107th), Duke of Marlborough School (B-, 117th), Grand Rapids School (C+, 134th), Hapnot Collegiate (C+, 141st), and Joseph H. Kerr School (C+, 159th).
Bringing up the rear were Margaret Balbour Collegiate Institute (C, 174th), R.D. Parker Collegiate (C, 185th), West Lynn Heights High School (C, 188th), Helen Betty Osborne Iniwiw Education Resource Centre (C, 192nd), Leaf Rapids Education Centre (C, 195th), and Frontier Collegiate Institute (F, 214th).
R.D. Parker Collegiate was the lone Northern school to provide data on move-on rates for all four years. Its overall mark of C was calculated by marks of C (ranked 21st out of 30) for Grade 9 to Grade 10, C- (189th out of 237) for Grade 10 to Grade 11, B- (69th out of 228) for Grade 11 to Grade 12, and C- (71st out of 81) for graduation from Grade 12.
Of course, these numbers only tell a very partial story of what’s actually going on in Northern Manitoba schools. In Grand Rapids, for example, the C+ grade for move-on rates is an average of the D for Grade 10 to Grade 11 and the A- for Grade 11 to Grade 12 – which could mean almost anything.
In addition to these categories, AIMS asked schools for information in a number of other areas, including level of teacher certification, students moving on to post-secondary studies, and provincial exam results, but no schools in Manitoba provided this data. Similarly, only 30 schools provided information on student attendance. AIMS says that due to the lack of data provided, they are not able to construct meaningful overall grades for each school, as they have done in Saskatchewan and other provinces.
In March, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) partnered with the Winnipeg –based Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP) to grade Manitoba and Saskatchewan high schools in several areas, ranging from student attendance to teacher certification.