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Township high schools drop slightly in Fraser rankings

The two public high schools in Waterloo Region’s rural townships have slipped in the rankings complied by the Fraser Institute in their annual report card.

Elmira District Secondary School (EDSS) is now ranked 84 out of 718 secondary schools, tied with 13 other schools throughout the province, while Waterloo-Oxford District Secondary School (WODSS) in Baden is ranked 208 along with 23 other schools. In the past five years, the two schools had been ranked 37th (EDSS) and 139th (WO).

For the 2011 school year EDSS received a grade of 7.8 out of 10 compared to 8.2 in 2010 while Waterloo-Oxford earned a score of 7 compared to 7.4 the year before.

The Fraser Institute’s report card format uses indicators such as success in standardized exams and graduation rates to assess each school.

Co-author Michael Thomas says the report card provides parents with a simple-to-use, objective tool to judge trends in academic performance.

“We like to say the report card answers the question for parents: how is my school doing compared to all other schools in the report card academically?” said Thomas. “We hope the report card is used as a comparative tool for improvement so that parents and educators can identify some successful schools in the province, maybe some that are similar to the characteristics of their own local school, and try to emulate some of the success they have had through their academic results.”

The report also compares a school’s performance with the performance expected based on parental average income, drawn from Statistics Canada’s most recent census data. With an average family income of $86,100 Waterloo-Oxford performed better than EDSS who didn’t do as well as expected based on an average family income of $136,000.

Along with the report card, the institute’s website allows users to compare the performance of the 718 secondary schools from across Ontario based on eight key indicators derived from province-wide tests of mathematics and literacy.

The report card shows that there has been an area of improvement among the Grade 9 math results across the province.

“There has been a steady increase in performance over the last five years among both streams – the applied and academic,” said Thomas. “This is very good news.”

On the flipside the literacy test has shown no notable improvement over the last five years.

“This is an exam that students take for the first time in Grade 10 and they have to pass it in order to graduate in Ontario and we have seen no improvement over the last five years and 19 per cent of students are not passing this exam on the first try so there is a lot of room for improvement in that area.”

This year’s results also indicated that, province-wide, fewer students tested below the provincial average on reading and numeracy skills than in 2010. In 2011, only 26.6 per cent of tests written were below the provincial standard.

“This is an area of improvement as well as fewer tests are being failed overall when you look at both the math and literacy tests,” said Thomas. “It was over 30 per cent five years ago and we have seen a decline since then. There is, of course, room for improvement as just over a quarter of the tests are still below standard or fails.”

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