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EDSS scores well in annual FI ranking of high schools

Elmira District Secondary School is again one Waterloo Region’s top high schools in the Fraser Institute’s annual report card.

The right-leaning think tank published its findings this week. EDSS scored 8.3 out of 10 in 2013 and has a five-year rating of 8.0, putting it in 46th place out of 691 schools rated. Also among the highest ranked in the region are Bluevale Collegiate with a 7.7 and Sir John A. MacDonald (7.5).

“This is very, very good… [EDSS rankings] have been very stable and very high. It’s not to say they couldn’t improve, they are not showing improvement, but no doubt about it they are consistently high performing, ” Peter Cowley, director of school performance studies at the institute, said this week

The Fraser Institute analyzes data from the annual province-wide Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) tests of literacy and math.

“I pose the question publicly to the minister of education: What is the most important thing she could do given our release?” said Cowley. “What she should do is find out from us or from someone else the identity of the 69 schools that have shown significant improvement … and then be in touch with them, and ask them to provide a little report on how they did it. There may be some things that have shown themselves to be affective that could be used by other schools.”

As is the case every year, the school boards warn against putting too much weight on the high school rankings.

“As with EQAO and other performance measures that track our schools, the information provided by Fraser gives us an additional set of data to consider as we weigh all inputs that may assist decision-making – we are sponges when it comes to solid, reliable data relating to our schools. But using the data to rank schools without taking into account the myriad intangible influences impacting each school is not fair to either the schools being ranked or the general public who may make important decisions based on them,” Waterloo District Catholic School Board director of education John Shewchuk said this week in response to the study.

“Our best advice is if people are shopping for a school they should attend an open house, ask to meet with a school administrator, request a school tour, talk to parents with children already in the school, and then make an informed decision based on their own personal research rather than relying on think tank rankings. We’re always happy to show off our schools.”

The Waterloo Region District School Board in a statement released this maintained that results are an inaccurate view of local schools.

“EQAO results are not intended to be used to rank schools. Instead, they assist school and board staff to identify areas of improvement for student learning and achievement in reading, writing and math. We believe that any assessment of school quality should include a complete picture of all programs and features of a school, and take into account many important factors such as demographics and context,” the release stated.

Cowley disagrees, arguing that boards could establish their own measures on the effectiveness of schools in many aspects of learning. The Fraser Institute’s studies are currently the only statistical data available for parents to judge schools since the annual reports began in 2007, he added.

“We heard that the report card was too narrow in its focus and didn’t speak to all of the wonderful things that are going on in the schools. What they didn’t tell you in 2007 was that [the schools] are the folks who can fix it along with their peers across the province.”

He called on schools to establish additional measures in academic areas and provide them to the Fraser Institute for a more inclusive picture of each school.

“They’ve had seven years to do that.”

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