By Trevor Busch
The Fraser Institute recently released its popular Report Card on Alberta high schools, the most easily accessible tool for parents to compare the academic performance of their children’s schools.
The Report Card on Alberta’s High Schools 2016 rates 307 public, private, separate and charter schools based on five academic indicators generated from grade 12 provincewide testing, grade-to-grade transition and graduation rates.
“Alberta parents want the best for their families and having the ability to compare school performance helps them make a more informed decision about the school their children attend,” said Peter Cowley, Fraser Institute director of school performance studies.
Taking into account the last five years, Alberta’s two charter high schools achieved the highest average rating of 8.3 (out of 10), followed by private schools (8.1), separate schools (6.3) and public schools (6.0).
The Fraser Institute’s overall rating out of 10 takes into account eight indicators, such as Grade 3 average test mark and Grade 6 average test mark, Grade 6 gender gap and percentage of tests failed.
Rankings indicate the school’s overall academic rank in the province for 2014/2015 and in cases where the information is available, for the most recent five years. The rankings show how the school has done academically compared to the other schools in the province. A high ranking over five years indicates consistently strong results at the school.
In addition to the rankings, the Report Card illustrates which specific schools are improving or falling behind in academics.
In the Taber/Vauxhall region, six elementary schools were evaluated by the Fraser Institute, with Central School (Taber) topping the list with an overall ranking of 7.6 out of 10, or 136 out of 812 (47.3 per cent ESL, 16.5 per cent special needs, 2014 2.9/10, 2015 7.6/10), followed by Barnwell School with an overall ranking of 6.3 out of 10, or 370 out of 812 (13.4 per cent ESL, 11.4 per cent special needs, 2013 5.6/10, 2015 6.3/10), Taber Christian School with an overall ranking of 6.2 out of 10, or 391 out of 812 (66.1 per cent ESL, 9.6 per cent special needs, 2013 5/10, 2014 6.2/10, 2015 6.2/10), Vauxhall Elementary School with an overall ranking of 6.1 out of 10, or 408 out of 812, while ranked 302 out 575 in the most recent five years (55.7 per cent ESL, 12.7 per cent special needs, 2011 6.2/10, 2012 6.9/10, 2013 5.7/10, 2014 5.6/10, 2015 6.1/10), Enchant School with an overall ranking of 5.5 out of 10, or 531 out of 812 (73.8 per cent ESL, 2013 4.7/10, 2014 5.8/10, 2015 5.5/10), and Tween Valley Christian School (Purple Springs) with an overall ranking of 5.2 out of 10, or 577 out of 812 (94.4 per cent ESL, 2014 4/10, 2015 5.2/10).
In the Taber/Vauxhall region, five high schools were evaluated by the Fraser Institute, with the Arden T. Litt Centre for Learning (Grassy Lake) topping the local rankings with an overall rank of 8.2 out of 10, or 21 out of 307, followed by Vauxhall High School with an overall ranking of 8.1 out of 10, or 24 out of 307, while ranked 11 out of 246 in the most recent five years (10.1 per cent ESL, 11.6 per cent special needs, 2011 8.3/10, 2012 7.5 /10, 2013 8.9/10, 2014 8.8/10, 2015 8.1/10), W.R. Myers High School (Taber) with an overall ranking of 7.9 out of 10, or 32 out of 307, while ranked 25 out of 246 in the most recent five years (4.9 per cent ESL, 14.6 per cent special needs, 2011 7.4/10, 2012 7.3/10, 2013 8.5/10, 2014 8.1/10, 2015 7.9/10), St. Mary’s School with an overall ranking of 7.7 out of 10, or 38 out of 307, while ranked 170 out of 246 in the most recent five years (19.6 per cent ESL, 20 per cent special needs, 2011 4.2/10, 2012 5.7/10, 2013 3.8/10, 2014 6.5/10, 2015 7.7/10), and Horizon Mennonite Alternative Program (MAP, Vauxhall) with an overall ranking of 7.4 out of 10, or 53 out of 307 (8.5 per cent special needs, 2015 7.4/10).
The data suggests that every school is capable of improvement regardless of the type of school, its location and the proportion of students with special needs or students in English as a Second Language (ESL) programs.
For example, the school enjoying the fastest statistically significant improvement over the past five years is École Mallaig School, a public school in north-eastern Alberta. Despite having 25 per cent of its students identified as special needs learners, Mallaig’s overall rating has steadily improved to 7.7 (out of 10) in 2015 from 3.5 in 2011.
Of the 10 fastest-improving schools, all are public schools.
“When parents see the Report Card’s objective evidence that a school’s results are consistently low or declining, they often become very effective advocates for improvement,” Cowley said. “Every year, every school in the province should find ways to improve student results—it’s as simple as that.”
For detailed results of all 307 schools, go to http://www.compareschoolrankings.org where you can quickly see how a school performed over the past five years and how it compares to other schools.