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Board says high school rankings should be 'taken with a grain of salt'

'As a system, we look closely at EQAO results, but even that is just one indicator,' says Catholic school board official
Maple Ridge Secondary School, located on Mapleview Drive East in south-end Barrie, is shown in a file photo.

Collingwood's high schools received Ds on a recent report card on Ontario’s secondary schools by the Fraser Institute, but school board officials say it's not a complete evaluation. 

Released May 23, the report ranks 689 public, Catholic and independent schools based on eight academic indicators derived from provincewide test results, which Fraser Institute officials say allows parents to compare the academic performance of schools across Ontario. 

“Our report cards offer parents information they can’t easily get anywhere else, about how their child’s school performs and how it compares to other schools in Ontario,” Peter Cowley, a Fraser Institute senior fellow, stated in a news release.

“It doesn’t matter where a school is ranked, or what challenges its students may face," Cowley added. "The evidence is clear — all types of schools, located all over the province with different types of students, are all capable of improvement." 

According to the report, it provides parents with a valuable tool for making a decision, as it makes comparisons easy and alerts parents to those nearby schools that appear to have more effective academic programs. Parents can also determine whether schools of interest are improving over time.

By first studying the report card, the institute says parents will be better prepared to ask relevant questions when they visit schools under consideration and speak with the staff. The report also noted that public ratings and rankings attracts attention, which in turn can provide motivation for improvement. 

“Schools that perform well or show consistent improvement are applauded," says the report. "Poorly performing schools generate concern, as do those whose performance is deteriorating. This inevitable attention provides an incentive for all those connected with a school to focus on student results."

Representatives from the various local school boards acknowledged the report, but noted they don’t put a lot of stock into the results.

Pauline Stevenson, manager of communications and strategic initiatives for the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, which includes St. Peter’s in the city’s southeast end, St. Joseph’s in the north end and St. Joan of Arc, located in the city’s southwest end, said the rankings are “not particularly helpful and should be taken with a grain of salt." 

“As a system, we look closely at EQAO results, but even that is just one indicator. We look at data and evidence from multiple sources to inform our teaching and learning strategies,” said Stevenson.

Officials with the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) say they have various tools in place that are both prescribed by the Ministry of Education and developed in-house to measure how well its schools are performing. 

“Not only do these tools measure academic success, but they look beyond that to explore other factors that make SCDSB schools positive spaces to learn and grow,” said Sarah Kekewich, manager of communications for the public board.

Steve Lapierre, executive director of communications, recruitment and partnerships for Conseil scolaire Viamonde, which is the board responsible for École secondaire Roméo-Dallaire in south Barrie, said their board measures the performance of its schools using internal data and results from EQAO standardized tests. 

“These are the data we rely on to set our continuous improvement goals and assist schools in setting their achievement targets,” he said. 

The foundation of the Fraser Institute report card is an overall rating of each school’s academic performance. 

The resulting overall rating out of 10 on the school’s performance is based on six indicators, all of which are derived from provincewide tests of literacy and mathematics skills that are administered by the province’s Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO):

They include:

  • the average level of achievement on the Grade 9 EQAO assessment in mathematics; 
  • the percentage of Ontario Secondary School Literacy Tests (OSSLT) written by first-time eligible students that were successfully completed; 
  • the percentage of OSSLTs written by previously eligible students that were successfully completed; 
  • the percentage of all the completed tests written by students at the school that were assessed either as unsuccessful (OSSLT) or below the provincial standard (Grade 9 math tests); 
  • the difference between male and female students in their average levels of achievement on Grade 9 EQAO assessment in mathematics;
  • the difference between male and female students attempting the OSSLT for the first time in their rate of successful completion of the test.

The Fraser Institute says it selected this set of indicators because they provide useful insight into a school’s performance. 

“As they are based on annually generated data, we can assess not only each school’s performance in any given year, but also its improvement or deterioration over time,” notes the report. “While each of the indicators is important, it is almost always the case that any school does better on some indicators than on others.

"So, just as a teacher must make a decision about a student’s overall performance, we need an overall indicator of school performance — in the table's overall rating out of 10," the report notes. "Just as teachers combine test scores, homework and class participation to rate a student, we have combined all the indicators to produce an overall rating.”

The Fraser grade for Collingwood Collegiate Institute was a 6.5 overall out of ten and the Institute gave Our Lady of the Bay a 5.9. In 2019, the schools scored 7.2 and 6.5 respectively. 

The average overall score for all secondary schools in Ontario in the Fraser Institute report was six out of 10. Our Lady of the Bay was "ranked" 394 out of 689 schools and CCI was 288th. 

For the complete results on all ranked schools and to compare the performance of different schools, visit