School Board responds to Fraser Institute report card

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The annual Report Card on Ontario’s Elementary Schools was released by the Fraser Institute this month, and the results have caused the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) Director of Education, Stephen Sliwa, to issue a statement rejecting the idea of ranking schools in the province. Although the Director acknowledges that the UCDSB is “open to any data or study that provides information leading to improvements in our schools”, he states that there is “no evidence to show that ranking schools improves student learning; nor does it offer a precise understanding of exactly where improvement efforts should be directed”.

The Institute’s Report Card ranked 2,900 public and Catholic schools (and a small number of independent schools) based on nine academic indicators from results of annual province-wide reading, writing and math tests. Of the elementary schools in this area, Sainte Marguerite Bourgeois ranked highest, at number 639 of 2,900. The others came in as follows: Kemptville Public School 784; South Branch 1123; Merrickville PS 1283; Holy Cross, Kemptville, 1355; and Oxford Mills Public School 2288.

The Fraser Institute believes that ranking schools in this way motivates schools to improve, year by year, and provides parents with a way of deciding which school their children should attend. “By comparing a school’s latest results with those of earlier years, we can see if the school is improving. By comparing a school’s results with those of neighbouring schools or schools having similar school and student characteristics, we can identify more successful schools and learn from them”.

However, Director Sliwa at the UCDSB disagrees: “There is no evidence to show that ranking schools improves student learning; nor does it offer a precise understanding of exactly where improvement efforts should be directed. It is more accountable and useful to use data that measures achievement on a student-by-student basis. EQAO test results provide useful information on which to base strategies to improve our learning programs, but it is unfair and misleading to compare schools based only on these scores”.

He further believes that the Report only creates unfair and unrealistic expectations, providing an unbalanced picture which ignores the wider perspective on education which school boards take. “Any process that ranks schools, such as the Fraser Institute’s report, projects an unrealistic impression about student achievement and the needs of schools, and certainly falls short of acknowledging gains in student learning that result from the intentional efforts of our schools and district.”

The UCDSB released its own report on the Board’s work for the past year. The report, entitled “Achieving Together: Leading and Learning for All”, outlines the board’s success in meeting the four strategic priorities of achieving excellence, ensuring equity, promoting well-being, and enhancing public confidence in the Board’s district, as set by the Board. Pointing to the Board’s wider vision of what a successful education entails, Mr. Sliwa noted that: “This report shows we are taking every opportunity to ensure we develop students who are smart, resilient, adaptable, innovative and caring, all with the intent of meeting our board mission of preparing every student for a successful life.”

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