Representatives from two Windsor-area school boards have said the Fraser Institute’s school rankings do not give a complete picture of a school’s quality.
The research organization released its annual rankings Sunday. Schools are ranked based on data from the province-wide Education Quality and Accountability Office testing.
The highest secondary school from the region on the list was Vincent Massey Secondary School, which placed 42 out of 676. The next highest was Belle River District High School at 93.
Assumption College Catholic High School was named one of the 10 most improved schools, which rose from a five-year average of 335 to 192.
Scott Scantlebury, public relations officer for the Greater Essex County District School Board, said the rankings are “woefully incomplete” because they use limited data.
“If someone wants to get an understanding of the quality of any particular school, the thing to do would be to visit it, talk to the people who have children or students at that school, speak to the staff and visit to see the programs and the activities and the things that go on,” he said.
Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board communications coordinator Stephen Fields also suggested the best way to have a feel for a school is by visiting.
“I think what happens when you rank schools, for those that may be a little bit lower in the rankings, it creates reputational problems for schools that are not always warranted,” he said.
Peter Cowley, director of school performance studies for Fraser, said in a statement “parents at declining schools should ask the principal what's being done to reverse the trend.”
Scantlebury said the EQAO results are important and the board already uses that information before this ranking comes out.
He said the results help the board determine which programs are working, which are then shared across the board.
“That’s not to say that a school that may appear lower in these rankings does not have best practices to share itself when in fact they do quite often have things that all schools in the board can benefit from,” said Scantlebury.
Fields said the Catholic board has a similar way of interpreting the EQAO results.
“We’ve got what we call these ‘academic interventions,’ for lack of a better work, that we’ve used at schools right across our system,” he said. “We’ve found that taking those programs that worked successfully at one school and replicating them at another school, you see achievement results improve.”
Massey is known in the area for its enriched program, which Scantlebury said could be a factor, but the school also has students who are not part of the enriched program.
“When you look at Massey’s situation, they still have 1,800 students, so would the number of enriched students really be factor in their overall results?” he said. “Maybe, but that’s certainly not something we evaluate because we don’t really put any stock into rating our schools or ranking our schools.”
Assumption introduced the International Baccalaureate program in 2006. Fields said that program may have helped improve the “overall school culture” at Assumption.
“I think it probably has an effect, but the teachers who are non-IB teachers, who are teaching non-IB courses are working just as hard as the IB teachers and students to improve the overall performance of academics at the school,” he said.
Overall, 13 schools from Windsor and Essex County placed in the top 300 secondary schools in the province. The complete list is available online.