Ontario high school students made significant progress in math over the last five years but didn’t show any notable improvement in literacy, the Fraser Institute found in its 2012 report card.
Students in academic math scored a 2.8 average out of 4 in the 2011 school year, up from 2.6 five years ago. For applied math, they earned 2.3 out of 4, up from 2.1 in 2007.
“We’ve seen significant improvement in the Grade 9 academic and applied math streams,” says Michael Thomas, Fraser Institute associate director of school performance studies, in an interview with Our Kids. “They’re both definitely solid results and it’s going in the right direction as schools are getting close to the provincial standard of 3. . . . It’s also very encouraging to see applied math students doing well—normally they are students who don’t go to university and instead go straight to the workforce or an apprenticeship.”
In addition, 26.6 per cent of exams in 2011 scored below the provincial standard compared to 30.1 per cent in 2007.
Click here to see report card results.
However, there is still room for improvement, with more than one in four students who wrote the provincewide tests still failing to meet the provincial standard. While literacy test results fluctuated up and down over the last five years, the pass rate of 81.5 per cent remains the same for the 2011 school year as it was in 2007.
The Canadian think tank’s annual rankings show which schools are improving or falling behind using the Ontario government’s standards-based Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) tests for Grade 9 and 10 literacy and math. The Report Card on Ontario’s Secondary Schools 2012 rates 718 public, Catholic, and francophone secondary schools across the province.
Semi-Private School Comes Out on Top for Second Year in a Row
St. Michael’s Choir School once again earned the top spot in the GTA and Ontario, with a 9.6 rating out of 10. Although the school is part of the Toronto Catholic District School Board and is considered a public school by the Fraser Institute, it considers itself a semi-private publicly-funded boys Catholic school with tuition for its music program. The school also outperformed all schools in Ontario last year, scoring 9.8 out of 10.
The report card also found that 15 of the 20 fastest-improving secondary schools in Ontario have average parental incomes below the provincial average. Out of 718 schools, 174 performed above average academically despite having below-average family incomes. One school has special needs students who comprise more than half of the student population; another has ESL students who make up 48 per cent of its student enrolment.
“Academic excellence is possible in every school, regardless of the personal and family circumstances of its student population,” Thomas says in a press release.
Ontario Private School Rankings
No private or independent schools, except the semi-private St. Michael’s Choir School, were included in the report card this year. Fraser Institute rankings exclude private schools that don’t participate in both EQAO literacy and math tests, which is not mandatory for them in Ontario. In provinces such as B.C. and Alberta where private schools receive public funding, most schools are included in the report card as the government requires them to take standardized tests.
Compare and rank the top Ontario private schools.
A Useful Tool, or Inaccurate Measurement of School Performance?
Poor results—such as by Toronto public schools which scored an average of 5.3 out of 10, below the provincial average of 6—are due to a lack of understanding the core fundamentals in literacy and numeracy in elementary school, says Doretta Wilson of the Society for Quality Education in an interview with the Toronto Sun. “If the groundwork isn’t laid in elementary school, it’s going to be difficult in high school. By that time, it’s almost too late to solve those problems.”
While the EQAO believes the standards-based tests are a helpful tool for parents and teachers to identify problems, critics argue such rankings and tests are not a fair and accurate measurement of school performance.
Sometimes the wording on the questions are skewed, says Ken Coran, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, in an interview with the Toronto Sun. “On the test, it references a subway. It would be a train to a Toronto student but a student in northwestern Ontario would think it’s a restaurant.”
However, the Fraser Institute maintains that its school report card helps parents monitor their child’s performance and helps educators identify key areas for improvement in their classrooms.
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