MUSKOKA — Following a disappointing result for the area’s elementary schools, Muskoka’s secondary schools have placed much higher in the Fraser rankings, with all but one firmly in the top 50 per cent of schools across the province.
The only high school in Muskoka to fall below half was St. Dominic Catholic Secondary School
Released on April 1, the Fraser Institute’s annual Report Card on Ontario’s Secondary Schools rates each school out of 10 using six indicators from Ontario’s EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) provincewide tests of Grade 10 literacy and Grade 9 mathematics. The objective, according to the Fraser Institute, is to provide parents with a means of comparing the performance of individual schools and to encourage schools to strive for improvement.
However, despite the respectable showing by Trillium Lakelands District School Board secondary schools, director of education Larry Hope maintains he does not care for the methodology used by the Fraser Institute.
“There’s an implication when you rank or when you rate a school that is very often undeserved,” said Hope. “If I were choosing a school for my child, for example, I would never choose a school based solely on EQAO results.”
In Muskoka, Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes Secondary School came out on top with a score of 7.1 out of 10, placing it 194 out of 718 public, Catholic and private secondary schools evaluated across Ontario. This is an improvement over last year’s score of 6.5.
Huntsville High School scored a 6.6 for the second year in a row, placing it at 281 in the list this year, while Gravenhurst High School improved its ranking from a 6.2 last year to 6.5 this year, giving it a position of 299 in the province.
The only high school in Muskoka to fall below half was St. Dominic Catholic Secondary School in Bracebridge, which went down in the rankings from a 5.4 last year to 5.0 out of 10 this year.
This rating places it in the lowest 30 per cent of schools across the province at number 533 on the list.
“As a board, we do not support the Fraser Institute’s use of EQAO’s data to rank schools. It is contrary to what the data are to be used for,” said Diane Legg, director of communications and public affairs for the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board. “With St. Dominic being such a small school with fewer students, EQAO results will reflect fluctuations much more so than a school with a larger student population.”
St. Dominic has a student population of 296, followed in size by Gravenhurst High School, which has 365 students this year. In contrast, BMLSS and HHS are twice as big, with approximately 1,000 students attending each.
SMCDSB uses the EQAO results each year to inform teaching practices and to help the board make improvements to student learning, said Legg. She added that the EQAO results are simply a “snapshot on a specific day the assessments are completed.”
Hope agreed with Legg that the EQAO results are a “snapshot in time” and should not be used to rate schools.
“It shouldn’t be used to compare, that was never the intention of EQAO,” said Hope. “EQAO should really be about improvement … we take those results very seriously and we do use them to support our school improvement planning processes.”
When selecting or comparing schools, Hope said there are many other factors to consider, including credit accumulation, quality of credits, graduation rates, how well special needs students are served, how students who are in crisis or conflict are supported, and declining rates of suspensions, to name a few.
“Essentially they (Fraser Institute) are using EQAO as their primary data set,” said Hope. “Whereas when we look at our schools and their effectiveness, we look at all those other indicators.”
For the complete 2012 Fraser Institute Report Card on Ontario’s Secondary Schools rating 718 secondary schools across the province, visit fraserinstitute.org.