The Fraser Institute's annual report card on Alberta's elementary schools sent many parents running to the computer Saturday to see how their child's school stacked up against the rest of the province.
Parents of Master's Academy and College students in Calgary took bragging rights, finding out the chartered Christian school tied for the number one spot with Edmonton's Winsor Park School, while parents in Bassano, Alta., fretted about their elementary school's 5.3-point drop.
The report ranked 790 public, separate, francophone, independent and charter schools using a 10-point scale and found 31 schools showed declines in performance, some described as "alarming" in nature, while 52 schools improved their overall rating.
And while the report card provides a benchmark for educators and parents on how Alberta's schools are performing year over year, some education advocates say the report doesn't actually help students succeed.
Scored based on Grade 6 test
Barbara Silva, with the not-profit group Support our Students Alberta (SOS), says the Fraser Institute study asks the wrong questions when it comes to rating institutions because it scores schools solely based on how students perform on the Grade 6 provincial achievement test.
"Taking a snapshot in time of how certain children performed, in a two-hour window, on a certain day," she said.
"It's a very limited evaluation of how students and school are performing."
Educators do look for lessons
Peter Cowley, director of school performance studies at the Fraser Institute and co-author of the report, says its designed to answer the simple question of: "How is this school doing academically, as reflected in the tests results, compared to all the other 790 schools?"
"It's important to remember this only looks at academics and in fact, only at a narrow aspect of them, and why is it so limited in its measure? Simply because these are the only output measures that are available to the public," he said.
The report's 10-point scale is based on:
- The average achievement test marks in language arts, math, science and social studies.
- The percentage of achievement tests where results were below acceptable standards.
- The difference in average marks between male and female students in language arts and math.
Cowley says the report card allows educators to look for lessons within the data.
"We are not asking any questions [about school resources] because we don't have the capacity to, but other people in the education system do and should ask and get those questions answered," he said.
Silva and SOS has come up with a different survey, that focuses what resources are available to students across the province through their schools.
The group received responses from about 5 per cent of Alberta schools. They hope to have their own report out later this month.