Elmira District Secondary School remains one of Waterloo Region’s top high schools, according to an annual report published by the Fraser Institute.
The BC-based right-wing think tank published its Ontario high school report card last week. EDSS scored 7.7 out of 10, good for the 104th spot out of the 749 schools included in the study.
“The Kitchener-Waterloo area is doing reasonably well overall,” said Peter Cowley, the institute’s director of school performance studies. “If you look at the average for all of the schools, in 2014 it is 6.4. And that is better than the average for the province as a whole, which scored 6.0. So on average they’re doing better than the rest of the pack, and that has been pretty constant over the years. … Elmira (DSS) and Waterloo-Oxford (District Secondary School), are doing substantially, consistently over the last four years, better on average. That is especially true for Elmira, which was in the top fifteenth percentile this year even after seeing a small drop in its score. And I’m not particularly concerned about one year, and I don’t think anyone else should be either, because sometimes things happen in a random way.”
EDSS’s five-year average is a robust 8.0, which is 48 out of the 693 schools that qualify.
The report card, much maligned by school boards, is designed to help parents choose which school to send their children to. It should also be used as a guide for parents and school officials to help facilitate school improvement, since, Cowley points out, you can look for patterns in both negative and positive directions and use that information to try to nail down the causes for successes and failures.
The scores in the report are derived from seven key academic indicators of school performance, the report states.
“(1)The average level of achievement on the Grade 9 EQAO assessment in academic mathematics; (2) the average level of achievement on the Grade 9 EQAO assessment in applied mathematics; (3) the percentage of Ontario Secondary School Literacy Tests written by first-time eligible students that were successfully completed. (4) the percentage of Ontario Secondary School Literacy Tests written by previously eligible students that were successfully completed. (5) the percentage of all the completed tests written by students at the school that were assessed either as unsuccessful (OSSLT) or below the provincial standard (Grade 9 math tests). (6) the difference between male and female students in their average levels of achievement on the most commonly written Grade 9 EQAO assessment in mathematics; and, (7) the difference between male and female students attempting the OSSLT for the first time in their rate of successful completion of the test.”
In essence, it all comes down to the standardized tests in math and English completed by Grade 9 and 10 students across the province.
These are key numbers, Cowley said, because they are designed to ascertain whether a student is meeting basic benchmarks in areas that are important to everyone, no matter what career or path they choose to follow after secondary school.
The region’s school boards on the other hand, have consistently denounced the report as inaccurate and misleading, despite the fact that the data are taken from the tests they develop and implement.
Waterloo Region District School Board superintendent of education Elaine Ranney said that ranking schools based on EQAO and OSSLT scores is not helpful.
“The purpose of EQAO scores is not to rank schools. The purpose, and EQAO will certainly identify this, is to help schools get good information in order to know how to improve; and boards as well, so we know generally how we are doing. But to take one piece of a school’s story, if you want to call it that, which is the EQAO scores, it doesn’t tell the whole story of a school.”
There are other factors to consider when examining EQAO scores, Ranney explained, including attendance, demographics of the community and rates of deferral, since students can put off taking the Grade 9 EQAO until later in their high school career.
For 2014, EDSS scored 3.0 (out of 4.0) in the Grade 9 EQAO academic math test, and 3.0 in applied math as well; 87.2 per cent of students writing the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test for the first time passed, while just 74.4 per cent of students writing the test after having previously failed, got a passing grade.
The Fraser Institute report also looks for gender gaps in test results, and found that girls at EDSS were 13.3 per cent more likely to pass the OSSLT in 2014, up from a divide of 8.6 per cent in 2013.
WODSS scored a 7.3 overall, which ranks the school 163 of 749, while its five-year average of 7.1 puts them in 176 out of 693.
St. David Catholic School received scores of 6.7 for 2014 and 6.4 over the last five years.