At first glance, it looks like a whuppin’ of major proportions.
When the Fraser Institute, Canada’s leading think tank, released its annual ranking of high schools in Canada, it showed that seven of the best schools in Halton are in Oakville and only two in Burlington. Milton had one in the top 10.
If Burlington schools ever took that bad a thumping from their neighbors to the east on the football field, they’d likely hang up their cleats and try something a little daintier like tiddleywinks!
However, superintendents with both the Halton District School Board and Halton Catholic District School Board say they are not about to panic about any remote possibility Burlington teens would attempt a mad rush to transfer to schools in Oakville.
The Institute’s Report Card, which also ran in a recent edition of The Toronto Sun, placed Oakville-Trafalgar high school at the top of the list in Halton, with Iroquois Ridge, White Oaks, Abbey Park, St. Ignatius of Loyola, Garth Webb and Thomas A. Blakelock also in the top 10.
Burlington’s only two placements in the top 10 were Nelson high school at number 6 and Corpus Christi at number 9. Bishop Reding high school of Milton was in fifth position.
The rankings are based on seven academic indicators from results of annual provincewide math and literacy tests.
The Institute says the report assists parents when they choose a school for their children and encourages and assists all those seeking to improve their schools.
Julie Hunt Gibbons, superintendent of secondary program & student success for the Halton District School Board, said the board doesn’t put a lot of credence in the report because it presents only one small piece of the puzzle related to student success.
“They rank schools they have never set foot in,” she said. “Schools are much more than their Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) results.”
Hunt Gibbons said the tests provide a snapshot but not a full picture and, in fact, paint an incomplete and distorted picture.
“Even EQAO acknowledges this,” she said.
“We do not believe that EQAO data should be used as the only piece of information by which to make a judgment about a school.
“In our view, it is important that parents and the public alike consider a wide range of achievement data (e.g., report cards) and other school factors (e.g., demographics, cultures of learning, teaching practices, teachers’ professional development opportunities and parents’ involvement in learning at home).
“We have 18 high schools and we value all of them.” she concluded.
What makes the rankings all the more curious is that Burlington’s Robert Bateman high school finished 26th out of 28 in Halton, including schools in the Catholic system, yet it had the top three high school graduates in the region last year.
Alex Bie, with a near perfect percentage of 99.67, was the top graduate. Ben Liu and Tom Xu were very close behind, tied at 99.17.
Bateman, along with Notre Dame, Aldershot and M.M.Robinson of Burlington placed among the bottom five in Halton, based on the test results. They were ahead of only Acton high school.
Anna Prkacin, superintendent of education for curriculum services with the Halton District School Board, said her board doesn’t look at EQAO test scores alone either.
“The ranking is based solely on academic achievement,” she said. “There’s much more that contributes to the success of a school.
“It’s a pretty isolated shot of a student or even a school board, for that matter.”
Prkacin even questions if academic achievement even can be determined by nothing more than testing.
“The Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations guides the formation of our students. We look at achieving, believing and belonging. Developing the whole student is the focus of our board.
“I’ve never looked at it as a Burlington-Oakville situation.”
The Expectations, created by the Ontario Institute for Catholic Education, are used as a framework for designing Ontario Catholic curriculum, in the development of youth leadership, teacher education and administrative programs and to support the work of local board initiatives.
“There are some very good schools in Halton that may not have the highest performance in tests,” Prkacin pointed out. “But we’re always looking at improving and wanting to be better.”