The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

March 01, 2009 07:01 ET

Fraser Institute Report Card Shows Successful Schools Come From All Neighbourhoods, Not Just Wealthy Ones

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 1, 2009) - Twenty of the fastest improving elementary schools in Ontario are found in neighbourhoods that have among the lowest average parental incomes, according to the Fraser Institute's Report Card on Ontario's Elementary Schools 2009.

"Teachers and administrators in these schools have found ways to beat the odds and help their students do better than might be predicted by their families' average income," said Peter Cowley, Fraser Institute director of school performance studies.

"This clearly shows that elementary schools don't need to be located in wealthy neighbourhoods to improve and be successful."

The 20 schools are: Sacred Heart in Espanola, Frontenac in Kingston, St Joseph in Niagara Falls, St Andrew in Welland, Ridgewood in Coboconk, St Dorothy in Toronto, Grey Central in Ethel, Humberwood Downs in Toronto, St Leo in Toronto, Saint-Francois-d'Assise in Welland, Parkway in Cambridge, Centennial-Grand Woodlands in Brantford, Ferndale in St Catharines, Chartland in Toronto, Holy Cross in Brantford, Ogden in Thunder Bay, Holy Name of Jesus in Hamilton, St Helen in Toronto, Morrish in Toronto, and Seaforth in Seaforth. Of these 20 schools, 11 are public and nine are Catholic.

Sacred Heart showed the greatest improvement, going from an overall score of 2.5 in 2004 to 7.5 in 2008. Average family income for parents of students at Sacred Heart is $47,300. Frontenac in Kingston has improved from an overall score of zero in 2004 to 5.3 in 2008. Average income for parents of students at Frontenac is $23,800.

The average parental income for all Ontario elementary schools listed in the Fraser Institute Report Card is $73,500.

Cowley said critics of the Fraser Institute report card too often excuse a school's poor results by blaming them on socio-economic factors. By doing so, these critics are essentially writing off a student's chances of success based on a family's economic standing.

"Every school should ensure that all its students meet the provincial standard in reading, writing, and mathematics, no matter where the student lives or how much their parents earn," he said.

The Report Card on Ontario's Elementary Schools 2009 rates 2,778 English and French, public, and Catholic elementary schools from across Ontario based on nine key indicators derived from province-wide tests of reading, writing, and mathematics skills administered by the province's Education Quality and Accountability Office. A small number of private schools are also included.

This annual report card, available at www.fraserinstitute.org, is the only easily accessible public document that allows anyone to analyze and compare the performance of individual schools. Parents consult the report card when they are choosing a school and use it as an annual audit of how their children's school is doing academically.

"Parents have repeatedly shown they value the ability to track the performance of their child's school and compare it to other schools," Cowley said.

"Our report card allows parents to quickly and easily determine if their child's school is improving or worsening academically."

Cowley points out that one purpose of the report card is to encourage schools to improve. Each report card contains enough data to allow for valid comparisons and for parents to ask school officials pertinent questions about a school's performance.

"Using the report card to compare a private school in a well-off Greater Toronto neighbourhood to a small, rural public school in northern Ontario may not be useful. But comparing schools that have similar characteristics within the same community can be important for parents and educators alike."

The complete Report Card on Ontario's Elementary Schools 2009, including detailed results on all 2,778 schools, is available as a free pdf at www.fraserinstitute.org.

The Fraser Institute is an independent research and educational organization with locations across North America and partnerships in more than 70 countries. Its mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit www.fraserinstitute.org.

Cowley will be in Toronto and available for interviews Sunday, March 1 and Monday March 2.

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