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Grading Quebec’ secondary schools: Montreal Economic Institute and Fraser Institute publish third annual Report Card

Montreal, November 1, 2002 – The Montreal Economic Institute and The Fraser Institute today released the third annual Report Card on Quebec’s Secondary Schools, the only publicly-available independent measurement of 464 of Quebec’s public and private, French and English, secondary schools.

The Report Card is widely published so that everyone with an interest in an individual school can see the results. Where parents have the opportunity to choose among several schools, the Report Card provides objective information on which to base their decision.

“The information contained in the Report Card can be used by parents as the basis for discussion with school administrators about ways to improve student results,” says Peter Cowley, Director of School Performance Studies at The Fraser Institute and co-author of the Report Card.

Comparisons are at the heart of any improvement process. By comparing an individual school’s results with those of neighbouring schools or with those of schools with similar school and student characteristics, we can identify more successful schools and learn from them. Some schools contribute more than others to their students’ results.

“It will come as no great surprise to experienced parents and educators that the data consistently suggest that what goes on in the schools makes a difference to student success and that some schools make more difference than others,” says Richard Marceau, co-author and associate researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

Mr. Cowley points out that in Quebec, over $8.6 billion in taxpayer funds are spent on primary and secondary education. Any public expenditure of such magnitude necessitates continued, independent measurement of the schools’ results. This is exactly what the Report Card provides.

Indicators used in the 2002 Report Card

The foundation of the Report Card is an overall rating of each school’s academic performance on a scale from 0 to 10. For each school for the seven school years 1994/1995 through 2000-2001 (where data where available), six indicators of school performance were calculated: (1) the average uniform examination mark received by the school’s students on five key Secondary IV and Secondary V courses; (2) the percentage of these examinations that the students failed; (3) the extent to which their average, raw school-based mark exceeds their average raw uniform examination mark in these five courses (an indication of school-level grade inflation); (4) the difference in the average examination marks of male and female students in Secondary V first-language courses; (5) the difference in the average examination marks of male and female students in Secondary IV physical science; and, (6) a measure of the extent to which each school encourages and assists its students to stay in school and finish their chosen secondary school program – the Perseverance rate. The first five indicators demonstrate the effectiveness of the school’s efforts by measuring the extent to which it equips all its students with the knowledge and skills embodied in the curricula. The sixth indicator demonstrates the extent to which the school is successful in keeping its students on task and devoted to the completion of their chosen secondary school program.

With the institution of an annual uniform examination in Mathematics at the Secondary IV level, the Report Card now includes results in all of the key subject areas-language arts, mathematics, the sciences, and the humanities, thereby providing a more complete picture of school performance.

“We have selected these indicators because they provide systematic insight into a school’s performance. Because they are based on annually-generated data, we can assess not only each school’s performance in a year but also its improvement or deterioration over time,” adds Marceau.

New this year

The Value added indicator, introduced this year, uses several of the Report Card’s contextual indicators to provide an estimate of the impact the school makes on its students. The Value added indicator should be of particular interest to school administrators and teachers since many of them have long believed that student performance is largely dependent upon factors over which their schools have no control. This measure demonstrates that some schools have made a substantial contribution to their students’ success.

“By identifying those schools that are having the greatest positive impact on their students, lessons may be learned by those schools that are not as successful,” says Cowley.

Also new this year, the Montreal Economic Institute has introduced a tool on their Web site at www.iedm.org that allows parents to generate customized rankings based on geographical areas and type of school. This enables parents to produce a ranking that fits their preferences and provides them with an additional source of information in order to choose the right school for their child.

“We are encouraged by the amount of feedback we receive each year and have continued to introduce improvements with each edition of the Report Card,” says Marceau. “We plan to add more indicators as relevant data become available and we encourage all interested parties to suggest new measures of school effectiveness that they believe will improve the Report Card.

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CONTACTS: Peter Cowley, Director of School Performance Studies, The Fraser Institute, Tel. (604) 714-4556, and Richard Marceau, Associate Researcher, Montreal Economic Institute, Tel. (514) 273-0969.

For data on the individual schools and the complete text of the Report Card (in French and English), visit The Fraser Institute’s web site at www.fraserinstitute.ca and the Montreal Economic Institute’s web site at www.iedm.org.

The Montreal Economic Institute (MEI) is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan research and educational institute. MEI is the product of a collaborative effort between Montreal-area academics, economists and entrepreneurs.

Established in 1974, The Fraser Institute is an independent public policy organization based in Vancouver with offices in Calgary, Ottawa, and Toronto.

For further information or for a copy of The Report Card on Quebec’s Secondary Schools, 2002 Edition, contact: Suzanne Walters, Director of Communications, The Fraser Institute, Tel.: (604) 714-4582, or Patrick Leblanc, Director of Events & Communications, Institut économique de Montréal, Tel.: (514) 273-0969.

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