By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
As a whole, schools in the Oshawa area are improving, at least according to the latest data from the Fraser Institute.
The most recent edition of the Fraser Institute elementary and secondary school rankings, which ranks schools based on factors such as the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) test results, saw the majority of schools in the Durham Regional District School Board (DDSB) and the Durham Catholic District School Board (DCDSB) trending in the upward direction from previous years.
Of the 27 DDSB elementary schools ranked in the Oshawa area, 17 of them received a higher ranking than in 2014. The highest ranked elementary school, Dr. S J Phillips, improved to an 8.3 and ranked 157 out of the 2,900 elementary schools included in the rankings, followed by Clara Hughes (8.1) and Stephen G. Saywell (7.4). For DDSB secondary schools, Maxwell Heights ranked the highest of Oshawa high schools at 7.0 and 222 out of 740 high schools ranked.
The DCDSB saw St. John XXIII as its highest ranked elementary school at a 6.6 and Monsignor Paul Dwyer as its top high school at 5.1 and 544 out of 740.
Each year, the rankings receive mixed reviews from school boards. As Luigia Ayotte, DDSB’s superintendent of program services, explains, the data used by Fraser is really too basic to get a real picture of a school.
“Other than the ranking, I’m not sure what information we can gleam from that that would make our jobs more specific or more precise,” she says. “We find the report to be overall fairly simplistic. It really doesn’t deal with the nuances or the differences.”
Ayotte notes that schools in different parts of Oshawa will have different needs, and the DDSB is focusing on tailoring programs to each individual school.
“EQAO isn’t the only source of data that we have. We also use other data and understanding what a school is really about, you have to know its circumstances,” she says. “From my perspective, every single student that walks through the doors in any Durham school receives a program that is individualized or geared to meet their specific needs regardless of what their circumstances are.”
Gerry O’Reilly, the superintendent of education with the DCDSB, says much of the same, noting that the board uses a wide range of data to inform its future plans.
“This includes school level data, report card data, information regarding special education and local initiatives from within the school board and community partners,” O’Reilly writes in an emailed statement to The Oshawa Express.
“This allows for a bigger picture and a fair representation of how our students are achieving within the Durham Catholic District School Board.”
Ayottee says that if parents are looking for a complete picture of the schools they are thinking about sending their children to, there are a lot of options to gather information, adding many are quite diligent.
“We will ask them to visit schools…and get a sense of the culture and the actual programs that are available to them. The best thing that parents do, and most of them are very astute and they take the time to actually do the research, to ensure that that is the community they wish to live in,” she says.
The full list of Fraser Institute ranked schools is available at fraserinstitute.org/school-performance.