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 Private Cost of Public Queues for Medically Necessary Care 2017

Summary

  • One measure of the privately borne cost of wait times is the value of time that is lost while waiting for treatment.
  • Valuing only hours lost during the average work week, the estimated cost of waiting for care in Canada for patients who were in the queue in 2016 was more than $1.7 billion. This works out to an average of about $1,759 for each of the estimated 973,505 Canadians waiting for treatment in 2016.
  • This is a conservative estimate that places no intrinsic value on the time individuals spend waiting in a reduced capacity outside of the work week. Valuing all hours of the week, including evenings and weekends but excluding eight hours of sleep per night, would increase the estimated cost of waiting to $5.2 billion, or about $5,360 per person.
  • This estimate only counts costs that are borne by the individual waiting for treatment. The costs of care provided by family members (the time spent caring for the individual waiting for treatment) and their lost productivity due to difficulty or mental anguish are not valued in this estimate. Moreover, non-monetary medical costs, such as increased risk of mortality or adverse events that result directly from long delays for treatment, are not included in this estimate.
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Report Card on British Columbia’s Secondary Schools 2017

The Report Card on British Columbia’s Secondary Schools collects a variety of relevant, objective indicators of school performance into one easily accessible, public document so that all interested parties—parents, school administrators, teachers, students, and taxpayers—can analyze and compare the performance of individual schools. Parents use the Report Card’s indicator values, ratings, and rankings to compare schools when they choose an education provider for their children. Parents and school administrators use the results to identify areas of academic performance in which improvement can be made.

Where parents can choose among several schools for their children, the Report Card provides a valuable tool for making a decision. Because it makes comparisons easy, the Report Card alerts parents to those nearby schools that appear to have more effective academic programs. Parents can also determine whether schools of interest are improving over time. By first studying the Report Card, parents will be better prepared to ask relevant questions when they interview the principal and teachers at the schools under consideration.

Of course, the choice of a school should not be made solely on the basis of any one source of information. Families choosing a school for their students should seek to confirm the Report Card’s findings by visiting the school and interviewing teachers and school administrators. Parents who already have a child enrolled at the school can provide another point of view. Useful information may also be found on the web sites of the ministry of education, local school boards, and individual schools. In addition, a sound academic program should be complemented by effective programs in areas of school activity not measured by the Report Card. Nevertheless, the Report Card provides a detailed picture of each school that is not easily available elsewhere.

Certainly, the act of publicly rating and ranking schools attracts attention; attention can provide motivation. Schools that perform well or show consistent improvement are applauded. Poorly performing schools generate concern, as do those whose performance is deteriorating. This inevitable attention provides an incentive for all those connected with a school to focus on student results.

However, the Report Card offers more than motivation; it also offers opportunity. The Report Card includes a variety of indicators, each of which reports results for an aspect of school performance that might be improved. School administrators who are dedicated to improvement accept the Report Card as another source of opportunities for improvement.

To improve a school, one must believe that improvement is achievable. This Report Card provides evidence about what can be accomplished. It demonstrates clearly that, even when we take into account students’ characteristics, which some believe dictate the degree of academic success that students will have in school, some schools do better than others. This finding confirms the results of research carried out in other countries. Indeed, 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 academic results and that some schools make more of a difference than others.

Comparative and historical data enable parents and school administrators to gauge their school’s effectiveness more accurately. By comparing a school’s latest results with those of earlier years, they can see if the school is improving. By comparing a school’s results with those of neighbouring schools and of schools with similar student characteristics, they can identify more successful schools and learn from them. Reference to overall provincial results places an individual school’s level of achievement in a broader context.

There is great benefit in identifying schools that are particularly effective. By studying the techniques used in schools where students are successful, less effective schools may find ways to improve. Comparisons are at the heart of improvement: making comparisons among schools is made simpler and more meaningful by the Report Card’s indicators, ratings, and rankings.

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Prime Ministers and Government Spending

Summary

  • This bulletin measures the level of per-person program spending undertaken annually by each prime minister, adjusting for inflation, since 1870.  1867 to 1869 were excluded due to a lack of inflation data.
  • Per-person spending spiked during World War I (under Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden) but essentially returned to pre-war levels once the war ended. The same is not true of World War II (William Lyon Mackenzie King). Per-person spending stabilized at a permanently higher level after the end of that war.
  • The highest single year of per-person spending ($8,375) between 1870 and 2017 was in the 2009 recession under Prime Minister Harper.
  • Prime Minister Arthur Meighen (1920 – 1921) recorded the largest average annual decline in per-person spending (-23.1%). That decline, however, is largely explained by the rapid drop in expenditures following World War I.
  • Among post-World War II prime ministers, Louis St. Laurent oversaw the largest annual average increase in per-person spending (7.0%), though this spending was partly influenced by the Korean War.
  • Our current prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has the third-highest average annual per-person spending increases (5.2%). This is almost a full percentage point higher than his father, Pierre E. Trudeau, who recorded average annual increases of 4.5%.
  • Prime Minister Joe Clark holds the record for the largest average annual post-World War II decline in per-person spending (4.8%), though his tenure was less than a year.
  • Both Prime Ministers Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien recorded average annual per-person spending declines of 0.3%.
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Poor Implementation Undermines Carbon Tax Efficiency in Canada

Summary

  • Provinces across Canada have implemented some form of carbon pricing, either through carbon taxes or emission-trading schemes.
  • These taxes are touted as being the most “efficient” way to control greenhouse gas emissions, yet be economically benign.
  • But in the real world, Canada’s carbon taxes fall far short of the textbook ideal that would justify claims of efficiency. They fail on three key requirements.
  • First, to be efficient, carbon taxes must displace regulations, not be added to them. Second, the taxes must be fully rebated in reducing distortionary taxes such as income taxes, and third, the revenues from the tax should not be used to further distort energy markets with subsidies to substitute forms of energy.
  • Canada’s experience with carbon taxes shows that governments have little interest in ideal implementation. Instead, rather than simply addressing greenhouse gas emissions efficiently, they prefer to create revenue streams for pet projects and retain the ability to transfer wealth.
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New Homes and Red Tape in British Columbia 2017

As an increasing number of people move to Canada’s major cities, high housing prices persist in its most desirable markets. With growing concerns about housing affordability and prices, understanding how public policy affects the supply of new homes is critical. Following several major studies in the United States on this topic, the Fraser Institute’s survey of housing developers and homebuilders collects data about how residential land-use regulation affects the supply of new housing. The data collected reflect the experiences and opinions of industry professionals across Canada. New Homes and Red Tape in British Columbia: Residential Land-Use Regulation in the Lower Mainland belongs to a series tallying the data to represent industry professionals’ experiences and opinions of how residential development is regulated in cities across Canada. This report presents survey results for cities in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland.

Unlike previous editions, this report accounts for the relative scale of survey respondents’ home-building operations. Some have fewer than 20 units under development, while others have thousands, making it important to assign appropriate weight to their responses. In doing so, the averages presented in this edition of the New Homes and Red Tape series more closely reflect typical experiences across units, rather than across respondents.

Estimates of typical project-approval timelines in Lower Mainland cities range from approximately five months or less in the City of Langley and Pitt Meadows to over 18 months in the City of Vancouver and West Vancouver, where timelines are also rated the most uncertain. Reported compliance costs and fees add up to a low of $4,300 per home built in Pitt Meadows and a high of almost $78,000 per home in the City of Vancouver. The survey reports that zoning bylaws need to be changed to accommodate more than 60% of new residential development in 12 of 20 cities. Estimates of rezoning’s effect on approval timelines range from having no substantial effect in Richmond and Port Coquitlam to adding ten months in Surrey.

Council and community opposition to residential development is perceived as strongest in cities where the value of dwellings is highest, raising questions about the causes and consequences of local resistance to new housing. The strongest opposition is reported in Vancouver, with West Vancouver close behind. This opposition is typically not perceived as a significant deterrent to building in the City of Langley and Port Coquitlam.

The index of residential land-use regulation tallies the results of five key components of regulation’s impact—approval timelines, timeline uncertainty, regulatory costs and fees, rezoning prevalence, and impact from local council and community groups—in 19 cities that generated a sufficient number of responses to the survey. This index ranks the City of Langley as the least regulated in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland and the City of Vancouver as the most.

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Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2017

Conventional medicine’s ability to deal with and treat pain and disease continues to progress thanks to changes in medical practice and the introduction of new medical and pharmaceutical technologies. At the same time, the public’s knowledge about what health care can do has also grown considerably, in part because of continually expanding access to information and knowledge via the internet. These significant changes in the health care world led to the question of whether or not, and to what degree, Canadians’ use of, and public attitudes towards, complementary and alternative medicine (such as chiropractic, naturopathic, and herbal therapies) have changed over the past two decades.

To answer this question, the Fraser Institute commissioned Compas to conduct a Canadian national survey to determine the prevalence, costs, and patterns of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use in 2016. This is the third in a series of surveys on the use of and public attitudes towards CAM published by the Fraser Institute. The first ever comprehensive study was undertaken in 1997, with a follow-up survey completed in 2006 (Ramsay et al, 1999; Esmail, 2007). This survey series is the only comprehensive study of the use and public attitudes towards CAM by Canadians.

Canadians’ self-reported health has seen little change over the last decade: Sixty percent or more of respondents reported their health to be very good or excellent in 1997, 2006, and 2016, while 12 percent of respondents in 2016 and 11 percent in 2006 and 1997 reported their health to be fair or poor. The most common health conditions reported in the 12 months prior to all three surveys were back or neck problems (34% in 2016, 28% in 2006, 30% in 1997), allergies (27% in 2016, 29% in 2006 and 1997), and arthritis or rheumatism (23% in 2016, 21% in 2006, 20% in 1997).

More than three-quarters of Canadians (79%) had used at least one complementary or alternative therapy sometime in their lives in 2016. This compares to 74% in 2006 and 73% in 1997. Among the provinces in 2016, British Columbians were most likely to have used an alternative therapy during their lifetime (89%), followed by Albertans (84%) and Ontarians (81%). Conversely, those in Quebec (69%) were least likely to have done so. Similar patterns were observed in the past two surveys, though respondents from the Atlantic provinces were more likely to have reported using at least one complementary and alternative medicine or therapy sometime in their lives in 2016 (77%) than in either 2006 (63%) or 1997 (69%).

In 2016, massage was the most common type of therapy that Canadians used over their lifetime with 44 percent having tried it, followed by chiropractic care (42%), yoga (27%), relaxation techniques (25%), and acupuncture (22%). Nationally, the most rapidly expanding therapies over the past two decades or so (rate of change between 1997 and 2016) were massage, yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic care, osteopathy, and naturopathy. High dose/mega vitamins, herbal therapies, and folk remedies appear to be in declining use over that same time period.

More than half (56%) of Canadians used at least one CAM therapy in the year prior to the 2016 survey, compared to 54% in 2006 and 50% in 1997. In the 12 months prior to the 2016 survey, the most commonly used complementary and alternative medicines and therapies were massage (24%), relaxation techniques (19%), chiropractic care and yoga (16%), and prayer (15%).

The most likely users of complementary and alternative therapies over the past 12 months in 2016 were from the 35- to 44-year-old age group (61%). The use of complementary and alternative medicines and treatments diminished with age, and generally rose with both income and education. These trends are similar to those observed in 2006 and 1997, though there was no income trend found in 1997.

The majority of people choosing to use complementary and alternative therapies in the 12 months preceding the 2016 survey continued to do so for “wellness”—to prevent future illness from occurring or to maintain health and vitality. However, there has been a notable shift in the use of complementary and alternative therapies for wellness since the earlier iterations of the survey, with the overwhelming majority of therapies used less for wellness in 2016 than in either 2006 or 1997.

Canadians spent an estimated $8.8 billion on CAM in the latter half of 2015 and first half of 2016. This is an increase from the estimated $8.0 billion spent in 2005/06 and the estimated $6.3 billion spent in 1996/97 (in 2016 dollars, adjusted using Statistics Canada’s Consumer Price Index). Of the $8.8 billion spent in 2016, more than $6.5 billion was spent on providers of CAM, while another $2.3 billion was spent on herbs, vitamins, special diet programs, books, classes, and equipment. While these amounts are not insubstantial, the majority of Canadians believe that alternative therapies should be paid for privately and not by provincial health plans.

The survey results reveal regional variations in attitudes towards health care, which provides further support for devolution of health policy, both conventional and alternative, to provincial governments. For example, British Columbians, Albertans, and those in Saskatchewan and Manitoba were more likely to perceive value in CAM than residents of Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Perceptions about the value of conventional medicine in treating health problems, support for various financing approaches for expansions in coverage, and support for private financing of CAM also varied across the provinces.

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Canada's Air Quality Since 1970: An Environmental Success Story

Canadians have long been concerned about the state of our air quality and the belief that air pollution is a major problem seems to be widespread. This publication examines the evolution of air quality in Canada from the 1970s onward and looks at how the current state of air quality compares to the stringent standards established by Canadian government policy. The conclusion is that air quality in Canada has improved substantially and that this significant change over the past four decades occurred at the same time there was considerable growth in Canada’s population, economic activity, energy use, and consumption of motor fuel.

Using data from Environment Canada on emissions and ambient concentrations, the study provides accurate and up-to-date information on the status of five major air pollutants in Canada: ground level ozone, fine particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide. Comparing trends for the five air pollutants on three levels—national, city, and monitoring station—against existing national and international air-quality standards shows that air quality is improving for the most part and is now at levels generally deemed safe.

Ground-level ozone
Concentrations of ground-level ozone, a key component of smog, have generally decreased in Canada since 2000. In 2015, the national concentration of ground-level ozone was 27% lower than in 1979 and ozone concentrations have been consistently below the new stringent air-quality standard since 2005. Major Canadian cities have lower ozone concentrations than they had during the late 1970s. In the same period, over 70% of monitoring stations throughout Canada reported ozone concentrations that were above the air-quality standard; that number has fallen to 16% during the most recent interval.

Fine particulate matter
Concentrations of fine particulate matter in Canada have only been measured since 2000 and national ambient levels have consistently remained below the new air-quality standards.

Sulphur dioxide
In the last four decades, concentrations of sulphur dioxide have fallen dramatically across Canada and have met the strictest annual air-quality standard since 1999. In 2015, ambient levels of sulphur dioxide in Canada were 92.3% lower than in 1974. Major Canadian cities also significantly reduced their ambient levels of sulphur dioxide during the same period. In the mid-to-late 1970s, over 60% of monitoring stations across Canada recorded concentrations out of compliance with the annual air-quality standard, but today only 3% of stations record non-conforming levels.

Nitrogen dioxide
Concentrations of nitrogen dioxide have also been decreasing for decades in Canada. Ambient concentrations of nitrogen dioxide in Canada decreased 74.4% from 1974 to 2015 and ambient levels have been consistently below the strictest air-quality standard since 1985. The decrease in ambient levels was also apparent in all major Canadian cities. Whereas in the mid 1970s, 54% of stations across Canada reported readings out of compliance with the annual air-quality standard for nitrogen dioxide, in 2015 the percentage was zero. All monitoring stations throughout Canada have met the strictest annual air-quality standard for nitrogen dioxide since 2011.

Carbon monoxide
There has also been a substantial reduction in concentrations of carbon monoxide in Canada during the last four decades. Ambient levels fell 90.4% in Canada from 1974 to 2015 and have conformed to the strictest air-quality standard since 1985. Levels of carbon monoxide in major cities have also fallen dramatically over the past four decades. In mid-1970s, 84% of stations had readings for carbon monoxide exceeding the air-quality standards but, since 1999, all stations across Canada—with the exception of one in New Brunswick in 2011—recorded values conforming to the air-quality standard.

Socioeconomic trends
Between 1970 and 2015, real gross domestic product increased by 242% and the Canadian population grew by 68%. From 1980 to 2015, consumption of motor fuel rose by 26% and from 1995 to 2015 energy use increased 21%. At the same time emissions and ambient levels of major air pollutants dropped significantly, indicating the extent to which air pollution has been decoupled from energy use and economic growth in Canada. For this reason, discussions about the need for new policies to tighten emission policies even further should begin with the recognition that air pollution has already substantially declined in Canada and is largely in compliance with some of the strictest standards in the world.

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Understanding Wealth Inequality in Canada

This paper addresses two questions. First, is wealth inequality in Canada increasing? Second, what is driving the wealth inequality that we observe? The empirical evidence presented in this study strongly suggests that, at least in recent decades, wealth inequality in Canada has not increased. As well, the evidence presented here appears to support the view that the Life-Cycle Hypothesis, which tells us that, for most people. wealth accumulation is a steady, lifelong process, is the dominant explanation for observed differences in wealth.

Specifically, we note that there has been a 17% decline in the Gini Coefficient (the most popular indicator of inequality) on Canadian net worth between 1970 and 2012. As well, both top decile share and top quintile share have declined over the same period, although by a smaller percentage. The fact that wealth inequality has not increased has led many in the social justice community to focus attention, rather, on the degree of wealth inequality. The fact that the top 20% of Canadians own about 67% of the wealth and the bottom 20% own none has been the subject of much attention and outrage.

Students of economics have long appreciated that, for most people, wealth has a predictable age pattern. The Life-Cycle Hypothesis developed in the 1950s by Modigliani and Brumberg shows that income, consumption, saving, and wealth accumulation change with age because of the natural rhythms of education, work, marriage and family formation, pension saving, and retirement. This means that, even if everyone was identical, there would be substantial wealth inequality because, at any point in time, we have people at different points in their life cycle. Of course, everyone is not identical and there are differences in wealth that are not due to age. The critical point here is that life-cycle effects, alone, are capable of explaining most of the observed wealth inequality in Canada.

Reasons for differences in wealth that are not related to the life-cycle effect would include skill differentials (and all of the personal characteristics that lie behind those differences); preferences and choices; luck (which would include inheritances); and institutional and policy considerations. The latter point refers to any institution, regulation, or policy that constrains (in an important way) the ability or incentive for upward mobility.

It is an empirical question as to how much of wealth inequality is explained by the life-cycle effect and how much by the other factors. Evidence from US studies about the relative importance of the life-cycle effect vary considerably—from the 30%-to-50% range to the 80% range. This paper uses a variant of the Paglin’s approach (from 1975) and shows that the life-cycle effect in Canada likely accounts for between 80% and 87% of wealth inequality in 2012. This result is broadly consistent with many of the US studies in this area.

There is much heat and fury about wealth inequality. This publication addresses the popular perception and finds that much of the concern is misplaced. The fact that the bottom 20% have no wealth is not surprising and is unworthy of the passion devoted to it. Many of those in the bottom wealth quintile are young and have not yet had an opportunity to accumulate any wealth. Many people with no wealth in their twenties will be in the top wealth quintile (or even top decile) by the time they retire. The paper suggests that attention could be appropriately diverted towards the issues of poverty (real deprivation) and barriers (including governmental) to upward mobility.

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History and Development of Canada's Personal Income Tax

In recognition of the 100th anniversary of Canada’s personal income tax (PIT), the Fraser Institute asked a group of accomplished scholars to analyze and assess the emergence, development, and current state of Canada’s federal personal income tax. The following provides a short synopsis of the essays.

The first four essays that make up the volume start at the tax’s beginning. As William Watson argues, to historians the summer of 1917 is best known not for the income tax but for the conscription debate. For the first almost three full years of war, Robert Borden’s government had avoided introducing conscription but in 1917 finally felt obliged to enact it. In timing that was not coincidental, it announced the “War Income Tax” literally days later. With young Canadians heading to war, most people felt that richer Canadians should be forced to contribute more to the war effort. Contrary to popular mythology, the tax was not explicitly temporary. Rather, finance minister Sir Thomas White recommended only that it be reconsidered after the war.

Over the following 100 years, as a second essay by Watson describes, a handful of key federal budgets produced the PIT we know today.  Tax withholding was introduced in 1943. In 1971, J. Edgar Benson taxed capital gains for the first time, while two years later John Turner brought in full indexing of tax bracket thresholds. Base-broadening exercises (broadening the tax base to lower tax rates) failed in 1981 but succeeded in 1987.

Livio Di Matteo’s essay contrasts today’s personal income tax with where the tax started. One great difference between now and then is how little revenue the income tax originally raised. As a share of total federal revenue, personal income taxes went from just 2.6 percent in 1918 to an expected 51 percent in 2017.

The number of Canadians who pay personal income taxes has also risen sharply. As late as 1938, only 2.3 percent of the population filed income taxes. Now almost 75 per cent of Canadians do.

A main argument against the PIT, even with the relatively low rates and high thresholds of 1917, was that it would hurt Canada’s competitiveness. As one of the essays points out, Canada now has one of the highest top PIT rates and it kicks in at comparatively low levels of income for high-skilled workers, professionals, and entrepreneurs. Put simply, the worries of 1917 have been borne out: personal income taxes are the tax area where, globally, Canada is least competitive. This is made all the worse when one considers that Canada now taxes capital gains, which, as Herbert Grubel and Jason Clemens point out, for the first 105 years of Confederation Ottawa did not do.

Several other essays also look at the current state of the PIT. François Vaillancourt and Charles Lammam conclude that it now costs roughly $500 per household to comply with filing personal income taxes, a sum that is a much greater share of a low-income family’s budget than a higher-income family’s. Mainly, the income tax system is more costly because it is more complex. For example, an Income Tax Act that was just six pages in 1917 is now 1,412 pages. The tax form, just 23 lines long in 1917, had by 2015 grown to 328 lines. Vaillancourt and Lammam conclude that tax reform based on simplifying the tax code is long overdue.

As Bev Dahlby’s essay points out, there are also economic costs to worry about. Efficiency costs occur when beneficial activity would have been undertaken, but tax rates and rules prevent or discourage it. Dahlby’s research shows that in every province, these indirect costs now exceed the direct cost of taxation, which is simply the money we transfer to the taxing government. His provincial-level estimates are striking. The cost of raising $1 of PIT revenue exceeds $2 in all provinces, while in Quebec it exceeds $3, in Newfoundland and Labrador $4, and in Ontario almost $7. Given these costs, projects financed with PIT revenues would have to exhibit benefits of more than $7 for every $1 spent on them in order to be justifiable. The list of such projects can’t be very long.

The final three essays focus on how to get a smarter tax system embodying better incentives for work, savings, investment, and entrepreneurship. The recommendations include reducing or eliminating many of the tax credits and other privileges now embedded in the tax code in order to allow for lower, efficiency-enhancing tax rates that raise the same overall revenue. In his essay, Jack Mintz recommends replacing the PIT with a PCT, a personal consumption tax.

After 100 years of Canada’s federal personal income tax, it’s clear we need broad reform to counter many of the concerns—including complexity and lack of competitiveness—that were voiced in the original 1917 debates on the new tax.

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Report Card on Alberta’s Elementary Schools 2017

The Report Card on Alberta’s Elementary Schools 2017 reports a variety of relevant, objective indicators of school performance. These indicators are used to calculate an overall rating for each school. On the basis of this rating, the schools are ranked. The Report Card brings all of this information together in one easily accessible public document so that anyone can analyze and compare the performance of individual schools. By doing so, the Report Card assists parents when they choose a school for their children and encourages and assists all those seeking to improve their school.

In Alberta, many parents enjoy considerable choice regarding the school in which they will enroll their children. Where choice is available, the Report Card provides a valuable decision-making tool. Because it makes comparisons easy, the Report Card alerts parents to nearby schools that appear to have more effective academic programs. Further, parents can determine whether schools of interest are improving over time. By first studying the Report Card, parents will be better prepared to ask relevant questions when they interview the principal and teachers at the schools they are considering.

Of course, the choice of a school should not be made solely on the basis of a single source of information. A tour of each school of interest and an interview with the principal can be useful. Parents who already have a child enrolled at the school provide another point of view.

The Report Card provides a detailed picture of each school’s academic outcomes that is not easily available elsewhere. Naturally, a sound academic program should be complemented by effective programs in areas of school activity not measured by the Report Card.

Certainly, the act of publicly rating and ranking schools attracts attention. Schools that perform well or show consistent improvement are applauded. The results of poorly performing schools generate concern, as do those of schools whose performance is deteriorating. This inevitable attention provides an incentive for all those connected with a school to focus on student results.

However, the Report Card offers more than incentive: it includes a variety of indicators, each of which reports results for an aspect of school performance that might be improved. School administrators who are dedicated to improvement accept the Report Card as another source of opportunities for positive change.

Knowing that a school’s results require improvement is the first step. However, to improve a school, one must believe that improvement is achievable. This Report Card provides evidence about what can be accomplished. It demonstrates clearly that, even when we take into account factors such as the students’ family and personal characteristics, some schools do better than others. This finding confirms the results of research carried out in other countries. 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 academic results and that some schools make more of a difference than others.

Many elementary-school authorities in Alberta provide students and their parents with report cards that include both the student’s mark and the median mark for each subject in which the student is enrolled. The report cards also show any marks awarded to the student earlier in the year. Comparative and historical data like these enable students and parents to see a clearer picture of an individual student’s progress. By comparing a school’s results with those of neighbouring schools or of schools with similar school and student characteristics, we can identify more successful schools and learn from them. By comparing a school’s latest results with those of earlier years, we can see if the school is improving. Reference to overall provincial results places an individual school’s level of achievement in a broader context.

There is great benefit in identifying schools that are particularly effective. By studying the techniques used in schools where students are successful, less effective schools may find ways to improve.

Comparisons are at the heart of improvement: making comparisons among schools is made simpler and more meaningful by the Report Card’s indicators, ratings, and rankings.

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