The Report Card on Alberta’s Elementary Schools 2018 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.