Personal and economic challenges don't always dictate how well a student will do in school, according to data from the Fraser Institute's annual school rankings.
The report, released Saturday, ranked 782 anglophone and francophone public, separate, private, and charter schools based on nine academic indicators from results of the annual Provincial Achievement Tests (PATs) administered by Alberta Education. The report is designed to provide information that will empower parents to look more critically at the quality of their child's education.
"Parents have a role to play in school improvement," said Peter Cowley, the Fraser Institute's director of school performance studies. "If, when they review a school's Fraser Institute rankings and notice that either the rankings are consistently low or there's little or no improvement, parents can and should ask their principals what's being done to improve results in the classroom."
The report also included information about the personal and family characteristics of each school's students.
It showed how, despite perceived barriers to learning, some schools are able to ensure their students' success.
High scores despite lack of money, high ESL rates
One example highlighted in the report is Raymond Elementary, a public school south of Lethbridge.
Despite an average parental income of $28,700 — the third-lowest among the 782 schools that were ranked — Raymond Elementary posted an overall rating of 7.6 and a five-year average rating of 7.1.
Moreover, 20.6 per cent of Raymond students have special needs.
At other schools, administrators and teachers were able to overcome obstacles involving language.
For example, at Meyokumin, a public school in Edmonton, student test scores remain high despite English being the second language (ESL) for 77 per cent of students — one of the highest ESL percentages of all 782 ranked schools.
The school posted an overall rating of 9.2 this year (compared to the 6.0 all-schools average) and a five-year average rating of 8.1, placing Meyokumin in the top nine per cent of schools overall.
Calgary schools highlighted
Two Calgary public schools also rank well above the all-schools average despite high percentages of ESL students.
Edgemont's student body is 44.1 per cent ESL, yet the school has an overall ranking of 8.9, with a five-year average of 8.6.
At Glamorgan, 44.3 per cent of students are ESL and the school has an overall rating of 8.3 and a five-year average of 7.7.
So what makes schools like Raymond Elementary and Meyokumin so successful? The Fraser Institute says educators across Alberta should be eager to find out.
"This is why the Fraser Institute Report Card is the go-to source for measuring academic performance," Cowley said. "Parents across Alberta should ask their principals why schools like Raymond do so well and what can be learned to help other schools improve."