6 Toronto elementary schools among top-ranked institutions in Ontario, new report says

A Canadian think tank released its often controversial ranking of elementary schools in Ontario on Sunday, and six Toronto schools were among a small group that earned a perfect overall rating.

Fraser Institute released its 16th annual ranking of Ontario elementary schools

Critics of the report argue it relies too heavily on the results of standardized tests, providing an incomplete picture of what individual schools offer their students. (iStock)

A Canadian think tank released its often controversial ranking of elementary schools in Ontario on Sunday, and six Toronto schools were among a small group that earned a top rating. 

The Fraser Institute's 16th annual "Report Card on Ontario's Elementary Schools" examined the performance of 3,046 schools based on nine academic indicators. The indicators are derived from students' scores on standardized tests in reading, writing and math. 

Each school is then assigned an overall rating out of 10. 

Sixteen schools across the province managed to score a perfect 10, most of them private. Those located in Toronto are as follows:

  • Avondale Elementary Alternative School
  • Havergal College
  • Islamic Institute of Toronto
  • Northmount School
  • Sathya Sai School
  • St. Sebastian Catholic School

Several other schools in the GTA also earned perfect ratings, including four in Mississauga, one in Brampton and one in Ajax. You can access the full rankings here.

"This report is directed at parents," said Peter Cowley, a senior fellow at the Fraster Institute who focuses on school performance studies. Cowley co-authored the report along with Angela MacLeod, a senior policy analyst at the think tank. 

"What we're doing here is answering a question that is of great importance to parents: in general, how is a school doing in academics versus others in the neighbourhood, others in the school district?" he said in an interview. 

Critics of the Fraser Institute's rankings argue the report relies too heavily on the results of standardized tests, painting an incomplete portrait of a school's overall performance and value to its students.

Cowley admits the system is "imperfect" and does not "tell the story of everything that goes on at a school." But he adds that Ontario's ministry of education doesn't take any measures of school performance that aren't considered in the report. 

"There are schools that are doing an extraordinary job. They can be identified. That's what this report does," Cowley said.

"I fundamentally reject the idea that if you don't have all the measures you think you need, then you don't do anything."

'Each school is different'

Reports in previous years have also examined larger provincial trends. However, to do so in a statistically sound way requires at least five years of consecutive data, Cowley explains. A work action by elementary school teachers in 2015 led to a year-long gap in the data, rendering it impossible to draw wider statistical conclusions until 2021, he said. 

But Cowley argues that the report still has considerable value from a policy perspective. The ministry should study what the top-ranked schools are doing differently than their counterparts, he said.

"It seems like a pretty obvious way of establishing improvement programs."

Shari Schwartz-Maltz, spokesperson for the Toronto District School Board, said in an interview on Sunday that these kinds of rankings often lack important context. 

She stressed that school administrators pay close attention to standardized test results when they develop and revise improvement plans. 

"If they see weaknesses in reading, writing or math, then they put resources toward it," Schwartz-Maltz said.

"Each school receives the data, reviews it and works it into their individual school improvement plans. Each school is different, you can't lump them together."

The top-ranked, non-alternative TDSB school in the report this year was Fleming Public School in Scarborough, which earned a 9.5 out of 10 in its overall rating, coming in at number 25 on the list. 

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