Online tool comparing schools to be yanked

TheStar.com – Ontario/ParentCentral.ca – Online tool comparing schools to be yanked
April 07, 2009.   Kristin Rushowy

The province will pull its new online school comparison feature and review the information provided after hearing concerns about the website including such details as families’ socio-economic status and parent education levels.

The Ministry of Education’s “school information finder” allows parents to compare up to three schools at a time and includes the percentage of students from low-income households, those new to Canada or whose first language is not English.

It also provides the proportion of special education students and gifted students, as well as a school’s standardized test scores.

Education Minister Kathleen Wynne said yesterday, after meeting with parent groups and educators, that while the demographic information will remain, the comparison will be removed.

A working group will be struck to examine what should be included, she added.

“This isn’t new information, it’s just that it’s in one place,” Wynne told reporters at Queen’s Park. “It’s information that, certainly, parents have asked for.”

She said other information, such as available extracurricular activities, could also be added.

No one at yesterday’s meeting, which was previously scheduled, thought the online comparison feature was a great idea, said attendee Annie Kidder of the advocacy group People for Education.

Opposition parties said parents who wish to could use it to avoid schools where families are poorer or with large immigrant populations.

People for Education has written an open letter to Wynne and Premier Dalton McGuinty, saying “what is implied by the comparison capacity of the site is that it will help parents ‘choose’ the best school. It also seems to imply that the data provided are the most relevant data people should use to judge school performance … we are concerned that this site will encourage further social polarization.”

Wynne said the site is not about ranking schools, but empowering parents.

 

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