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Exam scores, graduations and gender gaps: Quebec's high schools, ranked

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A ranking of Quebec high schools was published on Friday, scoring their performance on a variety of academic indicators.

It's one of several tools parents can use to determine the right fit for their kids, according to the libertarian-conservative Canadian public policy think tank Fraser Institute, which published the study.

"We conduct a series of indicators. One is the average result in those subjects [languages of instruction, second languages, science and math], whether students fail or succeed in their exams, whether the school tends to inflate grades at the local level," researcher Yanick Labrie told CTV News in an interview Saturday.

"We also look at the gender gap, whether there are differences between the results of female students and male students. And finally, we look at whether students get their diploma in time."

Researchers then combine these elements to rank each school on a scale of zero to 10.

Here's an overview of the top secondary schools in Quebec, according to the this latest "Report Card":

Top 10 private schools (2021/2022)

  • Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf (Montreal): 10.0
  • Collège Jean-Eudes (Montreal): 10.0
  • Collège Pasteur (Montreal): 10.0
  • Collège Charlemagne (Montreal): 10.0
  • École Saint-Nom-de-Marie (Montreal): 10.0
  • Collège Beaubois (Montreal): 10.0
  • Collège Saint-Alexandre (Gatineau): 10.0
  • Collège Laval (Laval): 10.0
  • Collège St-Sacrement (Terrebonne): 9.8
  • Collège Sainte-Anne (Lachine): 9.7

Top 10 public schools (2021/2022)

  • Collège Saint-Louis (Montreal): 10.0
  • École internationale de Montréal (Westmount): 10.0
  • École d'éducation internationale (Laval): 9.4
  • École internationale Lucille-Teasdale (Brossard): 9.4
  • Royal West Academy (Montreal West): 9.2
  • Académie de Roberval (Montreal): 8.7
  • Vincent Massey (Montreal): 8.5
  • École Cardinal-Roy (Quebec City): 8.5
  • École Robert-Gravel (Montreal): 8.3
  • École l'Envolée (Granby): 8.3

All English schools (2021/2022)

NOT THE BE-ALL-END-ALL

Perhaps unsurprisingly, private schools came out on top in the Report Card.

But does that mean the education they're providing is inherently better?

Not necessarily.

Mike Cohen, head of communications at the English Montreal School Board (EMSB), says parents should take school rankings like this one with a grain of salt. Private schools, as well as some public schools, often have competitive admission requirements, meaning the students who do get in are more likely to score high on their exams.

"Yes, they're accurate in the sense that Royal West Academy and Vincent Massey always end up at the top. But there's a reason for that. I mean, they select their students, they're elite schools, there's entrance exams," he said in an interview Saturday. "But it's not fair to all the other schools that have a lot of extenuating circumstances in terms of their numbers. I mean, they don't get to choose their students, they have a lot of special needs students, coded students."

In many ways, researcher Yanick Labrie agrees: "Some schools tend to select their students based on their previous academic performance. And because of that, they're on top of the ranking quite often. But that doesn't mean they don't, at the local level, have incentives to maintain that ranking."

He said that while studies like this can be helpful to parents, they shouldn't be their only guide.

"It's not the only tool available for parents when it comes time to choose a school for their children. They have to visit schools, they have to ask questions to the schools, admission administrators, to other parents."

He said one useful way to use the rankings is by looking at which schools have shown improvement over time.

For example, school's like John Rennie High School in Pointe-Claire are trending upward, from a score of 6.8 in 2016 to 7.3 in 2022.

"Forty-five schools have shown significant improvement over time. And they were not necessarily selecting their students," Labrie explained.

"Even if you allow everyone to come in, you can show that improvements are possible."

THE GENDER GAP

Labrie said some of the study's most interesting findings are related to the gender gap in high schools.

In 96.8 per cent of schools included in the report, female students performed better than their male classmates in their language of instruction exams.

In a similar vein, at 64.4 per cent of the schools, female students outscored their male classmates in their math exams.

"It's beyond the Report Card to provide the factors behind this, but I think it's so important to work to reveal the statistics, but also to try to find solutions to that gap," he said.

COVID-19

Yanick said he was pleasantly surprised to find that COVID-19 did not leave a lingering stain on the academic performance of Quebec high schools.

"We thought it would be the case, obviously, because of the pandemic and all the problems associated with it. But there's no significant downward trend in any subject over the last five years," he said.

"We were pleased to find out that, somehow, schools managed to provide students with what they need to succeed."

EMSB's Mike Cohen, meanwhile, reports that things have largely returned to normal post-pandemic.

"It's been moving its way back to normal for the last couple of years, and I don't think that students are looking at that anymore. We learned a lot from COVID, for instance, when students are absent for a period of time, there's all kinds of ways to keep learning if they're home sick, which didn't exist before."

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