Comparing Alberta High Schools (2016)

Each year, Alberta Education publishes diploma examination results for schools and school authorities. We’ve taken the 2015-2016 data and created the following visualization to help parents and educators evaluate the relative performance of high schools across the province. Marks don’t tell the whole story, and individual schools should really be viewed in the context in which they operate. But a close look at diploma marks does bring up interesting questions, like why do Calgary public high schools consistently outperform Edmonton public high schools, and why are school marks so much higher than diploma marks?

Other Visualizations: Alberta High School Rankings | Diploma Exam Marks vs. School Marks | NHL Stanley Cup Champions

What are the circles in the chart?

Each circle represents an Alberta high school. The circle’s colour represents its school authority and its size reflects the number of Gr. 12 students enrolled in the school.

What’s being measured on the x-axis?

The x-axis measures the difference between the average diploma exam mark for a school’s students and the average diploma exam mark for all students in the province. Schools that appear to the right of the vertical zero line did better than the provincial average; schools that appear to the left of the zero line did worse.

What’s being measured on the y-axis?

The y-axis measures the difference between the average school awarded mark and the average diploma exam mark for a school’s students. Schools that appear above the horizontal zero line had higher school averages than diploma exam averages. The further a school is from the zero line, the bigger the discrepancy between the school awarded mark and the diploma exam mark.

What kind of comparisons can I make with the data?

You can use the filtering controls in the top left to change the visualization. For example, you can compare school results in individual diploma courses or across different years. Or you can compare the results of schools in school authorities by filtering on “Authority Name”, or you can compare one school against others by filtering on “School Name”. You can also zoom in and out of different areas of the chart.

What’s the data source for the visualization?

Alberta Education diploma exam results which are published every year. We’re using the most recent data from the 2015-2016 school year. The Alberta Education site makes it difficult to see where schools sit in terms of their academic results. We’re trying to make it easy.

I’m a parent of a high school student. How can this help me?

You’ll probably want to know whether the grades your child is getting at school are going to be consistent with his/her future diploma exam results. Diploma exams account for a big part of Grade 12 course marks, and Grade 12 marks determine admission into post-secondary institutions. Marks generally drop on diploma exams, just as marks generally drop for students in their first year of university. If your child intends to pursue post-secondary education, and there’s a relatively wide gap between school and diploma exam marks at your school, you might want to look into how well your school is preparing your child for higher education.

I’m a high school teacher, department head, or principal. How can this help me?

You can use this to benchmark the academic performance of your students with those in similar schools. Every classroom is unique, so you can expect some variance in outcomes. Small differences won’t matter, but if there’s a big difference between you and your peers at similar schools, it may be worthwhile to understand (and learn from) the reasons why.

Can I use this to rank schools?

It’s natural to want to do that. Just keep in mind that schools can serve different student populations and pursue different missions. What this tool is meant to do is to help you see and compare the different educational experiences high schools are offering their students. You should probably dig deeper, however, if you want to understand the reasons for these differences.

Is this related to the Fraser Institute School Rankings?

No. The Fraser Institute uses a complicated (and flawed) methodology to rate schools. All we’re doing is showing the raw school marks and exam results reported by Alberta Education. The math involved here is limited to adding, subtracting, and averaging numbers, nothing fancy.