A recent Toronto Life article takes a look at a popular Toronto public school and the efforts that some parents will make to get their kids enrolled in it. Since I don’t live to far from this school, the name (Jackman) is very familiar to me. Anyone who has looked at any real estate listing in the Danforth/Broadview area will have undoubtedly noticed the plethora of listings with the words “Jackman School District” listed. That area ended up being too expensive for us but we still looked at some houses there.
In Canada, most schools are part of the public school system. There are private schools available but they are not very common. The vast majority of students are in public schools. It’s a common pursuit among parents of young children to find out the “rankings” of various schools and make sure there child is in the “best” school available. For some schools such as Jackman, the only way to get your child in the school is to live in the area which has caused a mini-real estate boom in the school district.
My opinion is that these rankings are complete garbage.
1) It’s the kids that result in the test scores – not the teachers or the facilities. Getting your average (or lower) intelligence child into a better school will not result in higher test scores for your kid – if anything they will be further behind if have to go to school with a bunch of brainiacs.
2) It only takes one charismatic school leader to raise the profile of a school. Let’s face it – most of us want to be sold something and when someone repeatedly insists that a certain school is better than the others, then given the absense of any real evidence to the contrary, it’s easy to go along with that.
3) Things can change. I heard a story of someone who had very young kids decided they would move to a different area because the school the kids would be attending was ranked quite highly in contrast to their previous school. Only problem was that by the time the kids started attending school – their new school had dropped in the rankings and the old school had risen to become much higher rated. I think the moral of that story is that you should wait until the kids are ready to go to school before moving to a better area. 🙂
4) Public school is partly daycare. One of the things that I learned from this article was that Jackman is only goes from grade 1 to grade 6. I was quite amazed because I had assumed that it would only be for high school that people would really differentiate between different schools. I think grades 1-6 are part daycare/part learning basic skills. I would be willing to bet that a child could start school in grade 5 and catch up very easily. I can’t understand why parents would be willing to pay a couple hundred thousand dollars more for a house just so their child can use a superior type of easel for finger painting.
5) How much of a difference is there in Toronto schools? In the US, it appears that there is a large gap between different public schools and private schools (which are more common in the US) which is why there might be some validity in trying to school a good school. In Canada, the funding for all public school is the same so the only differentiator is the amount of fund raising that takes place. According to the article Jackman raised $80,000 in 2006 which is a very high amount. It also mentioned that a lot of that money is spent on landscaping and last year they spent $76k on a green roof. A green roof might be a notable entry in the celebre de jour bragging rights but it probably doesn’t much for your child’s education.
Some other interesting items that came out of the article:
One of the concerns with school hunting is that some people are looking for schools where all the parents/kids are the same (ie same race and language) – a comment from one father when talking about a nearby school “There seems to be a lot of Yugoslavians, we couldn’t relate to the other parents”. Hmmm…good thing that father is not home-schooling the kids since Yugoslavia hasn’t existed as a country for quite a while.
Portables – because Jackman school has to accept any kids in their area – they are now at 106% capacity and are projecting to be at 120% in the near future. As a result they have portables and will probably add more. Portables and a top school? Seems to me that portables are what you want to get away from – not gravitate towards.