On Campus

Ont. education ministry under fire over school info website

Critics say parent could cherry-pick schools in rich areas or with fewer immigrants

A new Education Ministry website designed to help parents compare public schools contains demographic information that is offensive in this context and must be removed, the opposition parties charged Monday.

The government boasted when it launched its School Information Finder last Friday that the website “enhances openness and transparency” by bringing public information together in one easy-to-access place.

However, the Conservatives and New Democrats said the site also allows parents who are so inclined to make sure their kids avoid going to schools in poor neighbourhoods or ones with large numbers of immigrants.

“It allows parents to say, ‘I don’t want my child going where income levels are below the norm or where there’s a certain racial makeup to an area,”‘ said interim Opposition Leader Bob Runciman. “I think that’s totally wrong and should offend most thinking Ontarians.”

The New Democrats support giving parents information so they can compare individual schools in academic performance, but said it should not include data on students who speak English as a second language or whose parents earn more than $100,000.

“That is clearly designed to make sure that parents know exactly where to send their children,” said NDP education critic Rosario Marchese.

“It’s absolutely wrong of this government, and I think they have to review it and I hope that they undo all that they have done.”

Education Minister Kathleen Wynne said the website contains only information that is already in the public domain, and said she would not remove any data currently posted.

“It’s all public information, so this isn’t new information, it’s just that it’s in one place,” she said.

“I’m not so much looking at taking information off, as (I am looking at) is there more information that we should be adding to make the profile of the school more full.”

Wynne said parents have suggested they would like more information on the level of extracurricular activities in each school.

The minister said the website was set up because some school boards had profiles of schools online while others did not, so the province wanted one place where all parents could get information on all schools.

“We’ve known for many years that parents don’t just want narrow information about test scores, but they want a broader, contextualized set of information, and that’s what this website allows for,” Wynne said.

“I want to be clear that this information finder is not about ranking schools.”

The School Information Finder website can be found at www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/sift/.

– The Canadian Press

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