Best high schools: top overall
BRIAN BERGMAN, KEN MACQUEEN and KARIN MARLEY | Aug 22, 2005
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It wasn't always the case. Jasper Place used to have a terrible reputation as a grunt school where brawls sometimes overshadowed academics. Under Coggles's leadership, the school has rebranded itself over the past decade -- but not at the expense of its traditional clientele. Innovations like PASS(Programming for Academic Student Success)target students who are unlikely to finish high school. Six Grade 10 classes, each with 25 students, are assigned to teachers who know how to motivate underachieving kids. Student progress and behaviour are monitored closely; if someone is absent, a call home is made immediately. More than half of these would-be dropouts go on to graduate from high school.
At the same time, Coggles has beefed up opportunities for college- and university-bound kids, who now make up about half the student population. Jasper Place is the only school in Edmonton to offer both international honours programs -- Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate. Of the city's 17 public high schools, Jasper Place rates around fifth in average diploma exam scores, an impressive showing given its diverse student population. It was also one of the few Canadian schools praised in William Ouchi's 2003 book, Making Schools Work. A professor at the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles, Ouchi hailed Jasper Place as "the Swiss watch of high schools" and Coggles as "the watchmaker who has painstakingly assembled several different programs and teachers into a smoothly working whole."
Another Coggles innovation concerns career planning. At the start of Grade 10, all students, along with their parents, sit down with a school counsellor to discuss what they want to do after high school. If uncertain, students can take interest and aptitude surveys to get them thinking. Katie Lunan, who graduated earlier this year, credits the school with helping her to settle on a career in psychology. Attending such a large, multi-faceted institution, while initially daunting, paid dividends for her. "It's good to have diversity," says Lunan. "It's an education in the real world, not some sheltered environment."
Rossland Secondary School
Rossland Secondary is at the heart of this tiny Kootenay community of 3,800. So when student numbers started shrinking due to changing demographics and the board threatened closure, it was a matter of pride to make the school vibrant again. Four years ago, the school launched a media arts course called Visual Arts Media Technology that is now drawing students from a wider area -- including even Korea and Hong Kong, since the school implemented an international program this year. Rossland has promoted its exceptional jazz band, which has won an international competition in Spokane, Wash., for 10 of the past 12 years. The school's ski academy, which provides flexible scheduling for high-level athletes, attracted 24 kids in its first year. Overall, 49 per cent of students take part in extracurricular sports and, as the school population grows, so too does the range of teams. As parents and students pitch in to develop new programs, talk of shutting down Rossland has been drowned out by school spirit.
Park View Education Centre
Park View has offered the International Baccalaureate program for 25 years(it was the first public school east of Montreal to adopt it), but not enough people in the community were aware of this prestigious academic opportunity. So for the past three years, the IB students have run an annual carnival-like event called the Knowledge Festival, which last year attracted over 4,000 participants. After preliminary competitions in elementary schools county-wide, 800 excited students from Grades 2 to 10 compete for cash prizes in mental math and literacy contests. A South Shore Idol competition and a cheeky Iron Man Pentathlon for seniors(stretching, bowling, aerobics, darts and Middle Eastern dance)are among other attractions. "The festival sends a message to the community that knowledge and academics are important," says principal Jeff DeWolfe.
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