Thursday, 20 October 2011

Manufacturing a Crisis, part five: What does capacity have to do with education?

In light of the facts presented in part four, one must seriously consider the following radical thesis:

The main problem with TASSS from the point of view of KPR’s number-crunchers is nothing more than its huge capacity.

When KPR strategists are driving to work alone in their cars in the morning, do they worry that their vehicles are only carrying 20% of the people they could be? Can you imagine them at the wheel, cursing the empty stretches of pavement, thinking how much better it would be if the traffic were bumper-to-bumper? Do they get annoyed that they don't need to turn their car stereo up past 3 when they've already paid for all that extra volume? When they go out to eat, can they really enjoy their meals as they frown around at the nicely-set tables with no one dining at them?

Imagine that you're Hick's next-door neighbour. You arrive home from vacation to find that Hick has made arrangements for you and your family to move in with the older couple across the road, so that the bedrooms vacated by their grown-up kids won't go unused. Don't worry, he tells you -he's already made plans to turn your house into something more useful. "I've got it all figured out," he says. "Let the healing process begin."

What if TASSS had been built to a smaller capacity in the first place, more in line with PCVS?

With about 700 students, the current enrolment would be considered normal and healthy. Students from rural areas would consider it a large school, with roughly as many students as Campbellford District High School and many more than Norwood, which currently hosts about 400. In other words, TASSS, in serving the east side of Peterborough city/county, is in line with other options for students in small communities from which it draws its students, such as Douro.

Consider that if the functional capacity of TASSS were simply reduced by closing off some hallways or finding an alternative use for the space, the under-capacity "problem" would disappear.

Let’s imagine that some bright, innovative thinker at KPR were to realize that TASSS’s capacity could be cut in half from 1290 to 645 by closing off some areas of the building. What would be the ramifications?

The projected enrolment for the current year, 2011-2012, would put the school at 90%. Even according to Hick’s own projections, in 2014 the school would be at a functional 60%. Moreover, the city’s overall capacity would drop accordingly, so that currently we would sit at about 90% enrolment rather than 80%, falling to about 72% in 2014.

Cause for alarm?


With four other high schools in the city at which to take a specific course or program if need be, programming limitations are nothing like the monster issue they have been made out to be.

Most students and parents prefer smaller schools. It is largely the administrators from Boards of Education who seem to prefer larger schools. Smaller schools frequently outperform larger schools, according to the overall Fraser Institute rankings.

In addition to possessing the highest score of the Peterborough schools, 
PCVS has the highest positive differential between actual score and the expected score based on the median family income of its students of any KPR secondary school - a score of +1.1.

The only other school which is its equal in this respect is Cobourg District Collegiate Institute West, whose Wikipedia page states that it is a small school and is known, like PCVS, for its spirit and integration with the local community, and is of a similar age.

This suggests that CDCI West will be next on Hick’s and Lloyd’s hit list.

Administrators seem to like to build huge institutions such as TASSS whenever they get the chance, setting themselves up for later problems with overcapacity while gaining nothing in academic quality.

Clarington Central Secondary, for example, built in 2005 with a capacity of well over 1000, was ranked 417 in Ontario by the Fraser, despite having a high median family income of $84,000. It underperformed compared with expectations by a mark of .5, being rated at 5.9 rather than the 6.4 one might have expected, in spite of having no ESL students. The situation is more or less the same at Bowmanville and Courtice secondary schools.

The following chart shows all the municipalities within the jurisdiction of KPR, their populations, their high schools, their high schools' Fraser Institute score, and the differential from the expected score.

Every Peterborough school plus Lakefield, all of which have fewer than 1000 students, has a positive differential.

Every other school in KPR has a negative differential except for CDCI West.

The Peterborough-area average enrolment is 719, the average score is 6.2, and the average differential is +.6.

By contrast, the larger schools in the southern part of the District with more than 1000 students have an average enrolment of 1120 (400 more than Peterborough), an average score of 5.9 and an average differential of -.7.

Municipalities in KPRPopulationSec. SchoolsstudentsFI scoreFI diff.

Adam Scott7976+0.2





Lakefield Dist.7005.7+0.7

Ptbo. area avg.7206.2+0.6

Trent Hills – 13,000 (urban and rural)

Campbellford Dist.7005.8          n/a

Norwood High 4003.1-0.2
Clarington –78,000(urban and rural)

Bowmanville High11005.1-1.1

Clarington Central13005.9-0.5


Newcastle 4000
Clarke High6006.5-0.5

East Northumberland 13506.3-0.7
Port Hope
Port Hope High7505.7-0.2

CDCI West6007.3+1.1


1000+ avg.11375.9-0.7

How does that bogeyman look now?

(Thanks Dan Piraro, wherever you are - let me know if you don't want me to use this!)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing the Fraser Institute's ratings. Isn't it amazing that when we get to quantitative measurements that PCVS still comes out ahead. While many of us do not always have access to this information, or maybe even the time to research how to interpret such numbers, so many of us know intuitively that we have something here at PCVS worth preserving. Even if those who are in positions of authority choose not to listen to us, we clearly need to arm ourselves with such facts, as our gut feelings won't win any arguments.

    Your point about the simple method to change the capacity of TASS is powerful. Again, it shows that the board is not interested in solving a problem, but with pushing an agenda which includes closing PCVS. This is unacceptable.

    I've sensed that you, more than anyone else has your finger on the pulse of what is really happening here. Thank you for your tremendous work and investigative journalism.

    I am planning to put a short film together about the misguided attempt to close PCVS. It is inspired by people like yourself, and the many others who are fighting those who have their own interests in mind rather than those of our community and children. I will certainly be using the material you have briliantly put together in this blog. Thanks!!