Monday, February 09, 2009

Fraser Institute rankings set to frame local debate once again

The annual Fraser Institute rankings for elementary schools have been released and the conservative organization's findings are sure to once again raise the ire of many local residents and spur on debate over the state of the province's schools.

Peter Cowley and Stephen Easton provide the annual review of the 952 of the provinces public and Independent Schools, calling their report a "tool allowing parents to track and compare the academic performance of their children’s schools". They explain their process and how the findings should be viewed in a video that is posted on the Institutes website.

The Institute takes the results of the controversial Foundation Skills Assessments and then divines some formula of rating to outline the progress of schools across the province. It's a controversial use of the assessments that has been one of the main points of contention with the BC Teachers Federation for a number of years now.
Prince Rupert's five public and one independent school were featured as part of the province wide report, which bases the level of success on a scale of 1 to 10.

For the test period of 2008 the numbers placed the schools in the following order:

Annunciation was at the top of the local list, with a rating of 7.6 out of 10. An increase from last year where they were listed at 6.7.
Westview was next at 5.8, down from 6.0 last year.

Lax Keen also dropped from the 2007 numbers, they were rated at 4.7, a decrease fom 5.4 the year before.

Pineridge suffered a decline as well, rated at 3.4 in 2008, in 2007 the ranking was 5.1

Conrad School was assessed a rating of 2.5, down from 3.1 in 2007

While the final Prince Rupert school to be examined was Roosevelt Park, which was rated at 1.3 out of ten, a decrease from last years 2.6.
The Port Edward school did not appear in the ratings once again this year.

On Haida Gwaii, Sk’aadgaa Naay was rated at 2.4 down from last years 2.7

Tahayghen showed a rather huge jump, rated at 5.2 this year, up significantly from last year's rating of 1.2.

The numbers crunched by the Fraser Institute once again will provide much in the way of discussion material, for some teachers and parents they are considered an incomplete examination of all of the factors that go into learning, not taking into account the social and economic factors that many of these students may face.

Others take the side of the Institute and suggest that the only true measure of whether the schools are meeting the needs of their students is in the cold hard accounting of numbers.

Such diverse thoughts are the thing that many an argument can be made from.

An additional bit of background for last years local numbers could be that the FSA's were being administered during the height of the debate over the then potential closures of Seal Cove, Kanata and Westview schools.

It was a discussion which eventually resulted in the closure of the two east side schools, merging their student populations with Conrad and Lax Keen schools this year. Some might suggest that with all that going on around them, students might have a problem focusing on school, let alone the need to take the tests.

The local numbers, when compared with the rest of the province, show a marked difference in results from north to south.

There were only 20 schools out of the 952 rated that scored a perfect ten, all of them located in either Vancouver or Victoria, the majority of them Independent schools.

Prince Rupert makes its first appearance on the list at the 156 mark with Annunciation, followed by Westview at 517, Lax Keen at 730, Pineridge 878, Conrad 918 and Roosevelt Park 946.

Those figures probably won't do much for the morale of many of the staff and students in the district, if taken as the cold hard numbers that the Fraser Institute has delivered them.
The troubling thing about the rating system year after year, seems to be that while the Ministry of Education seems adamant that the FSA's continue (and with them the eventual public rankings by the Fraser Institute) as seen by the recent hearing at the Labour Relations Board over a planned boycott of the tests by the BCTF, nothing concrete ever seems to develop from the annual recitation of the numbers.

Yet even with this data, as incomplete as it seems to be as to the entire large picture of education, the Ministry of Education seems to keep missing the message, the school districts, the teachers, the staff and the students need more resources to assist learning, to make the educational process a more inclusive one, a more level one and a more rewarding one.

That seems to get lost as you wander along the list, from the heights of the exclusive neighbourhoods of Vancouver and Victoria and then travel down to the seemingly forgotten ones of the province's rural areas.

Instead, while they may protest it as not so, these numbers tend to define the process of one of excellence and then frustration. It's up to the Ministry of Education and the provincial government to make sure that the latter isn't getting in the way of the former for all schools and all students.
The Quick Search link for any provincial school listed in the report can be found here.

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