Thursday, June 18, 2009

Annual Secondary school rankings released by Fraser Institute

As the school year comes to an end, the Fraser Institute has released its always controversial, but never ignored, Secondary School rankings. A much discussed document that raises issues as much as it does tempers as educators, parents and administrators try and digest the findings and whether it provides a fair and balanced assessment of education in British Columbia.

And for the high schools of Prince Rupert, the tidings are not particularly good and the debate will once again highlight the strains on the system, as it seems the results drop significantly the further it seems we get from the large urban areas and the high performing academies of the Lower Mainland.

Both Prince Rupert Secondary and Charles Hays were ranked towards the bottom of the annual listings, as both schools slipped over the course of the five year average that the Fraser Institute provides for the 313 ranking positions that it lists.

Prince Rupert Secondary with a Grade Twelve enrollment listed at 95, was ranked at 282, down from heights of its placing at 238 over a five year span,

Charles Hays Secondary with a Grade 12 enrollment of 125, received a ranking of 299, also trending downwards over five years from a high of 254.

In the Fraser Institute’s rating scale of 1 to 10, PRSS was provided with a rating of 4.3, down from 4.6, while Charles Hays received a 3.4, down from 4.0 over five years.

A number of other Northwest schools were also cloistered around the lower rankings:

Mount Elizabeth in Kitimat, listed a Grade Twelve enrollment of 149. It was ranked at 290 a decline from its high of 241 , with a rating of 4.1, down from 4.4 over the five year period.

Hazelton’s enrollment figures for Grade 12 were 60, they were ranked at 311, significantly down from a high of 263, their rating was marked at 1.3 down from 3.0 over the five years.

Nisga’a in New Aiyansh with a Grade 12 enrollment of 56 and George M. Dawson of Masset with 26 Grade Twelve students, both were tied at 313, a rating of zero assessed for their rating this year.

Caledonia in Terrace listed Grade 12 enrollment at 233, and was ranked at 208, down from 190 over five years, their rating was marked at 5.6 which is up from their five year average of 5.4

But it was the Bulkley Valley schools and Queen Charlotte Secondary which ranked the highest of the Northwest.

Bulkley Valley Christian with a Grade 12 enrollment of 25, received a ranking of 172 down from their high of 90 over five years, Bulkley Valley was rated at 6.1 down from their high of 6.9 over five years.

Smithers Secondary listed a Grade 12 enrollment of 159. It was ranked at 166, down by 11 spots from their high of 155, their rating out of ten was a 6.2 up slightly from the five year average of 6.0.

Ebenezer Independent has a Grade 12 enrollment of 20, it was ranked at 93, with no baseline over five years. The rating out of ten was a 7.2.

Houston with a Grade 12 enrollment of 67 finished highest of all the Northwest at 79, up from 96 over five years. The rating was 7.3 out of ten up from 6.8 over the last five years.

Queen Charlotte Secondary with 27 Grade Twelve students, was ranked at 139, with no base line to use over five years, their overall rating was a 6.5, again with no five year rating to compare with.
Northwest Review placements from 1 to 313
Houston Secondary 79
Ebenezer Independent (Smithers) 93
Queen Charlotte Secondary 139
Smithers Secondary 166
Bulkley Valley Christian (Smithers) 172
Caledonia (Terrace) 208
Prince Rupert Secondary 282
Mount Elizabeth (Kitimat) 290
Charles Hays Secondary (Prince Rupert) 299
Hazelton Secondary 311
Nisga'a 313
George M. Dawson (Masset) 313

As for the top of the list, all of the top ten schools claimed Vancouver or Victoria addresses, with Surrey’s Southridge and Vancouver’s St, George’s, York House and West Point Gray all claiming the top spots with a perfect ten rating.

The rankings generate a lot of debate, more so about the methodology of the process of rating the schools and the schism that seems to show up each year.

While it is no doubt hard to compete with the resources and selective approaches of some of these top ten schools, the results highlight the gap between them.

If the Ministry of Education is to gain anything from these studies, other than the obvious result that privilege does seem to breed success, it is that there is a need to address the issue of education across the province. Providing the resources needed in the rural areas to help try and reduce the glaring differences that the numbers seem to suggest.

The Fraser Institute doesn’t outline some of the socio economic factors that could influence these results, and in fact dismisses them as a non starter in the discussion. The report is a stark mathematical formula that parlays statistics into success. It doesn’t address the issues that may be directly resulting in some of the troublesome results of this years rankings.

While we suspect that the comparisons between schools don’t reflect a balanced playing field, they should serve as a warning that each part of the province may have special requirements or concerns, something that can’t be neatly package up in a statistical review.

It’s to that message that the Ministry of Education should take notice and work towards reviewing and acting upon.

The complete Fraser Institute review can be found here, they break down their findings into a number of categories for comparison, the Prince Rupert schools can be found on page 28 of the report .

They also provide a video tutorial on their methods of data collection which you can access from their website, found here.

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