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Fraser Institute releases annual ranking of BC elementary schools

Last Updated May 4, 2015 at 11:34 am PDT

(iStock Photo)

Only one public elementary school makes top 16 in Fraser Institute rankings

Critics of BC school report card say it is too narrow in focus

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Have you ever wonder how your kid’s school compares to the rest of the province?

You can find out today.

The Fraser Institute is out with its annual ranking of BC’s elementary schools. It charts a school’s academic progress over the last five years.

Most trends are limited to the 978 individual schools but there is one common macro-level thread:

“One thing that pops out: the size of the gap between the girls and the guys has gone up in mathematics. In 61 per cent of the schools, the guys did better. In 37 per cent, the girls did better. So historically, everyone thought the guys did better in math. Regrettably, it seems to be coming back,” says Peter Cowley, the institute’s director of school performance studies who co-authored the report.

Overall, only one public school made the top 16 — the rest are independent.

West Vancouver’s École Cederdale was part of a 16-way tie for the top ranking.

Vancouver placed seven schools in the top 16, followed by Burnaby with three. Surrey and West Vancouver each had two schools while Victoria and North Vancouver each had one.

Critics of the report card say it is too narrow in its focus and only looks at standardized tests. They argue it omits other factors, creating a distorted view of schools.

In response, Cowley says, “Those same folks who criticize the report card… are exactly the same people who, if they wish to, could provide us with data on other aspects of education.”

“The critical thing is — and I think it’s very bad thinking — they don’t want any schools to be compared. They’d rather tell the parents every school is excellent, which in many cases is just not true,” he claims.

The rankings are an annual exercise, but how valuable are they to parents?

All of the moms and dads News1130 spoke with say they look at the rankings — or have in the past — but the report card isn’t the deciding factor in where to send their kids.

“Definitely don’t want a low-ranking, definitely a medium to high would be a consideration. I guess [When] we are deciding, definitely we’ll look at that and see which ones have the better reviews or vice versa, so,” says Laurie.

“Sometimes I don’t even really take the reviews or the markings to heart, I just kind of take my own feelings about it and my own views on the school as more important.”

Lisa says she consults her sister, who is a teacher, but thinks the rankings are a valuable resource for parents. “Actually we did pick where we were moving based on whether or not the school catchment was good enough in her opinion, and whether there were busy streets.”

“In the future, I think it would be something that I would look at, and if I didn’t have somebody in the family, I would definitely consider looking at that and using that as a resource,” she adds.

Some say there are simply other considerations that are more important, like where their child’s friends were going, or what school is closest to home.

Jason says he looked at the rankings when his first child went to school, but doesn’t put much weight on them anymore. “It’s much more highly valued that they go to a school in our neighbourhood, than trying to find a school that has some high numbers according to some tests.”

He questions how accurate a picture the rankings give.

“[There’s] definitely a lot of the criticisms — that they’re using standardized tests and certain schools will maybe teach more to the test or have students that come from different backgrounds so maybe there’s less ESL or other factors that might drag down the test scores. We find that it’s not a very valuable or accurate capture of how good the school is and what the school is in the larger picture, because our kids are going to have good days and bad days, and the test is not going to capture that. They can have teachers that are coming and going or a school that is overcrowded or undercrowded and the Fraser Institute’s scores don’t capture any of that, so it’s difficult to give it too much weight just simply because it’s missing so many other issues.”

Another father tells us he thinks public and private schools should be graded separately.