The Fraser Institute released its controversial elementary school rankings based on the province’s 2009/10 Foundation Skills Assessment tests Monday.
According to the right-wing think tank, School District 27 schools placed as high as 103 and as low as 834 out of the province’s 875 schools.
Chilcotin Road elementary scored the highest with a rating of 8.1 out of 10, Mountview elementary followed with 7.0, 150 Mile House with 6.7, Horse Lake elementary 5.7, Mile 108 elementary 5.1, 100 Mile House elementary 5.1, Nesika elementary 4.8, Cataline elementary 4.6, and Marie Sharpe elementary rounded it out with 3.1. Local schools averaged 5.6 out of 10; the provincial average is 6.0 out of 10. Overall, School District 27 ranked 33 out of 57 districts in the province. The Fraser Institute uses scores from reading, writing and numeracy tests for grades 4 and 7 students. English as a Second Language, special needs and French immersion students are considered in the schools’ rankings.
Peter Cowley, director of school performance studies and co-author of the report, noted schools in the Cariboo Chilcotin had three schools above the provincial average.
“Chilcotin Road saw a dramatic increase over previous years,” Cowley says. “We hope that’s a sign that substantial improvement is being made to the extent that the kids at Chilcotin are acquiring these basic skills. It is just one year and we try to discourage folks from looking at just one year and making a decision on that.”
Cowley noted that improvement has also been seen in test scores at Mountview over the last three years.
The other end of the spectrum is Marie Sharpe elementary, which Cowley describes as “well below average.” Cowley says there isn’t an obvious reason for the school’s results noting that ESL and special needs student numbers are not “particularly high” and parental income, while being low, is “not anywhere near the lowest by a long shot.”
Joan Erb, president of the Cariboo Chilcotin Teachers’ Association, hadn’t looked too closely at the rankings when contacted by the Tribune but said she was concerned about Marie Sharpe in particular and the impact the rankings might have on both the students’ and teachers’ moral.
“I worry about them because I know how hard the teachers work there to deal with the socioeconomic issues in that school,” Erb says. “Maybe they don’t have as much time to focus on writing skills and math skills because they are busy supporting those kids making sure they get food and making sure they’ve got a safe home to go to at the end of the day.”
She says children from rural areas and those of a low socio-economic status are especially vulnerable in this testing.
“Kids are anxious about tests anyway. It’s a new format. It’s on the computer; it’s very stressful for them.”
Erb suggests people needn’t look any further than the local literacy organization and the number of adults who access those services for some insight.
She says many of those adults have children and that if the adults are struggling to improve their skills so too may be their children.