Institute releases report card

One of the authors of the Fraser Institute’s Report Card on Secondary Schools in B.C. and the Yukon 2011 has called the performance by students in School District 27 a “community disaster.”

One of the authors of the Fraser Institute’s Report Card on Secondary Schools in B.C. and the Yukon 2011 has called the performance by students in School District 27 a “community disaster.”

Without apparent hyperbole, Peter Cowley likened the rankings of Columneetza and Williams Lake secondary schools to “worse than a flood or worse than a tornado.”

On Sunday, the institute released its annual high school rankings. Both Williams Lake’s high schools, according to the data, experienced a decline in their overall ranking out of 10. Columneetza ranked at 2.0 and Williams Lake  3.4.

It is the lowest overall ranking received by both schools in the last five years.

Some of the categories that comprise the overall ranking include: the average exam mark for Columneetza which is 61 per cent; for Williams Lake 66.2 per cent; the percentage of exams failed for grades 10, 11 and 12 mandatory provincial exams for Columneetza was 20 per cent and Williams Lake 11.9 per cent; the graduation rate for Columneetza was 82.4 and 81.5 for Williams Lake; and the delayed advancement rate, an indicator that measures how schools move their students towards graduation, for Columneetza was 44 per cent and Williams Lake 38 per cent.

The average overall ranking for the province’s schools is six out of 10.  The report was unable to generate a statistical five-year trend as the available data for collection changed between the 2005/06 and 2006/07 school year when the ministry of education altered its testing regime.

Cowley says that in regards to possible declining achievement over a five-year trend, parents should ask what the improvement plan is for their child’s school.

“Every district should have an improvement plan for every school,” Cowley says of how schools and districts could react to the rankings. “I think it’s appropriate for parents at Columneetza to be asking if we have an improvement plan, what is it?”

Cowley agrees with a common complaint about the rankings in that they do not take into account the other skills students are taught like good citizenship, maintenance of a healthy, active lifestyle, participation in the arts, teamwork and leadership skills; however, he lays the blame for that omission at the feet of teachers’ unions and others.

The Fraser Institute has also included information on the average parental income at each school. For Columneetza it’s listed at $60,200 and for Williams Lake $58,000. That information is used to generate the ranking’s socioeconomic indicator that compares the school’s overall rating with the rating that is predicted by the average parental employment income in each student’s family. The financial information is gathered from the long-form census.

Joan Erb, president of the Cariboo Chilcotin Teachers’ Association, questions the socioeconomic data indicator, noting that a school in Chase has been listed as having an annual average income of $102,900 when the principal has said and told the institute the community income is on average $30,000.

Erb doesn’t think there’s much to learn from the report other than promoting the idea that private schools perform better than their public school counterparts, reinforcing the idea that funding is key.

“Yes, I would say the more individual support struggling students get the better off they’re going to be,” she says. “Right now we have kids in Grade 11 and 12 that can’t read at a Grade 10 level and we can’t give them any support because we’ve got kids reading at a Grade 8 level that need our attention.”

Erb thinks returning to the class size and composition ratios that were set out in legislation in 2001 would be a start.

“That would make a huge difference to kids. … The more individual support  you can give to kids the better off the kids will be.”

She thinks that may be possible given a recent legal ruling that determined Bill 27 and 28 that stripped teachers of those bargaining rights as unconstitutional.