Central Okanagan School District office on Hollywood Road in Kelowna. Photo: Capital News files

Central Okanagan School District office on Hollywood Road in Kelowna. Photo: Capital News files

Fraser Institute school evaluation report criticized

Central Okanagan School District says school assessment test results flawed

The Fraser Institute’s report card on B.C.’s elementary schools has been given a failing grade by the Central Okanagan School Distict.

The rankings for 946 elementary schools in the 2018 report were released last Saturday, but school district superintendent/CEO Kevin Kaardal says it has generated little discussion within the local school community.

“We don’t have consultations over the results, we don’t make a big deal about it,” Kaardal said.

Related: Decrease in Fraser Institute school assessment testing

At Wednesday’s school board meeting, chair Moyra Baxter noted she hadn’t even looked at the recent test results.

Baxter said the testing results, which school districts are mandated by the province to deliver to students, have long been a point of contention for not being an accurate measure of how a school is performing and that the testing protocols behind the evaluation are flawed.

“As a school board we really don’t have a choice. We have to administer the test and it falls on parents whether or not they want to opt out their kids,” Baxter explained. “And I don’t think any trustees are really in the mood of going to jail over this issue.”

Trustee Julia Fraser suggested the school board issue a public statement about the Fraser Institute testing because many parents base their decision on where to enrol their kids based on the study rankings.

Kaardal said the participation in the test has been declining in recent years within the Central Okanagan School District and across the province, which speaks in part to the flawed result criticism.

When the school assessment testing was launched 20 years ago, the participation rate was 95 per cent, but the Fraser Institute indicated last year that rate had dropped to 78.8 per cent. The tests examine math, reading and writing competency for Grade 4 and 7 students and provide a rating for each school based on the results.

He said the disagreement over the validity of the Fraser Institute testing is two-fold: the statistical result measuring tools don’t reflect the school’s overall performance accurately, and how the test result data is analyzed.

Kaardal offered the example of a local school which ranked very poorly on the Fraser Institute test analysis, but in a more comprehensive national test initiative showed students in Grade 23 achieving an 80 per cent mark.

Related: Independent school enrolment in B.C. climbing

What has further thrown the assessment off this year, Kaardal said, was two new measures added to the testing, one of which can drive a schools ranking down based on the percentage of tests written.

“How can you take these test results seriously if the students and their parents don’t. We do believe in the benefits of standardized testing. The province continues to work on developing an effective measure of testing that is respected by all concerned, and we hope that work will continue going forward,” Kaardal said.

He said the Fraser Institute testing can’t overshadow the reality that the school district graduation rate, now 93 per cent, has increased significantly over the last decade, as has the aboriginal student graduation rate.

“Those results are also reflected across the province as we are among the top education jurisdictions in the world,” Kaardal said.

“That speaks to the transformation and relationships between teachers, students and parents and the work they do together. We also know more about learning so intervention initiatives are put in place to support students which is also making a difference.”

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