Fraster Institute report cards need perspective

The annual Fraser Institute School Report Cards show the Central Okanagan had only one elementary school in the bottom 100 in the province this year and none of the high schools fell below the mark.

  • Feb. 8, 2011 8:00 p.m.

The annual Fraser Institute School Report Cards show the Central Okanagan had only one elementary school in the bottom 100 in the province this year and none of the high schools fell below the mark.

Chief Tomat Elementary sits at 822 out of 875 schools in the ranking, according to the highly controversial report, which uses one standardized test—the Foundation Skills Assessment, administered in Grades 4 and 7—to determine how the school stacks up against other schools.

School districts and teachers have long disputed the report, saying it’s focus is too narrow to read much into the data.

“We don’t discount the FSA. We take it as one of the data pieces we look at,” explained school district superintendent Hugh Gloster. “(But) we try to get multiple sources of data.”

According to Gloster, there are several international, national and provincial ranking systems used to ensure students measure up to competitive standards; but the teachers also do several forms of in-school testing on a daily to weekly basis to make sure kids are keeping pace.

“Canada scores quite well, we’re usually in the top handful of countries on the PISA,” said Gloster, pointing out the international ranking is not broken down to the school district level, though the province, as a whole, does well.

Gloster did not answer which schools have raised red flags specifically using the school districts’ assessment models, but said there are at least 10 elementary schools which are receiving extra resources to help ensure there’s a level playing field based on their level of vulnerability.

“We do differentiate support. We will look at schools, and how students are doing in those schools, and we will look at adjusting staffing levels, for example, and giving additional support,” said Gloster.

While the report clearly ties socio-economic status and the percentage of new immigrants to school performance, the superintendent points out the data reported shows the two are not necessarily tied at all.

Some schools with lower economic brackets, like Springvalley Elementary where the combined parental income averages $38,000, still outperform others, while some higher economic bracket schools, like South Kelowna Elementary with a combined $100,000 annual family income, perform in just about the same middle-of-the-pack range.

The school district does use neighbourhood socio-economic data, and UBC researcher Clyde Hertzman’s Early Development Instrument to assess the level of support young children have going into Kindergarten.

Children are assessed in Kindergarden through Grade 3 on the early learning development profile.

That said, the report card data is heavily skewed toward families with money, illustrating on a standardized test, schools with higher income brackets do tend to do really well.

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