Just three Terrace elementary schools received a passing grade in the annual Fraser Institute rankings released recently.
The scores are based on provincial Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) test scores on reading, writing and numeracy, and are released annually by the Fraser Institute, an independent public policy think tank based in Vancouver.
In the Terrace area, the top-ranked elementary school was Veritas Catholic School with a score of 8.2 out of the 10, followed by Uplands Elementary at 6.5 and Centennial Christian at 6.4.
All the other four elementary schools scored below the passing 6.0 B.C. average.
Ecole Mountainview got 4.9, Thornhill Elementary 4.1, Suwilaawks 2.7, and Cassie Hall 1.2.
Looking at the bigger picture over the course of five years, Uplands Elementary school also showed a noteworthy improvement in its score.
The school climbed from 4.4 in 2013 up to 6.5 in 2017, with most of the improvement in Grade 4 reading, writing and numeracy as well as in Grade 7 writing.
But the results also showed a significantly lower number of students took the test, with 40 per cent of the school opting out.
Uplands principal Pat Mouland didn’t say why so many students aren’t taking FSA tests, but said the school does encourage parents to have their children take them.
“It gives a really good snapshot of student learning, and it’s a strong predictor for success towards graduation,” said Mouland. “It’s also one of those pieces that lets us know where a student is at… and we can use that assessment for learning… to inform instruction,” she said.
Speaking about how the school is improving in reading, writing and numeracy, Mouland said it’s hard to say.
“It’s hard to compare school to school, because we are looking at different cohorts each year,” she said.
But Mouland did name a few efforts aimed at those areas, including using common language school-wide, and having teachers, librarians and other staff collaborate in what they teach. For example, having librarians and teachers focus on reading comprehension at the same time period.
Mouland said they do follow the Daily Cafe reading framework, but they also use the school district literacy framework as their main guide.
They also have honest conversations with students about how they’re doing and what’s working.
“It’s not just the parents that need to be informed on student progress and [to discuss] what works for students, but students need to be involved in that as well,” Mouland said.
The Fraser Institute has been criticized for ranking schools based solely the criteria of test results.
Last year, school district superintendent Katherine McIntosh said the Fraser Institute report doesn’t give a full picture of how schools are doing, but only gives a snapshot at one point in time.
She said that ranking schools based on one criteria is not a fair assessment, but did acknowledge that it’s one among many useful pieces of evidence to determine how schools are doing.
But Peter Cowley, director of school performance studies at the Fraser Institute, says the scores measure whether schools are fulfilling their purpose.
“Public schools are meant to equip students with basic skills and knowledge like those reflected on a standardized test,” said Cowley. “Their purpose is to determine if students meet provincial expectations and if they haven’t, consistently over time, it means they aren’t doing their job,” he said.
The standardized FSA tests are changing this year in B.C., with the province redesigning them to reflect the objectives of the redesigned school curriculum.
Schools also took FSAs in October and November this year, rather than at the end of the school year.