School rankings don’t show the whole picture

Terrace schools are once again at the bottom of the Fraser Institute’s school ranking list for 2012

Terrace schools are once again at the bottom of the Fraser Institute’s school ranking list for 2012, but school board chair Art Erasmus says the rankings, based on the results of the province’s Foundation Skills Assessment tests, don’t tell the whole story.

“It’s only a one shot deal on an activity that happens once a year, and it doesn’t consider the kind of population that is served by a given school, it doesn’t consider what things are being done for the school to help kids and families cope with life and the circumstances that are there,” he said of the tests, that measure reading, writing, and numeracy and are administered to students once a year in Grade 4 and Grade 7.

Out of 853 schools, independent school Veritas was the highest ranked at 33, with Cassie Hall at 843 and Suwilaawks at 850. Other Terrace schools were not included on the list because there was not enough data.

The Suwilaawks’ morning physical activity program is one example of something beneficial a school is doing that isn’t measured in the rankings, said Erasmus.

“The kids love it, they’re getting their physical activity, they like going to school because of the way they’re being treated,” he said. “It helps attendance and it helps a whole bunch of other things so that the kids want to be there and do some work.”

The Fraser Institute’s Peter Cowley, one of the authors of the report, agrees that the rankings don’t include all factors – and that’s why more data is needed on students, not less. The government has indicated it may cancel the tests in the future, but Cowley says that would be a mistake.

“These tests … are a minor, minor imposition on both the timetable and the budget,” he said. “And yet, they are of considerable value not just to parents but also to educators and education researchers.”


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