Schools found lacking

MOST SCHOOLS in the area have received a failing grade from the Fraser Institute’s interpretation of reading, writing and math tests given to last year’s Grades 4 and 7 students.

The institute, regarded as a right wing think tank, ranks schools from 1-10 based on the Foundations Skills Assessment tests administered by the education ministry. It also provides information such as family income in its assessments.

Uplands Elementary scored 4.8 out of 10 and ranked 652 out of elementary schools in B.C., Cassie Hall Elementary scored 3.3 out of 10 and ranked 822, Thornhill Elementary scored 3.6 out of 10 and ranked 804 and Suwilaawks Community School, at 2.5 out of 10, came in at 850 out of 875 for the province.

Veritas Catholic School was the only school in Terrace to receive a favourable grade scoring 8.3 out of 10, and ranking 93 in B.C.

Missing from the results were Centennial Christian School, and Ecole Mountainview. These were left out because of a lack of students available to form substantial data.

Peter Cowley, director of school of performance studies for the Fraser Institute, said parents need to ask questions.

“I look at Coast Mountain, and I see virtually the same thing as Prince Rupert, you have a general level of performance that’s well below average,” Cowley said.

“If something is not being done about it, I would lay that concern at the door of the superintendent,” Cowley said.

He also said local governments and MLAs should answer questions on what will be done with the results.

Coast Mountains school district school superintendent Nancy Wells said the district does take the results into account.

“It’s one aspect of a lot of things that contribute to us knowing whether we are meeting the learning needs of kids,” Wells said. “We don’t use them in isolation, and we don’t believe that as a isolated measure they necessarily give a true picture of everything that’s going on in a school.”

Wells added the district is designing a data collection system that will allow it to look at all aspects of student achievement.

Karen Andrews, president for the teachers union in Terrace, said the rankings are misleading, adding it is well known that social economic status impacts learning and the schools in wealthy areas tend to do better.

“Using the tests scores to blame and shame the schools working hard to meet the needs of children in poverty is punitive and unnecessary,” Andrews said.

Cowley dismissed economic issues as an argument, pointing out parental income was above provincial average for two schools in Kitimat and Uplands Elementary, and these schools didn’t seem to be doing much better.

“You can look at it as a valuable starting point for improvement or you can look at it as some kind of meanness on the part of the institute for even mentioning results if they are poor,” Cowley said.

Local schools showed a drop from the 2008/2009 results except for Veritas Catholic School, which improved, and Suwilaawks Community School, which stayed the same.