Saanich secondary schools slip in controversial rankings

Teachers give Fraser Institute rankings a failing grade

A controversial ranking of the province’s secondary schools has placed St. Michael’s University School near the top of the list.

St. Michaels was rated 13th out of the province’s 294 secondary schools – behind only seventh ranked Glenlyon Norfolk School on the Island  –  in the latest Report Card on B.C. Secondary Schools from the Fraser Institute.

The report card lists St. Margaret’s at 37th, St. Andrew’s (52nd) Pacific Christian and Mount Douglas (both at 79th), Claremont (145th), Reynolds and Spectrum (both at 173rd) and Lambrick Park (245th). Both Claremont and Lambrick Park have seen significant declines in their rankings, with Claremonth going to 173 from 78, and Lambrick Park slipping from 151 to 245.

Don Peterson, president of the Saanich Teachers’ Association, puts little stock in the rankings, saying they tend to follow the socio-economics of the catchment area.

“For example, schools in higher socioeconomic areas tend to be ranked better than schools in lower socio-economics areas. This can be for several reasons. For example, parents in higher socioeconomic areas have more funds available for tutoring or have more time available for helping their students,” he said.

Colin Plant, a Saanich councillor and teacher at Claremont, called the rankings flawed and not particularly useful.

“They demonstrate that social economic status in a school and its surrounding geography does have a big impact, and independent schools have the ability to select and choose and have smaller class sizes because they pay for it,” said Plant.

The report card rates 294 public and independent secondary schools based on seven academic indicators using student results from annual provincewide exams, grade-to-grade transition rates and graduation rates.

Peterson said another problem with the rankings is they can foster a competitiveness between schools.

“Though this sounds good to many people on the surface, it can lead to schools working against each other in a bid to be better then the neighbouring school,” said Peterson. “I would rather see all schools working together in collaboration with one another to find new ways to support students and learning from each other without worrying that their collaboration efforts could raise another school’s rank higher then their school.”

Claremont was singled out by the Fraser Institute for a decline in its rating, going from 7.3 in 2011 to 6.1 in 2015, among the 10 largest declines in the province.

Plant was surprised by the shift in Claremont’s ratings, but suggested it could be due to Grade 12 provincial exams being eliminated for courses other than English.

“It’s a smaller and smaller pool that they’re basing their ranking on. We used to have four or five provincial exams at the Grade 12 level, now there’s only one: English 12.”

Plant said a whole host of other issues can factor into a school’s ranking, which he calls a “snapshot of academics.”

He found it ironic that the Fraser Institute, which is committed to defunding public entities, is demonstrating public schools aren’t doing as well as private schools – something that Plant says is largely a result of defunding.

“As a result, perhaps if we were to put those funds back in, those results would change and we would see more public schools in the top 100. It’s so much proof that class size matters,” said Plant, pointing out that students in smaller classes would receive more attention from the teacher. “It’s just inevitable.”

Peterson said, in general, scores are going down across the province, pointing to research showing academics tied to per-student funding.

“Per student funding in B.C. is $1,000 less than the Canadian average, so it’s not a surprise to see schools declining in their academic achievement,” he said.

Detailed results from all of the schools can be found at compareschoolrankings.org.

 

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