St. Michaels ranked among province’s top elementary schools

Private school officials says not to place much stock into controversial Fraser Institute school rankings

An elementary school with ties to Saanich tied for top spot in the province, according to a new survey from the Fraser Institute.

While technically not in Saanich, St. Michaels University School – Junior School is part and parcel of St. Michaels University School, whose main offices are located on Richmond Road.

With a rating of 10.0, St. Michaels shared top spot in the province with 21 other elementary schools, with all but two being private schools.

Overall, the Fraser Institute surveyed 956 elementary schools.

Laura Authier, director of marketing and communication for St. Michaels University School, said parents should not read too much into the ranking though. “As gratifying as it is to receive a No. 1 ranking, we always caution parents about giving too much credence to these kinds of reports,” she said. “The scope of their evaluation is much too limited to give you an accurate picture of where a school excels.”

Parents who want to learn more about schools would do best to visit them and ask questions before making a good choice, she said.

St. Michaels’ tie for first place also means that it ranks as the best elementary school in the Greater Victoria school district.

Among elementary schools with Saanich ties, St. Margaret’s School finished fourth in the Greater Victoria district behind second-placed Glenlyon Norfolk (Oak Bay) and Selkirk Montessori School (City of Victoria). All three are also private schools.

Looking at the complete rankings, St. Margaret’s finished 47th overall.

Cathy Thornicroft, head of school, said this ranking  “does little to reflect the diversity” of students attending St. Margaret’s. “We are proud of what our girls are accomplishing and our ability to support their individual learning needs. Each of our students is experiencing success at her own level.”

Like many schools that the Fraser Institute has surveyed, St. Margaret’s  has moved up and down the rankings, said Thornicroft.

“St. Margaret’s has been ranked first, we have been ranked 47th, and we have been excluded altogether due to small class sizes,” she said. “What doesn’t change is our school’s commitment to each girl’s individual learning needs.”

Torquay ranks as the best public school in Saanich, finishing 110th out of 956.

The Fraser Institute ranks schools based on data collected from the Foundation Skills Assessment test, a standardized test given to all B.C. students in Grades 4 and 7, to give each school a rating out of 10.

This methodology has received criticism for being too narrow and failing to account for socio-economic differences. Critics also accuse the institute of promoting a neoliberal agenda that aims to “accelerate the privatization of education in Canada” as Vancouver scholar and journalist Donald Gutstein wrote in a 2010 paper published on the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) website.

Don Peterson, president of the Saanich Teachers’ Association, declined comment on local results.