Mission schools on the rise, but is data incomplete?

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Mission elementary schools have showed significant improvement according to Fraser Institute rankings. However, the news isn’t creating a sense of celebration for teachers or the local school district.

Angus Wilson, superintendent of Mission Public Schools, believes the rankings don’t have a lot of merit.

“It is a piece of data. A piece of information that comes off a very limited subset of information,” said Wilson.

He believes the rankings are deciding if a school has done well, based on how 20 students – that do not represent the full 100 per cent of that grade – did on a particular test at a particular time.

“Now we still use the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) data to help make informed decisions and so on, but the way that the Fraser Institute measures it is profoundly flawed,” said Wilson.

According to the Fraser Institute report, B.C.’s public elementary schools are continuing to improve. Out of the 61 schools to show improvement since 2011/2012, 57 of them were public schools. However, independent schools continue to outrank public schools. The average score for independent schools is eight out of 10, compared to 5.6 out of 10 for public schools.

This year’s report ranked 956 public and independent elementary schools based on 10 academic indicators derived from the province-wide FSA results. The FSA’s judge Grade 4 and Grade 7 students on writing, reading and numeracy.

The three fastest improving schools in the province were St. Andrew’s in Vancouver, Silverdale in Mission and Upper Lynn in North Vancouver. Out of the top 10 fastest improving schools province-wide, seven were public schools.

Mission School District showed strong improvement in four out of their 11 ranked public schools since 2011/12. Mission’s Silverdale Elementary School’s overall rating moved upward every year from 3.0 in 2012 to 6.4 in 2016.

“It is encouraging to see public schools across the province showing signs of improvement. Improving schools can show struggling schools how to help their students achieve better results,” said Peter Cowley, director of School Performance Studies at the Fraser Institute.

But Wilson wants to know why other factors are not included and analyzed in the report. He asked what the other measures are? How are schools doing with supporting students with disabilities and challenges or students that are recent arrivals to Canada? Are the kids connecting to adults in the building?

“That’s an important issue. Nobody remembers how they did on their Grade 4 test, but everybody remembers a great teacher. Those are the kinds of things that actually matter,” said Wilson.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation remains dismissive of the rankings.

“For the last couple of years, the BCTF’s official response to the rankings has been this meme on social media,” BCTF spokesperson Rich Overgaard said in an email.

The meme shows a photo of middle-aged white men laughing with the caption: “Our response to last year’s Fraser Institute rankings. Nothing has changed. They’re still irrelevant.

The BCTF has asked parents to withdraw their children from FSA testing for years.

“A single test should never be used to pit school communities against each other,” the organization said in an open letter to parents this year.

“But that is exactly what happens every year and it’s time we worked together to end the misleading practice.”


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