The Fraser Institute’s report card on British Columbia’s elementary schools for 2011 shows that William Konkin Elementary School’s (WKE) academic performance has increased over the last five years.
This academic year the school scored 2.3 out of 10 according to the Fraser Institute whereas in 2008 an overall score of 1.8 was given.
The Fraser Institute’s report card shows that Decker Lake Elementary School’s (DLES) academic performance dropped this year to 1.7 out of ten. During 2009 DLES received a score of 3.3 out of 10.
The Fraser Institute’s report cards rate 875 public and private elementary schools across the province based on 10 key indicators using data from province wide testing, known as the Foundation Skills Assessment. These tests are mandated by the B.C. Ministry of Education.
According to the Fraser Institute, the report cards allow parents to track trends at a school over a number of years and compare the performance of a school with that of others.
While Peter Cowley, director of school performance studies at the Fraser Institute said that both WKE and DLES are performing well below the provincial average, he added that there has been significant statistical improvement over five years at WKE, particularly with respect to Grade 7 results. “This gives parents something to grab hold of. Expectations are a big part of success,” he said.
“It is concerning however, that these two schools are well below the average of the rest of the province,” Cowley said.
He went on to say that they are not the only schools of concern throughout the province.
“Prince Rupert as a district is terrible and they have been terrible for a decade,” he added.
Cowley went on to say that the parents of Decker Lake Elementary School should be asking questions and should also be asking themselves if they think the test scores are important.
“If the answer is no, then nothing needs to be done. If the answer is yes then as a community you need to ask if you believe your kids can and will do better. Parents also need to ask the staff and the administration of Decker Lake Elementary School why there is no upward mobility in the scores,” Cowley said.
“I would not put too much credence on the results of one particular year, but looking at the past five years gives you a fair indicator of how the school is going to perform in the future. A school tragedy or even construction work going on at the school, anything that takes away from the concentration of the students doing exams can effect the school’s score on a given year, which is why it is best to look at the data over five years,” he said.
Cowley said that it is possible that a reduction in the number of students taking the Foundation Skills Assessment tests at any school could effect the school’s over all scores, but he said it is not likely unless only students of a particular demographic chose not to take the test.
“If all the students that decided not to take the test were only high performers, then this would effect the test, similarly if all the students who chose not to take the test were only lower performers this would also effect the test results. I don’t have evidence to suggest that either scenario is the case,” he said.
Cowley added that Francois Lake Elementary School and Grassy Plains Junior Elementary School results are not included on the Fraser Institutes report cards because not enough data was received from the Ministry of Education for either school.
“We need test scores from 15 students to fairly rate schools so either school did not have enough students taking the test to meet the minimum requirements,” he said.
The Fraser Institute say that of the top 20 schools showing the greatest academic improvement over the past five years, 15 are public schools where average parental incomes range from $25,900 to $82,900.
At one such school, English as a second language students account for 57.9 per cent of the total student population; at another, more than 17 per cent of students are special needs; and at a third, 30 per cent of the students are Aboriginal.
“The success of these schools shows improvement is possible in every school, no matter what the personal and family characteristics of the students,” said Cowley.
“Unfortunately, the teachers’ union doesn’t want parents and B.C. taxpayers to see the report card. The union doesn’t want parents to be able to compare schools based on student assessments, which is why it is battling so hard to halt province wide standardized testing,” Cowley added.
Data contained in this year’s report card also shows that 20.1 per cent of Foundation Skills Assessment tests written in 2010 scored below provincial expectations.
“This tells us that about one in five of the Foundation Skills Assessment tests written by B.C’s elementary school students did not meet the expected provincial standard. Why does the teachers’ union want to hide this information from the public? Does the public not have a right to know?” Cowley added.
Two schools in the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako were identified by the Fraser Institute as being among the most improved schools over the few years.
Twain Sullivan Elementary School in Houston increased in academic performance from 4.9 out of 10 in 2006 to 7.7 out of 10 in 2011, while W. L. McLeod Elementary School in Vanderhoof has increased from 3.8 out of 10 in 2005 to 5.6 out of ten in 2010.
“Parents in Burns Lake need to ask why these schools have improved and why they are performing differently,” said Cowley.
“We can not say that meeting with low levels of success is better than no success at all … similar populations of students in some schools across the province have found ways of meeting the challenges,” he added.
The B.C. Teachers Federation say that the Foundation Skills Assessment testing does not help students learn or teachers teach. The federation also said that the testing takes valuable time and much needed resources away from the classroom learning and it undermines the ability to provide meaningful learning experiences for all students. The federation also states that Foundation Skills Assessment test results are misused by the Fraser Institute to rank schools based on a very narrow measure.
Susan Lambert, B.C. Teacher’s Federation president said to Lakes District News that the 1.7 out of ten score given to DLES, and the 2.3 out of 10 score given to WKE are, “Completely meaningless and powerfully harmful.”
She went on to say that the Foundation Skills Assessment tests were never designed to rank schools based on individual student achievement.
“They are standardized tests, if you use these as a measure then you have to assume that there is a standardized curriculum and students have standardized learning needs and we know that this is not the case,” Lambert said.
“I think we over value results. Children are individuals and we can not use standardized testing of any kind as a measure of their abilities,” she said.
Lambert added, “It is the Fraser Institutes main aim to privatize education and discredit public schools over private schools,” she added.
To view the Fraser Institute’s report cards for B.C. schools go to http://britishcolumbia.compareschoolrankings.org/ChooseReport.aspx