The Fraser Institute’s annual report card results are in, and two of Revelstoke’s elementary schools received failing grades, ranking below the provincial average, among the bottom seventy schools in the province.
The conservative think tank released its annual Report Card on British Columbia’s Elementary Schools on April 10, giving Begbie View Elementary an overall grade of 2.9 out of ten, and Columbia Park a grade of 3.5 out of ten, down from 4.4 and 5.9 last year.
Those scores rank Begbie View 903 and Columbia Park 877 in the province out of a total of 946 elementary schools.
The Institute’s rankings are derived from the province wide Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) results and based on ten academic indicators.
The reports authors take the average grade four and grade seven FSA scores in writing, reading, and math, and the difference between male and female students in their FSA scores, into account. The annual report also takes into account the number of students who were absent or exempted from writing the test.
According to the report 46.5 per cent of the FSA tests at Begbie View and 53.5 per cent of the tests at Columbia Park were not written, which accounts for the low rank of the two local elementary schools. Of the FSA tests that were completed, the report found that an average of half were “below expectations.”
Mike Hooker, School District 19 superintendent, says the institute’s rankings are not an accurate measure of school performance, and that participation rates in the FSA tests have plummeted over the last five years because parents have requested that their children be removed from the assessments following public criticism of the tests by the B.C. Teachers Federation. (BCTF)
“Over the past five years participation rates in the FSA continued to decrease as parents requested that their children be removed from the program,” wrote Hooker in an e-mailed statement to the Review. “This was largely due to the public criticism of the assessment by the BCTF.”
A social media post from the BCTF on April 22 called the Fraser Institute Rankings “bogus” and “useless clickbait.”
Here we go again. The Fraser Institute has released its bogus rankings of #bced schools. These rankings are useless clickbait and serve no academic or social purpose. They are simply an attempt by a right wing “think tank” to get attention. #bcpoli pic.twitter.com/6qp8orjIKp
— BCTF (@bctf) April 21, 2018
Those statements were buttressed by a Begbie View Elementary teacher who called the FSA “a flawed system of determining academic success with a contentious past,” and said local parents are extremely engaged in their children’s learning and don’t want their children participating in what they don’t see as valuable to their child’s education.
The teacher called the ranking insulting to the local school district, and said students know that it has no learning impact for them or on their grades, and that because of that many of the children who do take the test are not engaged or interested in applying themselves.
They said that could account for the low scores of the local respondents, and praised the local school district and its administrators and teachers, calling them, “second to none.”
“We need to be really proud of our school and of our district. I go around the province for conferences and when people hear you’re from Revelstoke, the response is always really positive. We are modelled around the province by other districts, and (the Fraser Insitute ranking) is really insulting to what we do. Our administrators and teachers are second to none,” said the teacher.
The FSA scores have been heavily criticized by teachers unions and associations across the province for over a decade.
Last year the BC School Trustees Association sent a letter to the Education Minister asking they not be released as they result in schools getting ranked ‘unfairly.’
The letter singled out the Fraser Institute’s annual report card.
The BCTF has since called on the province to develop a new and different way to assess students, encouraging parents to have their kids not participate in the test, which does not affect their overall grade.
In 2017 BCTF president wrote that “a single test should not be used to rank the quality of a school,” noting that the FSA “ignores the rich variety of learning and experience” students have in the classroom.
Hooker said changes have been made this past year to the FSA and that participation rates in the revised FSA have gone up significantly.
The ministry said that the changes were the result of the advice of the Advisory Group on Provincial Assessment and part of the new curriculum.
The new FSA was developed by 40 B.C. educators by the BCTF, the Federation of Independent School Associations, and the First Nations School Assocation.
Though this years results put SD 19 below the provincial average, Hooker said the school district is not concerned with the Fraser Institute rankings and that the local board of education tracks its success in meetings where principals present their annual reports, chronicling challenges and successes.
He called the data far too limited to be an accurate measure or indicator of academic performance.
“As for the Fraser report card, we won’t be celebrating a high RSS ranking, nor will we be concerned with about the rankings of two of our elementary schools,” wrote Hooker. “The data used is much too limited to even begin to connect it to the performance of our schools.”