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EDITORIAL – There’s nothing wrong with giving our schools a report card

St. Ann’s tops local schools in “report card.”

An ArmchairMayor.ca editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

The Fraser Institute’s annual elementary school rankings are out. This, of course, drives educators bonkers.

Most schools in the Kamloops district rank so-so, a few get high grades, and a few others — like Arthur Hatton, Marion Schilling, and A.E. Perry — got some explaining to do.

The independent St. Ann’s is highest, with Our Lady of Perpetual Help close behind.

They’re ranked on a 10-point scale for comparison purposes, and it’s common for independent schools to outperform public schools. Those who brush off this annual report card point out it’s based on provincewide Foundation Skills Assessment results.

This can’t possibly provide enough information for proper comparisons, complain school administrators. There are so many other things to consider at the local level, like demographics and economics and areas of concentration and all that.

Sure, that’s true, but I think those educators just don’t like the very idea of a competitive education system in which the achievements of one school are compared to another.

Some will also make note of the source, and will automatically discount the report because it comes from the Fraser Institute. Admittedly, the Fraser Institute comes by its description as a “right-wing think tank” honestly.

It churns out analyses almost daily extolling the virtues of oil pipelines and free enterprise, offering reassurances that Canada’s environment is doing just fine, declaring the weaknesses of our healthcare system, and sounding alarm bells about government spending.

But it also does some worthwhile studies, such as their examination of surgery wait times and this just-released school report card.

Why is the school report important? Because using admittedly limited criteria, it provides a valuable comparison of how our schools are doing, and which ones have room for improvement in specific subjects.

There’s nothing wrong with that. The educators who whine about it should go back to the classroom and figure out how to get better report cards.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on ArmchairMayor.ca and CFJC Today. Contact him at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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About Mel Rothenburger (5769 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on EDITORIAL – There’s nothing wrong with giving our schools a report card

  1. While I agree with Mr. Rothenberger’s assertion that we should expect a lot from our public schools, I strongly disagree with his suggestion that the Fraser Institute rankings offer a “valuable” mechanism for comparing school performance.

    The Foundational Skills Assessment tests administered by the province in Grades 4 and 7 every year have value. The tests offer a snapshot of student performance at a given moment in time and offer teachers an opportunity to assess their students’ levels of understanding and knowledge in specific markers.

    They are not designed, however, to rank one school against another in a competitive, linear model that spits out a simplistic set of interpretations in the manner of the Fraser Institute’s rankings.

    Intuitively, we should all know why this is the case. Our public schools reflect, for better or for worse, all of the diversity that exists in Canadian society. To that end, not all who enter school have the same advantages. For example, we know that a key driver of student success is as simple as good nutrition. Being assured of a health breakfast each day is, sadly, not something all our students enjoy.

    The problem with the Fraser Institute rankings and the opinions of editorial writers such as Mr. Rothenburger is that they divert people from the real issue. This is not an issue of the quality of teachers or the educational program any individual school offers, which is an implication Mr. Rothenburger silently makes when he suggests some of our schools “got some explaining to do.”

    The factors behind student and school success are complex and varied and need to be considered individually, not as a simplistic whole. One has to weigh all these factors when assessing performance while confident in the reality — and it is a reality — our teachers and principals are first-rate and working hard for the best interest of students in all our schools.

    Student success is on the rise in our school district and has been for years. More than 85 per cent of students now graduate every year and the District is aiming for 90 per cent. Aboriginal student completion rates are closing in on parity. These are important milestones that better indicate the measure of our local educational system as they reflect the totality of a student’s educational journey and not just a brief, standstill moment on the pathway.

    Education is a cornerstone of a democratic society and schools are called upon by citizens to increase levels of student achievement. When Justin Trudeau spoke at the United Nations General Assembly, he highlighted Canada as a diverse and strong nation — not in spite of our differences but because of them. It was our diversity that was our source of strength.

    The whole story of our schools and student performance is linked to the lives of our families and the hard work of our principals, teachers and support workers as they continually cooperate and adjust (using data including from the FSAs) to educate and ultimately graduate students at the highest levels, with the skills and competencies needed to be successful in this ever-changing global economy.

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