OUR VIEW: Fraser Institute School Report Cards get an F

Rankings and lists, like the Fraser Institute's report cards for schools, are usually objective, yet people treat them as gospel.

The Fraser Institute’s 2012 B.C. and Yukon school rankings were released recently and as always, there is controversy surrounding them.

Locally, John A. Hutton Elementary ranked in a tie for 203, Dr. D.A. Perley was tied for 454 while Grand Forks Secondary School was tied for 181 and Boundary Central Secondary School tied for the 198 spot – Midway, Greenwood and Christina Lake elementary schools weren’t ranked because it didn’t meet enrolment criteria according to a spokesperson from the Fraser Institute.

The Fraser Institute, an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization – a conservative think tank to some – says that the rankings are released “to help parents see how schools in their city or town are doing academically.”

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation and its local (the Boundary District Teachers’ Association) have both gone on record stating that they are against these particular “report cards.”

The Fraser Institute justifies the rankings saying it collects relevant, objective indicators of school performance and puts it into a single package so that people can analyze and compare schools.

Key performance indicators for high schools include average exam marks for courses from Grades 10 to 12 that require a provincial exam and graduation rate.

Key performance indicators for elementary schools include a number of indicators related to the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) test (i.e. average FSA score for numeracy, reading and writing for Grade 4 and Grade 7).

While there is value in seeing how a school ranks in comparison to another, some place too much weight on the rankings. Rankings are almost always objective – the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) considers The Shawshank Redemption the greatest movie of all time but is it really? – and while the institute’s report should be treated with a grain of salt, many treat it as gospel.

On the institute’s webpage that has links to this year’s rankings, it says “To find a good secondary school in Vancouver, Victoria, Surrey, Richmond or another British Columbia or Yukon city or town, go here” and it gives the same direction for elementary schools.

Good by whose standards? The Fraser Institute? While it is respected, it is certainly not the be all and end all in education.

Also, a number of highly ranked schools in both the secondary and elementary lists are private schools in wealthy areas that derive their funding through tuition fees, which are higher than what is paid at public schools, so the numbers are skewed.

Assuming that highly ranked Fraser Institute schools are the best place to get an education is a mistake.

The Godfather Vito Corleone and citizen Charles Foster Kane would probably agree.

– The Grand Forks Gazette