Some useful links that discuss the Fraser Institute methodology, and debate around these scores:
I recently interviewed a Vancouver realtor about how house-hunting parents obtain information about K-12 schools. He said those relocating within the province often get advice from friends and relatives, but many families moving to B.C. from elsewhere use the Fraser Institute’s report cards.
Although controversial, they offer the only overview of B.C. schools, he said.
That’s not entirely true.
Earlier this year, the Education Ministry created a website (discoveryourschool.gov.bc.ca) in response to parents’ requests for more information to help them make educational choices. A news release went out in March, but based on conversations I’ve had with several people, I don’t think it circulated well.
The website provides data about class size, the school’s seismic rating, student and parent satisfaction and results from the annual Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) in Grades 4 and 7. Unlike the Fraser Institute’s report cards, it does not rank schools and – not surprisingly – doesn’t mention shortcomings. It also includes this qualification:
“The data shown here is just a starting point. The best way to get to know a school is to go there. Talk to the principal. Meet the teachers. Get a feel for the school first hand. Go to the school’s website, which will give you much more detail about what is going on.”
The ministry says the website is evolving and it welcomes feedback about what other information should be included. What do you think parents need to know about B.C. schools?
Parents need to make an informed enrolment choice. On April 30, the Fraser Institute released its 2012 school rankings, a controversial report of public sector and independent schools in B.C.
The first consideration parents should make when selecting schools, said Helen Raptis, researcher into the history and sociology of education at the University of Victoria, is to disregard the rankings.
The rankings are a distortion of the foundation skills assessments, tests administered in Grades 4 and 7 to measure basic reading, writing and numeracy skills, Raptis said, noting how factors such as number of students who abstain from writing the tests are combined with test results to determine a school’s ranking.
Raptis uses the example that in 2011, Torquay elementary scored higher than Pacific Christian in FSA test scores, but ranked lower in the Fraser Institute rankings than the independent school.
“Despite the flaws, (the rankings) have managed to have credence over the last 10 years,” Raptis said. “Parents continue to rely on flawed information … (The Fraser Institute) adds variables that haven’t been tested to have any merit in terms of measuring student achievement.”
Know your child
Is your child thriving in their current setting? And if they’re doing well academically, but are unhappy, is that OK? Monitoring achievement is an integral step in the process of finding the right educational fit.
Schools, public or private, are generally interested in opening their doors to prospective students, but before parents take that step, Raptis said, they should already know in which arts, sports, or academic pursuits their child is most interested and which schools have a proven reputation in those areas.
“There’s nothing worse than having a bad school experience and having a bad fit,” she said. “We want our kids to thrive and pursue goals, to come out of their experience contributing positively to society. They can’t do that if the fit isn’t right.”
Raptis warns of switching a child out of any school – public or private – should they be enjoying a positive social setting.
A DPAC member also wrote an interesting report on the Fraser Institute reports last year: http://sd57dpac.ca/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Fraser-institute-report.pdf