You don’t need wealthy, educated parents to succeed in high school, says Fraser Institute

But private schools still top Fraser Institute B.C. secondary school ranking


The Fraser Institute says schools don’t have to be in neighbourhoods with wealthy, highly educated parents to be successful.That’s one of the findings in the research institute’s annual ranking of B.C. secondary schools.

The report notes parents’ education levels are often seen as a factor in children’s academic success.

But according to the institute’s Peter Cowley, 13 schools which ranked well in this year’s report card are in areas where parents may not have extensive educational backgrounds. Those schools are Campbell River Christian, Chemainus Secondary, MacKenzie Secondary, Mission Secondary, Similkameen Secondary in Keremeos, Princess Margaret Secondary in Surrey, Boundary Central in Midway, Charles Bloom in Lumby, W J Mouat and Rick Hansen in Abbotsford, and Templeton, David Thompson and Windermere in Vancouver.

“Teachers and administrators in these 13 schools have found ways to beat the odds and help their students do better than might be predicted by their families’ characteristics,” says Cowley, the institute’s director of school performance studies. He says the schools are performing among the top half of B.C.’s secondary schools, but are among the lowest in terms of the parents’ level of education. “Clearly their success shows you don’t need to be in a wealthy neighbourhood or have parents with multiple university degrees to do well in school,” Cowley says.

But, says B.C Teachers Federation president Irene Lanzinger, schools cannot be ranked in terms of test results. “They’re located in different places, they serve different populations and they face different challenges,” Lanzinger says. “What we do in schools in more complex than what a single test can show.”

Nor can socio-economic status be disentangled from academic results, says Lanzinger. “Socio-economic factors have a huge amount to do with that single test score,” she said. “Rich, well-fed kids have a better chance and that’s what public education is about. It’s about evening out chances and what we really need is the resources to do that,” she says. As a result, Lanzinger says the teachers’ federation pays little attention to the Fraser Institute findings.

Despite this year’s institute findings, it was private schools that topped the rankings as they have on past years. Among them were Little Flower Academy, St. George’s, York House, Vancouver College, Crofton House and West Point Grey.

Also in the top 13 were Victoria’s St. Michaels, Maple Ridge’s Meadowridge and Brentwood and Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island.

Vancouver’s University Hill Secondary ranked highest of the province’s public secondary schools in 14th place.

The 2008 report card was expanded to include the results of the Ministry of Education’s mandatory province-wide tests in Grades 10, 11, and 12.

The institute says although the ministry has reduced the number of Grade 12 courses that include a mandatory provincial exam, the addition of Grade 10 results provides the report card with a greater overview of school performance.

The report examines such indicators as average exam marks, percentage of exams failed, graduation rates and delayed grade advancement rates.

Cowley says critics of the report card often excuse a school’s poor results by blaming them on socio-economic factors.

That, he says, means critics essentially write off student’s chances of success based on family economic standing.

“The public school system should be able to educate all children to the same level, no matter where they live or how much their parents earn,” Cowley says. “Educators must try to raise their school’s level of performance and find ways of helping students succeed.”

Filed under:

You don’t need wealthy, educated parents to succeed in high school, says Fraser Institute

  1. While I agree with that last statement, their ranking of private schools is misleading for a very simple reason — private schools, almost by definition, don’t take the tough cases.

    Of those six schools listed in the first paragraph as the top schools, every one of them has an application process with academic testing and interviews. When you exclude the students who are underperforming or having difficulties right from the start, is it any wonder that the Fraser institute’s rankings show these schools as doing better in the various academic criteria?

    Meanwhile, the tougher and more challenging students are left for the public schools to deal with, often with less dollars per student. The public school system should be able to educate all children to the same level, but they should also receive equitable and appropriate funding to do so. Funding which takes into consideration the more difficult challenge that public schools have to deal with as they are unable to restrict enrolment to those who are practically guaranteed to succeed. Somehow, I doubt the Fraser institute would support the tax burden that would require.

  2. The Fraser Institute was founded on the mandate of reducing government and promoting privatization. So what is there interest in public education? Obviously to undermine the system and promote private schools.

    The math here is ludicrous. When you have very homogeneous populations (most typically at private schools, but sometimes public schools also have relatively homogeneous socio-economic communities) coming from relatively affluent backgrounds, I would hope they’d do well on these tests or clearly the private schools are failing. So I can’t deny that these tests might mean something when we’re considering large samples of homogeneous school communities… private schools that do poorly in this ranking have a lot of explaining to do!

    However, for most schools in BC, that have public, heterogeneous and often small samples (this ranking is based on only a couple tests of a couple grades, remember), many students are performing just as well if not better than their private-school counterparts. But obviously, there are also a number of students whose scores bring the overall average down because they face learning disabilities and social challenges outside the classroom. Once in a while, a cohort in a public school will come along that by chance has very few of these students, which may account for schools generally facing difficult socio-economic circumstances may get a high score every once in a while. This can happen when you’re dealing with numbers of only 15-40 students to base these misleading “rankings” on. If only five students perform poorly, it’ll cancel out the five that performed or outperformed the homogeneous private school students, and drop the overall average down.

    Cowley says, “Educators must try to raise their school’s level of performance and find ways of helping students succeed.” Well, they do. But that success may not be reflected in a one-day snapshot test, which is a preposterous way to pretend to define student success.

Sign in to comment.