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.”