The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

May 13, 2006 09:00 ET

Fraser Institute Publishes Annual Report Card on BC's Elementary Schools: Points Out Necessity of Annual Testing

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(CCNMatthews - May 13, 2006) - The Fraser Institute today released the Report Card on British Columbia's Elementary Schools: 2006 Edition. This annual report is the only one of its kind to analyze relevant, publicly available data to rate and rank 1009 of BC's public and independent elementary schools.

These results are based on the annual Foundation Skills Assessments (FSA) administered by the BC Ministry of Education. These annual province-wide tests assess reading, writing, and numeracy skills among students in grades 4 and 7.

"The FSA results are the only objective data available that measure the extent to which BC's public and private elementary schools are ensuring that their students have acquired the basic skills they need to further their education," said Peter Cowley, director of school performance studies at the Institute and co-author of the Report Card. "Regrettably, the province's teachers' union would have us believe that these tests are unnecessary."

Cowley points out that one reason why the FSAs are so important is because they allow us to measure the performance of individual schools.

"Should the BCTF be successful in encouraging parents to withdraw their children from these tests then it would be impossible for us to produce an annual Report Card. Parents, educators, and other taxpayers would all be denied the ability to compare schools of interest," he said. "And school-to-school comparisons are the key to improving our children's education."

Indicators used in the 2006 Report Card

The foundation of the Report Card is an overall rating of each school's academic performance. Using FSA results as the basis for the ranking, each school is rated on a scale from zero to 10. Ten is the highest possible score and zero is the lowest score.

For each school, nine indicators of school performance are measured:

1. Average Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) score in grade 4 reading;

2. Average FSA score in grade 4 writing;

3. Average FSA score in grade 4 numeracy;

4. Average FSA score in grade 7 reading;

5. Average FSA score in grade 7 writing;

6. Average FSA score in grade 7 numeracy;

7. The difference between male and female students in their average FSA scores in grade 7 reading;

8. The difference between male and female students in their average FSA scores in grade 7 numeracy;

9. The percentage of the above tests written by the school's students that were judged to reflect performance below expectations.

The Trend indicator provides evidence of a school's progress over time. In the five school years from 2000-2001 through 2004-2005, 50 schools enjoyed statistically significant improvement in their Overall rating out of 10.

"These schools should be used as models for improvement across the province," Cowley pointed out.

Effective schools can overcome students' disadvantages

The Report Card includes information about the students' personal and family characteristics that help identify schools serving students with similar backgrounds. The comparison of results at such similar schools allows educators to determine which schools are more successful in meeting the challenges that their students face.

"Educators can and should take into account the abilities, interests, and backgrounds of their students when they design lesson plans and teach the curriculum. By doing so, they can tackle any disadvantages that their students may have," said Cowley. "Effective schools produce good student results regardless of the family background of their students."

The Report Card series

The first Report Card on British Columbia's Elementary Schools was introduced in June 2003. Annual elementary school report cards are also published in Ontario and Alberta. The complete Report Card, including the ranking and the detailed tables on all 1009 schools, is posted at www.fraserinstitute.ca.

Established in 1974, The Fraser Institute is an independent public policy organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto. The Report Card and news release are available at www.fraserinstitute.ca.


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