The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

May 02, 2008 09:00 ET

Fraser Institute Releases Popular School Report Card Allowing Parents to Compare School Performance

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - May 2, 2008) - The Fraser Institute today released its popular report card on BC elementary schools, the most convenient and easily accessible tool for parents to compare the performance of their children's schools.

The Report Card on British Columbia Elementary Schools: 2008 Edition rates 981 public and private elementary schools from across British Columbia based on 10 key indicators using data from province-wide FSA testing provided by the BC Ministry of Education. It also shows the percentage of students at each school who wrote the FSA tests and failed to meet provincial standards. The report card is available at www.fraserinstitute.org.

A COMPAS poll conducted earlier this year revealed that 83 per cent of BC parents support the use of province-wide test results to compare schools, with more than 70 per cent of parents supporting the Ministry of Education's province-wide testing policy.

"The COMPAS poll clearly shows that BC parents want to be able to compare schools and measure the progress of their children's school. To make comparisons easier and more meaningful, the Fraser Institute report card includes information on the individual and family characteristics of the students that can influence learning," said Peter Cowley, Fraser Institute director of school performance studies.

"If a child's school is not performing as well as a school several blocks away, parents have a right to ask why, and school administrators have a responsibility to encourage improvement."

The Fraser Institute report card has come under attack by the teachers' union which claims that comparing school performance is unfair and a misuse of the FSA testing data.

"Walk into any school and one of the first things you see is a trophy case," Cowley said. "Schools display trophies to individual students and student teams earned for best performance in athletic, academic, and fine arts competitions. Why? Because they believe that celebrating success in competition encourages students to be the best they can be. Surely, we want the same for our schools."

Cowley points out that using the report card to compare a private school in a well-off Lower Mainland neighbourhood to a small, rural public school in northern BC may not be useful. But comparing schools that have similar characteristics within the same community can be important for parents and educators alike.

School Comparison Number 1 - Vancouver East Side

The boundaries for JW Sexsmith Elementary at 7455 Ontario Street and John Henderson Elementary at 451 East 53rd Avenue abut each other. Both schools have an ESL population of approximately 50 per cent. Special needs students account for 5.9 per cent and 6.4 per cent respectively. Neither school offers French immersion. The average education level of parents whose children attend Sexsmith is 14 years; the average education level of parents whose children attend Henderson is 14.4 years. By all measures, the schools have similar characteristics.

But Sexsmith is performing much better than Henderson; having averaged a top quartile ranking of 198 out of 868 on the Fraser Institute report card over the past five years while Henderson has average a bottom third ranking of 596 out of 868 during the same period.

In addition, results from 2007 FSA exams show that 15.1 per cent of Sexsmith students did not meet provincial standards while 23.2 per cent of Henderson's students did not meet provincial standards.

"Why is the performance of two schools in the same neighbourhood with similar characteristics so different? Parents of children at Henderson should be asking why that school is not doing as well as Sexsmith, a mere 10 blocks away," Cowley asked.

School Comparison Number 2 - Prince George and Quesnel

Beaverly Elementary, at 9777 Western Road in Prince George, and Dragon Lake Elementary, at 2655 Hydraulic Road in Quesnel, have similar characteristics. Beaverly has an ESL population of 3.5 per cent and Special Needs population of four per cent while Dragon Lake has an ESL population of 4.1 per cent and Special Needs population of 4.5 per cent. Neither school offers French immersion and the average education level for parents whose children attend both schools is 14.4 years.

But Dragon Lake in Quesnel has an average ranking over the past five years of 353 out of 868, in the top 40 per cent of schools, while Beaverly has ranked 563 out of 868, in the bottom 40 per cent of schools.

"The value of the report card is found in giving parents information they can use to ask why one school is doing better than another when the two schools have similar characteristics and student populations," Cowley said.

"It is each school's responsibility to provide all its students, regardless of their personal characteristics and their family background, with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful."

The complete Report Card on British Columbia Elementary Schools: 2008 Edition, is available as a free pdf at www.fraserinstitute.org.

The Fraser Institute is an independent research and educational organization with offices in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Its mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit www.fraserinstitute.org.

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