The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

May 10, 2008 09:00 ET

Fraser Institute Report Card Shows Not All Successful Schools Come From Wealthy Neighbourhoods

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - May 10, 2008) - The performance of 13 secondary schools in 10 communities across BC is evidence that schools don't need to be located in wealthy neighbourhoods to be successful, according to the Fraser Institute's Report Card on Secondary Schools in British Columbia and Yukon: 2008 Edition.

These schools (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) are all performing at a high level, despite having a student population whose parents have below average levels of education. The average level of education of a child's parent has been shown to be one of the most important family characteristics that influence how well a child does in school.

"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," said Peter Cowley, Fraser Institute director of school performance studies.

"These 13 schools are performing among the top half of BC's secondary schools, yet they are among the lowest in the province for 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 said critics of the Fraser Institute report card too often excuse a school's poor results by blaming them on socio-economic factors. By doing so, these critics are essentially writing off a student's chances of success based on their family's 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. Educators must try to raise their school's level of performance and find ways of helping students succeed."

The Fraser Institute's Report Card on Secondary Schools in British Columbia and Yukon: 2008 Edition rates 298 public and private secondary schools from across British Columbia and the Yukon using seven key indicators of school performance. Secondary schools in the Yukon follow, for the most part, British Columbia's curriculum and their students participate in provincial exams administered by BC's Ministry of Education.

This annual report card, available at www.fraserinstitute.org, compiles data from these indicators into easily read charts that allow anyone to analyze and compare the performance of individual schools. Parents consult the report card when they are choosing a school and use it as an annual audit of how their children's school is doing academically.

"Without the Fraser Institute report card, parents would not easily be able to determine how their child's school is performing compared to others in their community. School boards simply don't make that information available," Cowley said.

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. If a child's school is not performing as well as a school several blocks away, parents have a right to ask why," said Peter Cowley, Fraser Institute director of school performance studies.

This year's report card has also been expanded to include the results of the BC Ministry of Education's mandatory province-wide tests in Grades 10, 11, and 12. Although the Education 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 more expansive overview of a school's performance.

To make comparisons easier and more meaningful, the Fraser Institute report card also includes information on the individual and family characteristics of the students that can influence learning, such as the average education level of the parents of a school's students, the percentage of ESL students attending a school, and the percentage of special needs students.

"This additional information provides context that allows parents and educators to see how schools with similar characteristics compare," Cowley said.

"It may not make sense to compare performance of an elite private school in a well-off urban area to a public school in a remote rural area, but comparing schools within the same community encourages competition and improvement, just as competition between schools in athletics encourages improvement."

The complete Report Card on British Columbia and Yukon Secondary Schools: 2008 Edition, including detailed results on all 298 schools, 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.

Contact Information