Scoffing at school rankings

Chelsea Powrie

A yearly ranking of over 1,000 elementary and secondary schools in B.C. was released Thursday, but the list's results have long been controversial in the education community. 

Linda Van Alphen, trustee for School District 67 which covers Penticton, Summerland, Naramata and Kaleden, said she finds the Fraser Institute's method of ranking troubling. They base their findings on data from the province-wide standardized Foundational Skills Assessment tests, and exclusive private schools reliably come out on top. 

"It is incorrect to take a look at schools that way," Van Alphen said. "The fact that they rank schools is something totally worrisome to people." 

According to the Fraser Institute findings, Carmi Elementary is the lowest ranked elementary school in Penticton, placing 862 out of 955 around the province, and Holy Cross is highest in 59th place. But Van Alphen said pitting local schools against each other isn't helpful. 

"We think that we've got some pretty good schools, and we don't like them to be compared one against the other, because they are all unique," she said. 

Test data alone, she added, doesn't tell the whole story. The board looks at the rankings but keeps in mind it's part of a larger picture. 

"I just take a look at that and I think, well, there's just one part of the puzzle," she said, explaining schools in School District 67 work hard to address individual needs of students, which doesn't necessarily show up in results from standardized tests. 

"One of the things about our school system is we put just about twice as much into our special education system as we normally get from the government," she said as an example. "So we do take a lot of time with out support systems."

The full list of Fraser Institute findings can be found here

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