GM Dawson, QCSS low in provincial school rankings: report

  • Mar. 8, 2004 11:00 a.m.

Vancouver’s Fraser Institute has again released its annual academic rankings of the province’s high schools, and the two in this district are near the bottom of the list.
Queen Charlotte Secondary received an overall ranking of 256th out of 279 schools, with a rating of 4.1 out of 10. The ratings are based on “indicators” such as provincial exam results, some course results and the graduation rate for the 2002-2003 school year.
GM Dawson was tied for last place with two other schools, all of which received zero points out of 10. (The two other zero-scoring schools are also located in the north and have very small enrollments: Bella Bella Community School and Kitimat City High.) GM Dawson has scored zero out of 10 in five of the past seven years.
The Fraser Institute’s annual rankings are based solely on student academic performance, and use publicly available data to compare schools. They do not look at other factors which may influence how satisfied people are with their local high schools, such as sports programs, although the report’s authors say they would like to include sports participation rates in next year’s rankings.
Both GM Dawson and Queen Charlotte Secondary have relatively small grade 12 classes, and the report cautions that small class numbers can skew the results. However, both schools have shown remarkably similar results for the past seven years, with a few blips.
Report authors Peter Cowley and Stephen Easton also note a significant socioeconomic indicator: the parents’ level of education. School ratings are likely to be higher in areas where the parents are more highly educated. In the Queen Charlotte school area, parents have an average of 12.5 years of education, lower than most schools on the list. (No data was available for G.M. Dawson parents.) Schools with similar parental education levels, like Barriere Secondary and Nechako Valley Secondary, had results almost the same as Queen Charlotte’s.
Here’s a sample of the numbers from this year’s report:
• Queen Charlotte Secondary’s grade 12 enrollment in 2002-2003 was 22. G.M. Dawson’s was 41.
• Both schools had a higher than average percentage of special needs students, but a lower than average percentage of English as a second language students.
• The average provincial exam mark at QCSS was 64.6, and at GMD it was 51.6. The average across BC was 69.7.
• The percentage of provincial exams failed was 17.4 at QCSS and 46.7 at GMD, compared to a provincial average of 10.1.
• The difference between school marks and provincial exam marks was an average 8.3 at QCSS and 17.8 at GMD, compared to a provincial average of 6.2. This number attempts to measure whether schools are inflating marks, so the lower the better.
• Students at QCSS wrote an average of 2.1 provincial exams, while students at GMD wrote an average of 1.5. The provincial average is 2.9.
The BC Teachers Federation criticized the report, saying the rankings are based on a narrow set of exam data and are not a legitimate measure of school quality. BCTF president Neil Worboys said the Fraser Institute wants to undermine public education and pave the way for privatization.
“Public schools are not businesses, and cannot be evaluated as such,” Mr. Worboys said. “The Fraser Institute continues to push school choice, vouchers and private schooling in an effort to open up public education to private profit.”
The complete report is available on the internet at www.fraserinstitute.ca

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