The annual Fraser Institute elementary school rankings were released over the weekend and my school placed 547th out of 649. On their 10 point rating scale we scored 4.3, which apparently means that we failed.
My school, which comprises a vibrant and culturally rich population of students, includes 15% English Language Learners, 26% with supported learning programs, 25% with a First Nations Metis and Inuit background, and 47% in the French Immersion stream. We provide breakfast and lunch to about 50 students every day, waive school fees for a number of families, and regularly bring interpreters in for parent/teacher conferences.
The Fraser Institute describes themselves as an organization that uses “objective, publicly available data to rank and compare schools.” In other words, the schools with the highest average marks on our provinces Grade 3 and 6 Provincial Achievement Tests are ranked at the top. Although not supported by the Education Ministry, the results are heavily published and lure parents into believing that some schools are better than others merely because students did a superior job of completing a standardized bubble test.
Last October, like all schools in Alberta, we received our Accountability Pillar Report Card and our PAT results were our best ever. Not only did we have a 100% participation rate (the province is around 90%) but 84.2% of tests written received the “acceptable standard.” The provincial average was 79.1%. For us, this was a huge accomplishment because first of all we never usually pay much attention to the PATs, and secondly we have never surpassed the provincial average, let alone by over 5 percentage points. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves right up until this past Saturday when we were quickly brought back to reality. The reason, by the way, why we come out so low on the Fraser Institute Report is because they rank based on average test score and not percentage of tests passed. Many of our students passed the test but not by a lot. It’s the Fraser Institutes spin on the numbers. You can take a look at our report card below:
So what about all those “other things” that are not taken into consideration by the Fraser Institute? You know, things like providing a safe and caring learning environment where all students are cherished and achieve their potential. Things like parental involvement and citizenship. Things like continual school improvement and relevant student engagement. What about providing an inclucive learning environment that meets the needs of every student? My teachers work as an amazing collaborative team every day to not only teach the curriculum, but also to build in their students the qualities of ethical and active 21st century citizenship. It’s unfortunate that much of this goes unnoticed because of the work of right-libertarian think tanks like the Fraser Institute.
This timeline and this short video outlines the many initiatives that make my school so amazing. I invite you to take a look. This stuff can’t be measured on a standardized test. If it could, I’m sure we’d be a bit better than 547th.
So I want to say this to those who work so tirelessly to collect and disaggregate the PAT data in such a way that leaves out much of what really counts in our schools today. What sucks is the percieved importance placed on these tests and your reports.