School ranking system flawed: Union

Shelley Balfour, president of the Cranbrook and District Teachers' Association, says Fraser Institute rankings are not helpful.

Earlier in April, the Fraser Institute released their annual rankings of elementary schools around the province, which was dominated at the top of the list by private schools in Metro Vancouver.

As far as schools in the Southeast Kootenay District (SD5) go, St. Mary’s Catholic Independent School had the highest ranking at 222. Kootenay Orchards and Kootenay Christian Academy are next up at 297.

After that, there’s a steep drop off Steeples Elementary School at 523, followed by other local schools including Gordon Terrace, T.M. Roberts, Pinewood, Highlands and Amy Woodlands.

Shelley Balfour, the president of the Cranbrook and District Teachers’ Association, said that the rankings are flawed because the Fraser Institute doesn’t take into account a number of factors when compiling the list, which is based off Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) testing.

Those factors include classroom size and composition and consideration of socio-economic conditions of schools, Balfour continued.

“Schools ranked at the bottom of the infamous list do not receive any further funding, support or care so I question the purpose of the ranking and the purpose of the media covering it as though it was news,” said Balfour. “Underfunding public education is news — certainly.  Disparaging the staff, students and families of the schools does nothing to support public education – but of course, that isn’t the Fraser Institute’s concern.”

The FSA is a test administered province-wide that is used by the government to provide a snapshot of how well students are learning foundation skills in reading comprehension, writing, and numeracy.

Balfour says there is oftentimes pressure for students to write the test — even though it serves no academic purpose for student grades — because it could negatively affect a school’s ranking.

“The lack of consistency across the province in how much time is spent preparing the students for the test or not, and who gets automatically exempted from the test does far more to skew the already skewed results,” Balfour said. ” Schools have real concerns to worry about — not where they rank in the Fraser Institute’s list.”