School rank shows improvement

  • May. 11, 2011 1:00 p.m.

Summerland Secondary finished in the middle of the pack, according to a newly released ranking of secondary schools in British Columbia and Yukon.

The Fraser Institute ranked Summerland Secondary School 141 out of 274 high schools in 2010. This annual placement means that the school has exceeded its average ranking for the past five years by two spots.

But local officials are not exactly thanking the Fraser Institute for the apparent boost in standing.

Summerland trustee Connie Denesiuk, past president of the British Columbia School Trustees Association, questioned the rankings in encouraging parents to go beyond them in researching prospective schools.

A good school, she said, “encompasses so much more” than just test results, which play a heavy role in the Fraser Institute ranking.

Parents who are scouting prospective schools should look at all factors and take the time to visit potential schools to learn more about its actual resources and future plans, she said.

Overall, the Fraser Institute says it uses seven measures to come up with an overall score out of 10.

They include average exam marks in courses that include a mandatory exam from Grade 10 through Grade 12; the percentage of students who failed said exams; the average difference by which the school marks exceeds the examination marks considered in the first categories; the difference between male and female students in their exam marks for Grade 10 English only; the difference between male and female students in their exam marks for Grade 10 Math only, the school’s graduation rate  and the delayed advancement rate, which according to the Institute measures the extent to which schools keep their students in schools and on track towards graduation.

This methodology earned Summerland Secondary a score of 6 in 2010, up from 5.4 in 2009, but down from 6.5 in 2006.

This methodology has received criticism because it heavily relies on test results, test results that may fluctuate for a number of reasons such as number of students who attend any particular school.

Critics also note that the rankings do not consider non-testable activities such as the trades, the fine arts and the development of good citizenship, in short extra-curricular activities.

Critics also accuse the Fraser Institute of failing to account for socio-economic differences that may favour students whose parents might be richer, therefore able to provide their children with additional educational advantages. This criticism stands to receive additional support this year as independent private schools in prosperous parts of the Greater Vancouver and Victoria areas occupy the first 10 spots. B.C.’s top public high school, University Hill Secondary which finished 12th, serves students in Vancouver’s ritzy Point Grey neighbourhood near the University of British Columbia.

The Fraser Institute said it would consider additional measures if it could find sufficient data to fairly rate schools, in stressing the comparative aspect of their research., which it believes is the key to improvement. The Institute also acknowledged arguments that note a relationship between educational performance and economic background, but insist that schools can improve their performance regardless of the larger economic context.

Looking at the regional picture, Summerland Secondary finished in fourth place among the five high schools in the South Okanagan, at least according to the Fraser Institute.

Penticton Secondary finished first in the region, finishing 94th overall. Osoyoos Secondary finished second in 105th place and Penticton’s Princess Margaret occupied third spot in 120th place. Only Oliver Secondary ranked worst than Summerland Secondary, finishing 219th.