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Private schools dominate Fraser Institute's rankings of elementary schools

Parksville Elementary is the top-ranked local school in the Fraser Institute's latest report card of B.C. elementary schools, sitting in 410th place out of 979.

Six other District 69 elementary schools were part of the rankings. Nanoose Bay and Winchelsea were tied for 586th. The others were Arrowview (649th), Qualicum Beach (769th), Bowser (793rd) and Errington (908th). The other two elementary schools in this district, French Creek (Coombs) and False Bay (Lasqueti Island) were not part of the institute's rankings this year.

Mt. Arrowsmith Teachers Association president Debbie Morran said she doesn't put a lot of stock in the rankings.

"It's a misrepresentation of the success of a school when they are ranked solely on how students perform on one given day," Morran told The NEWS this week. "There's so much more to a school than a pen and paper test. We respect it as a snapshot but you can't rank schools on a snapshot of one given day."

The Fraser Institute says it used 10 indicators to come up with a rating, and subsequent rankings, of the elementary schools. All of the indicators are linked to what are called the Foundation Skills Assessments, government-mandated tests taken by students in Grades 4 and 7.

None of the schools from District 69 that were part of the rankings has Grade 7 classes. The institute said in these cases, marks were factored into an elementary school's ratings from test results of Grade 7 students attending middle schools where these students are likely to attend after graduating from elementary.

Most of the top-ranked elementary schools on the report card are private.

“We’re not surprised to see so many private schools ranking near the top because that’s a reflection of smaller class sizes and the increased funding from the government private schools are getting,” said Morran.

Using it’s FSA-based criteria, the Fraser Institute came up with a rating for each of the 979 schools studied. The top schools on the list were rated at 10, and it went down from there. The rating for each school was listed, along with an average of its rating the past five years.

Parksville Elementary’s rating was 6.3, with a five-year average of 5.2. For Nanoose Bay, the corresponding numbers were 5.5 and 5.2; for Winchelsea, 5.5 and 5.1; for Arrowview, 5.3 and 6.0; for Qualicum Beach, 4.6 and 5.2; for Errington, 3.5 and 3.7. Bowser Elementary had a 4.5 rating and did not have a five-year-average number.

A percentage of students who are considered youngsters whose second language is English (ESL) was also listed for each school, as was the percentage of students deemed special needs. In District 69, the ESL percentages went from a low of 1.6 per cent in Bowser to a high of 6.1 in Errington. The percentage of special needs students in District 69 range from a high of 8.8 per cent in Bowser to a low of 4.9 per cent in Qualicum Beach.

The release of this report comes in the middles of a difficult time in the local school district. Battling a multi-million-dollar deficit, the district is currently in a 90-day consultation phase related to a plan to close four elementary schools: Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Winchelsea and French Creek.

A school district official told The NEWS the district may decide to offer comment on the report card after having a closer look this week.

On its website (fraserinstitute.org, where you can find the complete ratings and rankings), the Fraser Institute describes itself as “an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with active research ties with similar independent organizations in more than 80 countries around the world. We are often referred to as a ‘think tank’ and have been ranked by a University of Pennsylvania study as the top think tank in Canada.”

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