Keven Elder. (Photo submitted)

Qualicum school district superintendent says Fraser Institute rankings limited in scope

Elder: ‘Public rankings of schools based on only those limited measures is a travesty’

Keven Elder isn’t a huge fan of the Fraser Institute’s annual ranking of B.C. high schools.

The institute uses publicly accessible data to rank schools in Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Quebec. 251 B.C. high schools are ranked, mixing both public and private schools. The rankings are calculated based on things like average exam marks, graduation rate and the rate at which students complete courses in a timely manner.

In the Qualicum school district, Ballenas Secondary School stayed the same, with a score of 5.1 in the 2017-18 school year and an average of the same over the past five years. Kwalicum Secondary School saw a drop, from an average of 5.6 in the last five years to 4.9 in 2017-18.

Elder is the superintendent of SD69. He believes the Fraser Institute has a role to play in the educational discourse, but it’s a very limited one. Catering to its annual rankings isn’t on his to-do list.

“Public rankings of schools based on only those limited measures is a travesty, it always has been,” said Elder.

READ MORE: Fraser Institute releases latest B.C. high school rankings

“The better indicators of a school’s success are in how schools serve a diverse population of learners and provide students with every advantage, whether they are from disadvantaged or advantaged backgrounds.”

Elder says that SD69 could focus on improving their Fraser Institute rankings, but it would be to the detriment of more vulnerable populations. Students who prolong their education, take longer to graduate and don’t perform as highly on exams bring down a school’s ranking.

“We could find some way to encourage students who are not performing at a high level in those domains to find schooling elsewhere. There’s lots of things we could do which we would never do. We do just the opposite. We want all children in school,” said Elder.

READ MORE: SD69 superintendent believes ranking list ‘does more harm than good’

He does not believe that the institute’s rankings accurately capture a multi-faceted learning environment. Elder says much of the important parts of education fall beyond these strictly academic measures of success.

The Fraser Institute does address this on their explanation of how to read the report cards. It reminds readers that “of course, a sound academic program should be complemented by effective programs in areas of school activity not measured by the report card.”

Elder admits that it is difficult to quantify the more experiential aspects of learning, but still doesn’t yield in his criticism of the rankings.

“The fact that those domains don’t show up in the Fraser Institute rankings, is a discredit to the Fraser Institute more than it is to our schools,” said Elder.

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