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BCTF flunks Fraser Institute school rankings

BCTF president Susan Lambert today dismissed the Fraser Institute's school rankings as "worthless," adding that "they're just a way of beating up on the disadvantaged."

Lambert was responding to the Fraser Institute's School Report Card ranking of 875 B.C. public and private schools, posted online today. The Vancouver think tank says it uses "objective, publicly-available data to rate and rank the schools, such as average scores on state tests provided by provincial education ministries."

This year's report card has drawn attention because Bountiful Elementary Secondary School, in Lister, is ranked among the top schools in the province. The school, serving a controversial polygamous community of Mormon fundamentalists, scored 10/10 based on tests of reading, writing and numeracy in grades 4 and 7. The other 10/10 schools tend to be private institutions in the Lower Mainland.

Lambert told The Tyee: "Our initial opposition to the Foundation Skills Assessment test was because the Fraser Institute started to rank schools by it." She said the effect of the FSA is to place an "exaggerated importance on a narrow slice of the curriculum," leading to increased emphasis on that slice at the expense of other skills such as critical thinking.

Speaking of Bountiful, Lambert said the independent school has been inspected and found to be in compliance with ministry standards, but that not all teachers are certificated. "The graduation rates are appalling," Lambert said, though she could not specify the rate.

(A report in the Globe and Mail in January said the school was denied the power to issue high school diplomas in 2007 because of problems in the curriculum. It also noted that since 2003-04, 44 students have been enrolled in grade 10, but only 8 in grade 12.)

"The Bountiful results go to show how worthless the Fraser Institute rankings are," Lambert said.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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