Fraser Institute school ranking report shows WSS dropping 

School district 48 director calls rankings 'unethical'

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CLARE OGILVIE - Controversial report The Fraser Institute's rankings have placed Whistler Secondary School at 96 out of 289 high schools in British Columbia.
  • photo by clare ogilvie
  • Controversial report The Fraser Institute's rankings have placed Whistler Secondary School at 96 out of 289 high schools in British Columbia.

Whistler Secondary School has been ranked 96 out of 289 in the controversial Fraser Institute annual high school rankings, down from a high of 61 out of 258 in the last five years.

When asked to comment on how the school performed, WSS Principal Nolan Cox emailed: "I'm particularly proud of the collaborative initiatives, academic success, and progression of learning happening in our school. Staff, parents, and students continue to collaborate and build on the great things already at WSS including French Immersion, fine arts, robotics, sports academies, project-based learning, and inquiry projects."

The Fraser Institute Report is a snapshot of the school taken from Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) exams last year. The standardized tests in high school are in English 10, Science 10, a Math 10, Socials 11 or an equivalent course, and a Language Arts 12.

School District 48 director of instruction Peter Jory called the idea of ranking schools "unethical," undermining all of the important work being done in the schools, particularly with the most vulnerable learners. He echoed comments of other local educators who dismissed the Fraser Institute elementary rankings, which were released a few weeks ago.

"We don't put any stock into the rankings at all," said Jory.

"It sends a very uncomfortable and counterproductive message about competition. And I think that in the school system we would really benefit by working together, by sharing, by supporting each other and this runs very contrary to that. It's not in the best interest of kids.

"The way that they put these into a number doesn't make very much sense to us."

Jory explained that the tests are just a small snapshot of what's being done at the school. That's where he sees the problem with generating a ranking number.

When asked if he was concerned that the rankings at WSS had dropped, Cox said: "Our school is responsive to changes in education and considers multiple points of information including global patterns, provincial initiatives, district strategic plans, and educational research. We monitor our achievement and growth carefully and triangulate our data using specific metrics to determine our areas of future growth."

The report card for Whistler Secondary shows the average exam mark was 73 (up from last year). The percentage of exams failed was 4.1 (up from last year) and the overall rating for the school out of 10 was 6.7.

In 2013 the rating was 7.2, in 2012 it was 6.8, in 2011 it was 7.7 and in 2010 it was 7.2. The institute describes the trend as flat.

The report card also shows Grade 12 enrollment at 77 with 3.5 per cent ESL students and 11.5 per cent special needs.

The graduation rate is 98.6 per cent.

Jory said it's important to note that it is trailing data, the testing was done last year.

When asked in a broader context if he had concerns about the ranking going down at WSS, Jory said: "It's really difficult to make sense of a change like that without really being in the school and understanding the culture of the school, how learning is changing, where we're putting our emphasis and the groups of kids that are coming through. All of these could have changed dramatically in that particular timeframe."

The Pemberton Secondary School was ranked 197 out of 289, ranked 187 out of 258 in the most recent five years.

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