Whistler elementary school rankings down in Fraser Institute report 

Myrtle Philip principal says annual rankings only one measure of student success

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Whistler schools are down in the Fraser Institute's latest elementary school rankings, but one local administrator said his institution's progress cannot be fully measured by the annual report.

The yearly analysis by the independent research organization uses data from the provincially standardized Grade 4 and 7 Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA), which measures core skills like reading, writing and numeracy, and forms the basis for a rating out of 10. The most recent report compiles results from the 2012-13 academic year.

Spring Creek Community School was the highest ranked among corridor schools at 133 out of 982 B.C. institutions, compared to its rank of 118 out of 717 schools in the most recent five years. Fraser Institute rated the school at 7.8 out of 10, down from 8.4 in the 2011/12 year.

Spring Creek principal Lisa Bartlett could not be reached for comment.

Myrtle Philip Community School also saw strong numbers, ranking 178th in the province with a rating of 7.5, down from 8.6. The school's rank over the last five years was 67 out of 717.

Principal Jeff Maynard, who took over the position from Sharon Broatch in August, said the Fraser Institute's rankings are "relatively meaningless," and only represent one measure of the school's success.

"The FSA, the raw data, we certainly do look at, but the ranking itself to us has no information that's really usable for the school," he said. "We find information from the teachers: the anecdotal reports and the conversations we have around student learning are what's important."

School District 48 administrators have long been critical of the Fraser Institute's ranking system, saying the small sample size of the standardized test results don't accurately reflect the reality on the ground at schools, and only provides one benchmark among many that officials look at.

The district began implementation of its five-year strategic education plan, Pathways to Learning, in September. The plan utilizes a project-based approach to learning, letting students have more control over the direction of their education. Maynard said student success under the new strategy would be hard to capture in standardized tests like the FSA.

"My experience is that students who are engaged in the learning do much better than the kids that aren't. You see with the competency that there's not going to be a subtraction of content, it's just going to be more authentic, it's going to be enhanced in a way that's more meaningful for the students," Maynard said. "What you will see when talking to the student is a different person, a different experience from the learning environment, but it will likely not be reflected in the test itself."

Squamish Elementary saw a slight bump in its ratings, from 5.1 to 5.3, and ranked 649 out of the province's 982 elementary institutes. It was ranked 541 out of 717 in the most recent five years.

Pemberton's Signal Hill Elementary rounds out the list of Sea to Sky schools, ranking 882nd in the province. It ranked 626 in the last five years. The school's rating also dropped from 4.2 to 3.8 based on the FSA results from the 2012/13 academic year.

School District 48 superintendent Lisa McCullough and assistant superintendent Jody Langlois could not be reached for comment.

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