B.C. schools are shifting the blame for their dismal performance.
This, says Peter Cowley, Fraser Institute’s director of school performance studies, is the attitude taken by school districts such as School District 91 when performance measures show consistently poor academic results.
According to Cowley, educators and school districts rationalize their school’s poor performance by placing the blame back onto families.
“When the Fraser Institute’s [annual] report cards come out, teachers look at themselves and say why are we scoring so low on the report card. The teachers know they are dedicated to the kids, they know they work hard and even spend some of their own resources buying things for the classroom – they say they are doing everything they can, so then they think how can I rationalize this. The poor performance is then directed towards parents and less often the students themselves,” he said.
“Teachers say, I know the families of my students, either there are serious challenges in the home or there is a lack of supervision or there is poverty …. I don’t mean to discount any of these, but there is no evidence to suggest that low income parents, First Nations parents or rural families are not interested in their child’s education, or have children that are not intelligent,” he said.
According to the recently released Fraser Institute report cards, School District 91’s four secondary schools are performing well below average and Cowley said to Lakes District News that the situation is pretty grim.
The report cards suggest that Lakes District Secondary School (LDSS), Fort St. James Secondary School, Nechako Valley Secondary School and Fraser Lake Elementary Secondary School are all ranked at the lower end of the 274 secondary schools in B.C.
Cowley said that by calculating the average of all four schools, it equates to 3.8 out of 10, which places School District 91, 47 out of 55 total B.C. school districts. “There are not many other districts performing at a lower level,” he added.
In the latest round of report cards LDSS received a score of 2.9 out of 10 – the lowest of the four district schools.
According to the Fraser Institute, this ranks LDSS’s performance as 266 out of the 274 schools.
Averaging out the figures over the past five years, Cowley said that Fort St. James Secondary School, with an average of 3.5 out of 10 has the worst performance in the district.
“Fraser Lake Elementary Secondary School is the stand out school in the district coming in 207 out of 256 schools. The stand out being that they are consistent ….. and consistently poor,” he said.
In 2006, LDSS scored a 5.4 out of 10 on the Fraser Institute’s report cards, in 2007 a 5.5, in 2008 a 3.4, in 2009 a 3.0 and in 2010 a 2.9. “This is way below average performance,” he added.
“What we should be asking is are these educators properly trained to do this teaching job? Teachers in Canada are not well trained and we should be asking are they trained to teach at risk students? I would be shocked if the superintendent of School District 91, or the principal of LDSS said ‘we know exactly how to fix this problem.’ I don’t think we would get that answer.”
Cowley said that when expectations are set low, low results are achieved, but when expectations are set high, you will get higher results.
The average exam mark for basic subjects at LDSS was 58.9. “Just a bare pass. This means there is a 23 per cent failure rate, or a one in four failure rate. This is intolerable and it is an emergency,” Cowley said.
“Even if the school is telling you your child is doing fine, parents know that academic excellence is not the norm. They are teaching at a lower level than if academic excellence was the norm. If your school doesn’t require family involvement, expect nothing but excellence from their teachers, have teachers that are trained to teach at risk students and require a certain standard of behaviour then parents should question whether they want to stay in the community,” Cowley added.
Susan Lambert, president of the B.C. Teacher’s Federation responded by saying the Fraser Institute are “crack pots with an agenda.
She went on to say, “They have no credibility, these reports come from an institute who ranked a school in a polygamous community [Bountiful’s private school in Utah] as number one in their report this year. The report is good for nothing but to be used as a birdcage liner,” Lambert said.
She went on to say that there is no respectable science behind the report and the Fraser Institute has not a shred of experience in the field of education.
“You wouldn’t go to your lawyer to comment on your brain surgeon’s job would you?,” questioned Lambert.
According to Lambert, the Fraser Institute are on a mission to end public education and are only in favour of private education.
Lambert said LDSS’s average test scores [58.9] indicate nothing about the school whatsoever. “They are placing value in test scores in the worst way and focussing solely on test scores sets the bar really low.”
“Parents should take no stock in the results at all,” she added.