Merritt schools finish near the bottom of Fraser report
by Craig Lindsay/Herald
The Fraser Institute’s school report cards are out, and for a couple of Merritt schools it’s a failing grade. The controversial institute ranks schools across B.C., as well as Canada, based on a number of different criteria.
“We get from the Ministry of Education, school by school results of the Foundation Skills Assessment which are administered in grade 4 and grade 7 every year,” said Peter Cowley, spokesperson for the Fraser Institute. “We analze those results and come up with nine indicators with how the school is doing. For each of the exams - reading, writing and numeracy in grade 4 and grade 7 - we look to see how the kids at each school do and what their average mark is. We then look to determine how many of the tests were written were assessed at being below average. We look at the grade 7 level on whether their was any gap between the boys and the girls, we call that the gender gap. Finally, we look at the tests that could’ve been written but weren’t. We bring all those ratings together in what we call the overall rating using a statistically valid method of combining them. It’s intended to answer, generally, how is the school doing?”
Merritt Bench Elementary School was the lone Merritt school with a passing grade. MBES finished 267th out of 853 schools in B.C. with a grade of 6.8.
Diamond Vale Elementary came it at a paltry 830th out of 853 schools with a 2011-12 rating of 2.5. Merritt Central wasn’t much better with a ranking of 822nd and a score of 2.8.
Diamond Vale’s grade 4 average reading score was 435 for 2012, down from 462 in 2008. The grade 4 writing average was 414 down from 592 in 2008. The grade 4 numeracy score was also 414 down from 460 in 2008.
Merritt Central’s grade 4 reading score was 430 in 2012, up from 404 in 2008. The grade 4 writing score at Central was 419, down from 565 in 2008. The school’s grade 4 numeracy was 444, up from 392 in 2008.
Nicola Canford was ranked 795 with a rating of 3.2.
The grade 4 average reading score at the Lower Nicola school was 432, up from 2008’s 412. The grade 4 writing score was 432 as well, down from 497 in 2008. The grade 4 numeracy score was 477, up from 400 in 2008.
“I’ve heard in the Kamloops news about the ratings for the schools, and I take a look at the ratings, and overall I watch and say, ‘the ratings have gone up,’” said Bob Peacock, superintendent for SD58 (Nicola-Similkameen). “Take a look at the elementary schools, in four schools the ratings have gone up for 2012, while the other has stayed the same. So, that’s a good thing. Teachers are working hard to improve the educational chances of students. That’s even a better thing.”
Peacock says the low numbers given to several Merritt schools in relation to other schools around the province can be attributed to several factors.
“Historically, those schools have ranked low,” he said. “There are a whole bunch of factors in what the Fraser Institute has come out with and what they say. When we look at the Fraser rankings, are we happy we’re in the bottom 10 per cent? No. What direction is the overall ranking heading in our schools?
In all of our schools, the overall result is heading upward.”
The superintendent attributes much of the blame for the poor score for Diamond Vale to the fact that the school has a high number of ESL students which comprise 19.4 per cent of the school.
“If you take a look at Merritt Bench they have zero ESL kids identified,” he said. “Vermillion Forks (Princeton) has 0.8. As the ESL rates go up, the results go down. Is that an excuse? No. I take a look at the Fraser Institute results to say which direction are the schools heading. That’s one indicator we have as we move on. For the Fraser results (our schools) are heading up and that’s a good thing.”
Peacock says the schools will continue to work hard to improve literacy.
“We’re working hard with a literacy teacher to see where are we struggling with literacy,” he said. “So we have a helping teacher in both numeracy and literacy. We’re taking a look at the results. Writing and numeracy is an area where Diamond Vale has arrows going down. So, we need to ensure they have the support over there with our helping teachers working with the teachers there and say, ‘let’s look at the programs and see what’s happening.”
The Fraser Institute grades for secondary schools is expected in six to eight weeks. In 2011, Merritt Secondary placed 211th out of 280 with a score of 5.0.