Fraser Institute flunks on grading high schools

By GARY MASON published May 1, 2012 in the  Globe and Mail

The teachers at Hazelton Secondary quit worrying about the Fraser Institute’s rankings of B.C. high schools a long time ago.

When the conservative think tank started publishing its report card on B.C. schools years ago, teachers there used to do a slow burn. The schools at the top were always private institutions or public ones on the west side of Vancouver that had a wealth of resources most other schools could only dream of having.

The schools at the bottom of the rankings were always ones like theirs, in mostly aboriginal communities.

Years later and little has changed with the ratings.

It’s easy to understand why the Fraser Institute’s grading system infuriates so many people. Comparing schools like Hazelton to a private college or a high school from any of the dozens and dozens of affluent neighbourhoods in the province that has none of their problems is absurd.

The top-ranked high school in B.C. for the second year in a row is York House, an all-girls academy on Vancouver’s west side. The Fraser Institute’s ratings are based on a range of indicators. For instance, according to the report, the percentage of students at York House who failed a provincial exam in 2010-11 was zero. The graduation rate at the school for the year measured was 100 per cent.

In recent years, the report added a new rating, one based on the average parental-employment income in each student’s family. A positive number, according to the report, suggests that the school is effective in enabling its students to succeed regardless of their family’s characteristics.

York House got a positive score of 2.0, based on an average family income of $118,000.

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