Burnaby's private schools again fly high as Fraser Institute ranks elementaries

Buckingham elementary is Burnaby’s top public school in the Fraser Institute’s latest ranking of 860 elementary schools in British Columbia.

But the chair of the Burnaby School District, Larry Hayes, isn’t losing sleep over the school’s 81st place standing, down from its 75th ranking over the last five years.

“It really is a generalization,” said Hayes of the annual rankings report that gives public and private schools a score based on results of provincial Foundations Skills Assessment exams written by students in grades 4 and 7 during the previous school year. “The Fraser Institute does not take a great deal of factors into account. It’s not easy to give a rank to schools.”

Hayes, who hadn’t yet read the report as of Monday afternoon, said district administrators, trustees and parents are always looking at the progress schools are making, taking particular care to put results of reading, math and literacy assessments into context of a school’s resources, the socio-economic status of its neighbourhood, and the composition of its student body, including ESL and special-needs students.

Sperling elementary is the only other public school in the city to finish in the top 100, placing 90th with a score of 8.1 out of 10.

Seaforth, Marlborough and Taylor Park elementary schools all finished just outside the top 100, tied for 102nd with a score of 8.1.

At the opposite end of the scale, Morley is the city’s lowest-ranked school. Its 4.2 score places it 720th out of 860. Almost half its students are ESL and 8.9 per cent have special needs.

Hayes concedes the rankings are a simple barometer that many parents use to help them make decisions about their children’s education. And that creates challenges for the district.

“We’ve had to put restrictions on cross-catchment enrolment because of perceptions by some parents who want to move their kids to a better-ranked school,” said Hayes. “It’s up to us to continue to promote our position of what is going on in our schools.”

Peter Cowley, Fraser Institute director of school performance studies, says the report card has value.

“Our report card is the only objective, reliable tool that parents have to compare the academic performances of their child’s school over time and to that of the other schools in their community,” said Cowley.

St. Michael’s and Holy Cross Catholic schools are the only schools in Burnaby to crack the top 25 in the Fraser Institute ranking.

St. Michael’s is Burnaby’s top-ranked school; it’s score of 9.7 places it 22nd. That’s 35 spots better than it ranked in last year’s survey when it placed 57th with a score of 8.9. Holy Cross placed 25th, with a score of 9.5, down three places from its 22nd ranking last year.

Cowley said the data showed 18.4 per cent of the tests written in 2011 scored below provincial expectations, a slight improvement from 20.1 per cent in 2010.

“While there has been some improvement over the previous year, almost one in five FSA tests written by B.C. elementary school students still failed to meet the provincial standard for learning.”

The full report can be viewed at

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