Burnaby Mountain city's top-ranked public school: Fraser Institute

Burnaby school board chair Baljinder Narang -
Burnaby school board chair Baljinder Narang
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When it comes to public schools, Burnaby Mountain secondary is the top-ranked high school in the city, according the Fraser Institute's annual rankings.

Mountain was ranked 83rd out of 284 schools provincewide with a score of 6.9 out of 10.

However, first place overall in Burnaby was the independent St. Thomas More Collegiate, which ranked 21st with a score of 8.3.

In third place was another private school, Carver Christian, which was 103rd with a 6.6 score. The top 10 overall rankings were all filled by independent schools led by York House and Crofton House in Vancouver and Southridge in Surrey in spots one to three respectively.

Among Burnaby schools, Burnaby North and Moscrop secondaries tied for fourth place with rankings of 107th and scores of 6.5. In sixth place, came Burnaby Central ranked 133rd provincewide with a 6.1 score. Burnaby South was seventh in the city, ranked 173rd with a 5.6 score.

Alpha and Cariboo Hill tied for eighth, with a 204th-place ranking and 5.2 score. The independent Deer Lake Seventh Day Adventist school was ranked 213th, with a 6.5 score. It was the first year in the rankings for the school, which has a Grade 12 enrollment of just 19 students.

In 11th and last spot among Burnaby schools is Byrne Creek secondary which ranked 251st out of 284 with a 4.3 score. The Edmonds-area school, whose neighbourhood includes numerous refugee and new immigrant residents, also has the highest proportion of English-as-a-second-language students (13.1 per cent), the second highest level of special needs students (9.2 per cent) and lowest average parental income ($44,300).

Produced by the right-leaning Fraser Institute, the annual report card is developed using several indicators including average marks in mandatory provincial exams and graduation rates.

Burnaby school board chair Baljinder Narang said the institute's rating system is too narrow to adequately compare schools.

For instance, three of the six mandatory exams used are in Grade 10 when students' education is incomplete, putting ESL students at a particular disadvantage which skews the data, Narang said.

She noted that Burnaby North ranked behind others but it's a sought-out school that's "bursting at the seams" as a result.

In the end, it's really a question of how one measures success, she said.

In Burnaby public schools, 67 per cent of students graduate and move on to post-secondary education, compared to the provincial average of 52 per cent, she said. Graduating students at Burnaby public schools have also received more than $5.6 million in scholarship offers, including to ivy-league schools such as Harvard University.

"I think student engagement has to be the key and our kids are engaged in our high schools," Narang said. "That is our success story, [but] it doesn't translate into the kind of numbers that statistics are showing."

Daniel Laitsch, associate professor of education at Simon Fraser University said of the rankings, "I don't think they're a whole lot of use when we're talking about the school-quality conversation."

The formula used in the rankings favours private schools which grant admission at least partly based on students' scores on standardized tests, Laitsch said. "Certainly for the way the Fraser Institute calculates things, independent schools have a statistical advantage because they do have that competitive admission process."

As for how parents can best determine what school is best for their child, he suggested they speak with a school's principal and see if it's a friendly, comfortable place to be.

"It's one of those things where we would like to have an easy answer, but really there is no easy answer other than taking the time to go and experience the school and the teachers and the place itself," Laitsch said.

"We wouldn't buy a house based on just its price. We would actually go and look at the house."

In general, B.C. has a "high quality education system," he said.

"In many respects I think people are worried about things that, in the grand scheme of life aren't going to make that big of a difference to how their students do."

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