Ranking the rankings

There has been a flurry of comment on education in The Free Press columns recently, and last week the report on the top 100 placing of Frank J. Mitchell Elementary in the annual Fraser Institute (FI) school rankings.

The problem is that these rankings have a great deal to do with the Fraser Institute’s right-wing ideology and little or nothing to do with education.

(Having said that, it should be noted that local educationists have known for years that Frank J. is a good school. They didn’t need politically motivated statisticians telling them.)

Private schools, where education is purchased and good test scores are bought and paid for, often top the Institute’s rankings.

The sociological and political conclusion drawn from this by the Fraser Institute, but never publicly expressed by them, is that rich people are smart and the rest of us are stupid.

Money, therefore, as well as children’s attendance at a fee-paying school, now becomes not only a measure of social status, but also a measure of intelligence.

Consider, however, the following extracts from a letter written by school principal Hugh Burke in the ‘Vancouver Sun’, June 11, 2003:

“Meadowridge, the school in which I teach and administer, was named by the Fraser Institute this week as the number one ranked elementary school in the province. We should, I suppose, be pleased. The problem is that these results are generally meaningless.

“We reject our ranking, as any good school will. Real results do not reside in three tests, composed by a few people working for the government, scored by people who never met the kids, generating data that are highly dependent on the testing circumstance, and used inappropriately in statistical terms for clearly ideological purposes. The final scores tell us little about the real accomplishments of the school [but] in some cases, everything about the entry criteria for the school.

“The real number one school is the one that prizes every facet of a child’s development and that hums with learning.

“Such schools are all around with high or low scores on these nonsensical rankings, unknown to the Fraser Institute, flying above the radar of the bean counters.

“Parents, talk to the kids and teachers, look around, ask questions. As for the Fraser Institute rankings, they are worth exactly what people pay for them.”

Mr. Burke rejected utterly the Fraser institute’s educational and ideological hocus-pocus. So should we.

Jimmy Valance