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EDITORIAL: Fraser gets an F

Want to know how Howe Sound Secondary School ranks among B.C.'s high schools this year? You'll have to find out somewhere else.

Want to know how Howe Sound Secondary School ranks among B.C.'s high schools this year?

You'll have to find out somewhere else.

That may sound like a strange declaration for a newspaper whose mission is to provide every piece of information it can about this community. But when the information we receive is as clearly torqued as the Fraser Institute's Report Card on B.C. High Schools, we have to decide what good is served by reporting it.

For years we've reported how our local schools ranked on the Fraser report card - along with the obligatory story from educators and school trustees decrying the right-wing think tank's selective criteria and "hockey stats"-style reporting of results, along with the ranking of the province's 279 public and private secondary schools.

In theory, the Fraser report card sounds like an even, objective way of comparing schools. In reality, it skews the results to private institutions and big-city schools that cater to top-performing students and marginalize the rest. In communities like Squamish, who are served by one secondary school, everyone gets access to the same education, but in the process the schools look like they're not doing their job.

We have to agree with the teachers. The report card takes a narrow slate of categories - provincial exam results, graduation rates, differential between school marks and provincial exam marks - and assigns each school a grade out of 10. Invariably, private schools and large Lower Mainland schools come out on top, which smaller schools in isolated communities come out looking terrible.

The inference - a natural one for the Fraser Institute - is that private education trumps public.

Other statistics that might even out the balance in favour of public schools and smaller communities, like library resources per student, participation in music, fine arts or athletics or French Immersion or parent participation in schools, don't figure into the equation.

Trying to run an educational institution with one eye on a rankings chart does students no good - in fact, it can hurt students. Want proof? Look to UBC, where administrators were caught tweaking class sizes and keeping students from getting into the courses they needed to finish their degrees - to try to improve their standing in a national magazine's annual ranking of Canadian universities.

For these reasons, this is the last mention you'll see of it here.

Education is not a horse race - especially not one that stacks the deck in favour of the rich and privileged.

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