For some parents, information like the Fraser Institute School Report Card is important when it comes to choosing which school their children will attend.

Deputy superintendent for WRSD, Greg Wedman, says parents need to understand that the data used by the institute does not cover the whole picture.

The Fraser Institute is a conservative think-tank that has been ratings schools in Alberta and elsewhere for many years.

“Our mission is to improve the quality of life for Canadians, their families, and future generations by studying, measuring, and broadly communicating the effects of government policies, entrepreneurship, and choice on their well-being,” according to the institute website. 

“We don’t really pay a lot of attention to the Fraser Institute when they come out with their rankings,” says Wedman. “We know it’s based on a limited piece of data they are looking at, but there are a whole lot of other factors that come into that.”

The report card uses the data from the Provincial Achievement Test and Diploma results to establish their rankings. These tests cover English, Math, Social Studies, and Science, but no other classes are represented.

Due to the demographic layout of the schools in Drayton Valley, only two schools are ranked for elementary schools. Both the Drayton Christian School and St. Anthony’s have grade six students in their school who take the PATs. Whereas Aurora and Evergreen do not have any grade six students enrolled.

The 2023 rating for DCS is 2.1 and the rating for St. Anthony’s is 6.6, with six being the academic average for the province. Frank Maddock High School is rated 4.9. Both Holy Trinity Academy and H.W. Pickup did not have enough data for the institute to give a ranking.

Breton Elementary and Breton High School also do not appear on the report due to the number of students.

Wedman says instead of focusing on the report card, the division looks at all of their raw data and tries to find areas where they can improve. He says they try to take in account the whole child’s well-being, not just the academic successes.

In this area, the institute seems to agree with WRSD’s sentiment. 

In their FAQ page, the institute states “The rankings reflect how the school is doing academically compared to the others in the report card. But there are lots of other aspects of a school and its programs that you may wish to consider. You can get a better idea about what the school will offer your child by visiting the school’s web site and by talking to the principal, teachers, and other parents.”

It advises parents to not choose a school based solely on the ranking on the report card.

Wedman says as WRSD is a public school division, all students, regardless of their academic abilities, are welcome to enroll. He says in some ways this can affect the overall rating for some schools.

Another piece of the puzzle is the size of the school, says Wedman. Smaller schools that don’t have a high enrollment will have an average that can be significantly affected by the grades of one or two students.

The Fraser Institute offers five years of historical data to give a more accurate picture of how the school is doing.

Wedman says the division doesn’t get asked about the report very often. 

“We are not typically at the bottom or the top,” he says. 

He believes part of the reason they don’t get a lot of questions is because people in the rural areas understand there is a lot more to school rankings other than competing for highest marks. 

The division encourages parents to look at many different data sources before making a decision. Wedman says there is some value to the data that the report offers, but if people want a more accurate idea they can find the information on the Annual Report at the school division’s website, 

He says if people are having trouble locating the reports on their website, they can contact the division at 403-845-3376, and the staff will point them in the right direction.

By Amanda Jeffery, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 21, 2024 at 12:03

This item reprinted with permission from   Free Press   Drayton Valley, Alberta

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