Making the grade: the role of the Fraser Institute in deciding your school’s future

January 14, 2007

Philip H. Winne, Nesbit, John C., Gress, Carmen L. Z. 2006. “Cautions about Rating BC’s Schools.” Faculty of Education. Simon Fraser University. 2006-10-31 15:44

The Issue: This is the second year The Vancouver Sun has published a special section on the academic effectiveness of BC’s elementary schools as rated by the Fraser Institute. We’re told the Institute’s ratings of elementary schools, as well as the report it released in April rating econdary schools, are widely discussed. Reportedly, families consult them when buying homes in hope of boosting educational opportunities for their children. Although it doesn’t happen in BC, in the U.S., some jurisdictions use ratings like these, along with other information, to decide how much funding schools receive.

It’s worth keeping in mind the Institute’s rating of a school is not the same thing as what students know or how competent teachers are or how effective schools are. Focusing on students, there’s more to what they know than any one rating can reveal. As well, there is evidence that ratings like these are related to socioeconomic status and wealth. For example, see Selcuk Sirin’s award winning article, “Socioeconomic status and academic achievement: A Meta-analytic review of research 1990-2000”, published in the Review of Educational Research in 2005, and the 2006 Statistics Canada study, “Income and the Outcomes of Children,” by Shelley Phipps and Lynn Lethbridge, respectively. When important decisions are at stake, it’s important to understand what these kinds of ratings are and what limits they have.

The Institute poses a very worthwhile question: “In general, how is the school doing academically?” To answer it, they calculate a rating from 0 to 10 points for each elementary and secondary school that enrolls at least 15 students. Our answer to this question would take a book.

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007.“Think Tanks: Corporate Director Board Interlocks: Fraser Institute.”

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