Public Embarrassment Brought Forward

In the “news” today is an article indicating that the Fraser Report has been released.  The local newspaper is all over it “Local private school earns top spot in province“.  And, for every winner, there is of course a loser.  That couldn’t be overlooked either as well as other things that indicated that someone skimmed the report.  Poking around at a few other newspapers indicates that it’s “news” there too.

The Peel District School Board had a piece on their website for parents worth reading “Things to Remember about the Fraser Institute’s Report“.  This is worthy of a read by all parents and educators.

Below, I’m bringing forward a blog post that I wrote on May 11, 2011 entitled “Public Embarrassment“.  Just my thoughts.  I believed in the comments then and believe in them now.  I know so many hard-working educators that work so hard at their craft.  It’s tough for them to read the news these days.

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I’m going to quote or at least paraphrase Wayne Hulley again.  “Nobody wakes up in the morning and wonders how they’re going to screw up today.”  Followed by “Parents send the best kids that they have to our schools.  They don’t keep the good ones at home.”

And yet, if you read the headlines from the past couple of days, you’d wonder.  The Fraser Report was released and it ranks schools from top to bottom based upon testing.  I even downloaded both the elementary and secondary school rankings for some reason (train wreck?) to see where schools that I’ve taught or attended ranked and was dismayed to see that some of them weren’t even included in the report.

Newspapers were all over it as a Google search shows.

I spent some time yesterday morning reading news articles:

As I read, I really did get hot under the collar.  Kudos do need to be given to the high ranking schools.  Somehow, they’ve mastered the art of testing.  Hopefully, it is as a result of the calibre of the teaching, of the students, of the learning that happens daily.  I would hate to think that it was the result of a concentrated effort to do well on the test at the expense of a rounded, quality education.

One of the articles quoted one of the authors of the report as saying that poverty is no excuse.  I guess that the students who have to work long into the evenings to help hold the family together will somehow learn to the same extent of students that don’t.  Or, somehow those students who are in ESL programs or require regular assistance have the same likelihood of doing well on the test.  I wonder if the authors or the newspapers that seemed to take delight in reporting either end of the spectrum would do well in a quickie immersion course in a new language and then be expected to perform as well as those who have English as their native tongue.

I think the most disappointing part was reading the comments to the online articles where the newspaper allows them.  At times, they show a very hurtful and insensitive readership who use the fact that they can remain anonymous as rationale for letting lose at schools, students, neighbourhoods, the unemployed, those new to Canada, teachers, and school boards.  Predictably, the comments were directed towards the lower ranked schools with hardly a mention of the higher ranked ones.

Yes, there are students who are below provincial standards.  There will always be those that are.  What bothers me most are the comments about those students and the schools that they attend.  It must just be a banner day to go to school after reading that.

One of the comments from the authors was that the ranking would serve as motivation for the province.  If that’s the case, then certainly let’s celebrate and share the successes of the highest performing schools.  What is working at Sainte-Marguerite-Bourgeoys in Markham or Masonville in London at the elementary panel or St. Michael’s Choir in Toronto at the secondary panel should be shared.  What are they doing that make them so successful in testing?  Does it translate into real education opportunities at those schools?  If so, the province wants to know.  If the goal is improvement, then let’s celebrate those that ranked highly. Let’s resist the urge to kick those that are down.

I see no point in publically identifying these other schools.  Let the school boards and principals know the actual scores.  But, save the school, the neighbourhood, and most importantly the students the public spotlight.

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7 thoughts on “Public Embarrassment Brought Forward

  1. Mary-Ann Fuduric, OCT says:

    Great post Doug – food for thought. I had to check it out today and saw that my son attends one of the “loser” schools in his board. As a parent, I don’t see his school as a loser. I believe that my son’s school is doing a great job on a whole and I have been happy with his all of his teachers that he has had. They are all hardworking and dedicated to their students. They are always looking to improve student learning. Being pegged as a “loser” school – is not fair to them.

    I don’t quite understand how the Report Card works. I went over to the EQAO site and compared his school to a school that many of the kids in the neighbourhood go to, which is in another board. The EQAO results were comparable, if not a few points lower than that of our school for 2012/2013. However, that school (2 years young) scored above 7 on the Frasier Report Card! So, what exactly is Frasier basing their report card on? After digging deeper on EQAO scores I came across a statement that says that schools that improve do not have rankings increased unless they increase over the provincial standard. Meaning if you are below standard no matter what you are doing you will remain where you are. Now what exactly is that all about? If they are improving from the year before, why are they not given credit? It doesn’t make sense. So a school can be working hard with initiatives to improve student learning, yet if their test scores are not above provincial standards their score doesn’t increase? It doesn’t make sense to me.

    You bring up the issue of ELL students and those in Special education that are not exempt from writing the provincial tests. It also doesn’t make sense to me that ELL and students on IEP’s are not factored in. I’ve done a few after-school programs in the city core where their students performed poorly on EQAO. Many of these students are newcomers to Canada and thus ELL. These students also have so much more to deal with than just school. Some of the things will truly break your heart.

    The biggest problem I see with the Frasier report is that they put the report Cards out there without really explaining how the report card works. I still have not found anything specific that explains it – I gave up after an hour this morning. And shame on the media for running with the story without explaining to the public how all the report card works and what factors may affect testing. A couple of years ago, I scribed at a school for EQAO testing. I scribed for a student who was in grade 6 but was working a grade 3 math level. He was required to write EQAO and I watched helplessly as he struggled .

    Sadly, many parents will be using these report cards to identify which schools their children should go to.

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  2. I totally agree with the comments above and Doug’s very well written critique. There is so much more to a school than EQAO scores and I don’t see that addressed in the report.

    Interesting though that new parents thinking about coming to our school want to know about the report and how we did. Better to just meet the staff and take a tour of the school – that tells parents volumes about a school – more than a report ever can.

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  3. You can certainly see a trend among the top and bottom five as it relates to average family income. Besides, how reliable is the data if the test changes from year to year? We differentiate instruction but we’re all measured with the same Fraser stick.

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  4. Nicely stated. I work at a vocational school that is consistently ranked in the bottom. We are not compared with similar schools’ results and our IEP statistics are not released. We dedicate hours and volunteer our time every year to help our students try to succeed. Any standardized test seems to frighten our students more than it’s worth. It does seem like public shaming that somehow our students are not learning and the staff is not qualified to help. You wording is appreciated, the success of taking a test, not always indicating intelligence, success, or growth.

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  5. Absolutely, Eva. And, I’ll bet that after a couple months of working with your students you know and understand their learning needs and apply it daily to help them do the very best that you can. I’ll also bet that you don’t blindside them with any test.

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