EDITOR TODD LIHOU: Fraser Institute needs to be educated on school rankings

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Here we go again.

Another national think tank has filed the latest in a steady stream of studies aimed at spotlighting the shortcomings of our region and in an attempt to "help" us understand where our city needs some work.

This time it's the Fraser Institute, a well-respected B.C.-based group, has published its annual Ontario elementary school report card.

Parents of the two lowest ranked schools on the list will no doubt go ape when they read that Central Public and Gladstone Public schools ranked near the bottom of the list, receiving a grade of just 1.9 out of 10.

By comparison, the highest ranking schools with the Upper Canada District School Board were Williamstown Public School which scored 8.8, and Iona Academy which notched an 8.7.

Fact is, whether you are a parent out on County Road 17 in Williamstown, or another on Amelia Street in Cornwall you shouldn’t get too worked up about the results – regardless of how your school did.

While the methodology in the report has some salient points, it is flawed in one major way – it's not comparing schools in the same demographic area.

One can easily note the two "bottom-ranking" schools are smack-dab in the centre of Cornwall – inner-city schools, where the socio-economic background of families is often different than those who live in the suburbs, or the countryside.

The Fraser Institute is a lot of good things, but to simply issue a study that compares schools across a wide swath of our region is not doing parents (or teachers) any favours.

The Upper Canada board has boundaries larger than that of Prince Edward Island.

Kudos to the board for firing back. Too often bureaucrats run for the hills when a study like this is published.

David K. Thomas, the board's director, was quoted this week as saying comparing schools without considering demographics isn't fair.

And the board's chair, Greg Pietersma, was just as upset, and suggested the report is not something the board takes seriously.

Both men sung from a similar hymn book and said instead of relying on the numbers when considering where to send your child to school, or whether you should be concerned about your child's particular school, there's a simply solution.

Go to the school yourself.

Are your child's grades suffering? Don’t wait for the Fraser Institute to tell you there is a problem – go speak with the teacher. Or, (and this point can be made enough) talk to your child.

All this is to say the Fraser Institute does a good job of stirring the media pot and telling you that some schools are better than others. But it's not like we're breaking any news here – of course some schools are better than others.

But the reason why some of these institutions have a better mark than others goes beyond the schoolyard fence.

Has the Fraser Institute considered whether the parents of children at Central Public School value education the same way their counterparts do in Williamstown? Do they make the same demands of their children when it comes to studying for a test?

Simply publishing a bunch of numbers, without going beyond the surface, creates confusion and, worst of all, tarnishes a school's reputation.

I can guarantee there are students at both Central and Gladstone that can go toe-to-toe with other scholars in Williamstown when it comes to reading, writing and arithmetic and not miss a bit.

And there are teachers in Cornwall getting a bad rap thanks to these results, but the justification is questionable.

This smacks of the MoneySense story that can out a year, which suggested Cornwall was 167th best when it came to the best places to live in the country.

I'm still trying to figure that one out too.

Organizations: Fraser Institute, Upper Canada District School Board, Williamstown Public School Iona Academy Upper Canada board Central Public School

Geographic location: Cornwall, Williamstown, Ontario County Road Amelia Street Prince Edward Island.Kudos Gladstone

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