What Studies Can’t See

Once again, the Fraser Institute has issued its Report Card on Ontario’s Elementary Schools. And, once again, youngest’s school ranks very, very, very poorly under their system.

And they really couldn’t be more wrong.

It’s maddening. I have been in this school countless times as a parent and a volunteer. I see what they do: loaded down with special needs students of all sorts, not only on the autism spectrum, but for a range of other issues. I’ve seen how they foster creativity in the academic work of their students. Speaking as a historian, I’m impressed to see, for example, each year the fourth graders’ castle projects on display in the main hallway. I see the resource and regular teachers working ceaselessly with children to help them improve in both life and academic skills. I see the entire school, at every assembly, treating all their fellow students with respect and politeness. I see these achievements even more clearly because our other daughter attends another school in the same district with quite a different student body, quite a different mandate and quite a different environment.

But all that matters for the Fraser Institute is the results of those damnable EQAO tests (provincial standardized achievement tests). Every factor in their ratings derives from that useless series of assessments. For, lo!, is that not the be-all and end-all of education? And, of course, all our schools have to teach to the test in order to focus on the numbers in order to look good in the idiotic reports such as this with their blathering about “value added” this and “performance indicator” that. So if you have a large proportion of students who come to school with these problems and complications in their background, it doesn’t really matter to the analysts how much they’ve improved unless that registers on the test.

A school’s worth can’t be expressed in numbers, however expertly corralled and crunched. These people ought to know better. I’m glad that I do. And I’m glad that we don’t have anything quite so idiotic as the “No Child Left Behind” legislation robbing desperately hardworking schools such as this to throw money at the snake-oil salesmen of some fly-by-night charter-style schools seeking to cash in on the hysteria. But the damage still remains when people presume to judge a school by one snapshot set of numbers.

Comments are closed.