Agassiz Elementary Secondary School. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)

Agassiz Elementary Secondary School. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)

EDITORIAL: It takes more than good grades to make a great school

AESS was the fastest-improving school in 2019’s Fraser Institute ranks, but what does that mean?

Once again, the Fraser Institute has released a ranking of B.C.’s schools — looking at the places that educate our community’s children and putting them in order from “best” to “worst.”

For Agassiz, this year’s ranking might seem like a success.

AESS had been singled out at the fastest-improving school in the province, going from a ranking of 4.6 out of 10 in 2014 to 8.6 out of 10 in 2018.

RELATED: Fraser Institute releases latest B.C. high school rankings

(The second-fastest is located next door in Chilliwack: GW Graham Secondary, which was also named the fastest-improving school for 2018.)

Yes, seeing a local school singled out as the fastest-improving school in the province always brings out a little ray of pride. But it’s important to look closer at what that improvement actually means.

These rankings are released by the Fraser Institute, a controversial think tank that draws the ire of teachers every year for what the BCTF called its “useless clickbait.”

The rankings are based on publicly available data for 251 schools across the province, both public and private.

The high school rankings are at least a little more comprehensive than the elementary school rankings, which only look at the poorly-attended and often unreliable FSA results.

RELATED: EDITORIAL: No think-tank report cards for the Observer

For Fraser Institute’s high school rankings, provincial exam marks take the place of FSA results and are supplemented with data from the school’s grade-to-grade transition rates and six-year completion rates — both of which point to how well students are moving through the school system, and not just how well they do on tests.

In Agassiz, from the 2013-14 school year to the 2017-18 school year, these have seen some great leaps indeed.

The average provincial exam mark has gone up from 63.4 per cent to 72.1 per cent, and the percentage of exams failed went from 17 per cent to zero.

The graduation rate is at 100 per cent (as it was in both 2014-15 and 2015-16), and only 9.4 per cent of students did not move on to the next grade.

(This is worse than in 2013-14, when the “delayed advancement rate” was 3.6 per cent but better than 2016-17 when it was 27.6 per cent.)

These are, on the whole, successes for the school. And we should be proud of them. But there’s more to a great school than just good grades.

The Fraser Institute rankings neglects important markers like how connected students feel to their teachers and other staff, how often students are missing school and how prepared they are for life after high school.

It doesn’t look at whether all students are given an equal opportunity for success, regardless of their background or ability.

These are the kinds of things SD78 has included in its growth plan.

Using data from surveys, exams, teachers and parents, the SD78 growth plan is designed to help the school district figure out where its schools are succeeding, and what needs to change for local students.

RELATED: SD78 growth plan to focus on inclusive learning, reading

On the whole, the high school students in the Fraser-Cascade School District are doing well — both the Fraser Institute ranking and the growth plan point to that.

Hopefully, changes SD78 is making at the elementary school level will help the future students of AESS have an even better time in high school than the ones who came before them.

So celebrate AESS for being the fastest-improving school when it comes to grades and completion rates. But also remember that there’s more to a high school than its ability to pump out straight A students year after year.

After all, it takes more than good grades to make a great school.

-Grace Kennedy, editor

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mandeep Grewal was gunned down outside an Abbotsford bank in October 2018. Police said a violent gang war to control drug-line territory was going on at that time. Drug charges have now been announced against seven people. (FILE PHOTO: John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
7 people face 38 charges related to gang drug activity in Abbotsford and Mission

Police say investigation began in 2018 into expansion of Brothers Keepers’ drug line

A memorial to former Abbotsford and RCMP police officer Shinder Kirk in Cedar, B.C. Kirk died in a car accident on Cedar Road in December 2018. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Trial begins for driver involved in car crash that killed retired Abbotsford police sergeant

RCMP accident reconstructionist takes stand in trial of Conrad Nikolaus Wetten

Vehicle in alleged hit and run ploughs into road sign in downtown Chilliwack

Police are looking for footage of a gold-coloured two-door Chevy car

The map shows the number of COVID-19 cases for the week of April 25 to May 1. The darkest areas indicate communities with a daily average of more than 20 cases per 100,000 population. (BC Centre of Disease Control)
Surrey and Abbotsford battle for top COVID hotspot in Fraser Health

Two communities are among areas across province showing highest transmission

One section of a bank of community mailboxes in Ryder Lake was stolen. (Facebook photo)
Brazen thief goes next level with mail theft in Ryder Lake

Chilliwack RCMP confirm a section of a community mailbox was taken off its base and removed

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil Friday evening (May 7) to remember 29-year-old corrections officer Bikramdeep Randhawa, who was killed in last weekend’s brazen daylight shooting outside North Delta’s Scottsdale Centre mall. (James Smith photo)
Hundreds gather to remember victim of North Delta shooting

Corrections officer Bikramdeep Randhawa, 29, was killed in what police say was a targeted incident

Flags flown at half mast out front of Fraser Regional Correctional Centre for slain corrections officer Bikramdeep Randhawa. (Neil Corbett/ The News)
Public vigil and flying flags at half mast done to honour slain prison guard

Maple Ridge corrections officer Bikramdeep Randhawa, 29, is being remembered in a number of ways

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Most Read