If academic performance in elementary schools were a competition across B.C., Tri-Cities classrooms would sit about average, according to a right-wing think tank.
The Fraser Institute published its annual ranking of B.C. elementary schools this week, and in some cases public schools in the district fell short in the standings.
According to the report, just one public school, R.C. MacDonald, made it into the top five for the Tri-Cities.
The top four schools in the three cities were all private, including Hope Lutheran, which topped the rankings locally with a 9.7 out of 10, followed by Our Lady of Assumption, Queen of All Saints and Our Lady of Fatima.
Hope Lutheran finished in 24th out of 853 schools in B.C., while R.C. MacDonald scored a 7.8 for 133rd on the list.
The rankings are based on 10 indicators using data from the annual province-wide exams, or Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA), administered by the Ministry of Education.
But based on the report's five-year average, six schools in the district have shown statistically significant declines in their scoring, including Nestor, James Park, Hampton Park, Parkland, Bramblewood and Mountain Meadows.
"I hope this is a red flag for the folks that are interested in those schools to say, 'Wait a second, things are going down and we don't have a really good idea why they're going down,'" Peter Cowley, the Fraser Institute's director of school performance studies, told The NOW.
Cowley noted overall, schools in Coquitlam scored a 5.8 in the rankings, while the average across the province was six out of 10. If the private schools were removed from the list, it would drop the ranking to 5.6 out of 10.
"There's work needed, let's put it that way about Coquitlam," Cowley said.
He also argued incomes shouldn't be an excuse for the Tri-Cities' performance, noting the average income for parents in the district was $71,780, compared to the average of $65,400 across the province.
But the Coquitlam Teachers' Association (CTA) isn't putting much stock in the rankings. CTA president Teresa Grandinetti argued
that, in a number of schools, quite a few students withdraw from writing the FSAs - in some cases up to 20 per cent - which makes a difference in the overall results.
"I think we need to take a much more holistic approach to education and the FSAs only look at a tiny piece," she said.
Grandinetti also takes issue with the fact that the tests were originally created to see if the curriculum was working, but are now used by the rankings as a form of competition.
"It was never meant that 'I've got my kid in the best school in the district,'" she said.