Every year, the Fraser Institute's ranking of schools prompts discussion and debate about what makes a great school.
The rankings are based largely on the results of the provincewide Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) that examines the literacy and numeracy skills of all B.C. students in grades 4 and 7.
The FSA does provide some valuable information for principals, for parents and for districts to make some educational choices.
However, as the Minister of Education, a teacher and a dad, I want your readers to know that the measure of a great school is not just based on one test.
Great schools have a real and tangible school culture with excellent teachers and robust teacher support, active family engagement, supportive environmental conditions, strong social and emotional student growth, and a school-wide climate of high expectations.
They also foster a broad set of student skills, in addition to producing high test scores. A great school promotes not just academics, but also sports, arts, theatre and other activities. They build confidence and inspire our children to learn.
Throughout British Columbia, school districts and teachers are working hard to create vibrant learning environments that support the learning experience of all students. In some districts that could mean more First Nations material. In other districts, courses with an urban focus and in others, it could mean wilderness training, science, or high-tech courses.
Finally, other school districts might focus more on skills and trades training. The lesson here is that great schools are flexible enough to respond to student and teacher needs.
Parents who want to make better, more informed decisions about where to send their children to school need to visit schools in their district to find out firsthand what kind of athletic programs or artistic programs the schools offer.
Parents need to meet the teachers, the principal and the teacher aides in a variety of schools.
Anyone who takes the time to do this will quickly learn two valuable things: there are a lot of factors that go into making a great school and it is not difficult to find great schools in the province of British Columbia.
Don McRae is B.C.'s Minister of Education.
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