School in polygamous community near top of Fraser Institute’s rankings


VANCOUVER— From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

The sparring over standardized testing in British Columbia’s elementary schools moved into another round Monday, as a Fraser Institute report card based on test results gave a school in the polygamous community of Bountiful a top score.

The education provided in Bountiful has been in the spotlight in a polygamy-related court proceeding under way in B.C. Supreme Court, in which a former Bountiful resident testified that education was not valued in the community.

But in the Fraser Institute’s 2011 report card, released Monday, Bountiful Elementary Secondary School received an overall rating of 10 out of 10, putting the rural school in the same bracket as a dozen other schools – including Vancouver-based private schools St. George’s and Crofton – that secured the highest possible ranking.

It was the first appearance on the report card for Bountiful Elementary, which previously did not meet reporting thresholds.

The score reflects students’ skills in basic reading, writing and numeracy – and Bountiful’s high score does not diminish the report card’s credibility, Fraser Institute spokesman Peter Cowley said on Monday.

“If anything, I hope that it will put to rest the criticism that the report card is designed by the Fraser Institute to emphasize the value of private schools,” Mr. Cowley said.

The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, which has lobbied against the tests and the Fraser Institute’s report card for more than a decade, said the Bountiful school’s top ranking reflects problems with the tests and their use.

“It tells you about the worthlessness of the rankings,” said BCTF president Susan Lambert, saying that Bountiful school has failed to live up to provincial standards for teaching and curriculum.

Bountiful has two elementary schools, both of which receive funding from the province.

For this school year, Bountiful Elementary has received a preliminary operating grant of about $988,000, based on its reported enrolment of 213 full-time students.

Mormon Hills, another elementary school in Bountiful, has received a grant of about $755,000, based on enrolment of 163 students.

In an affidavit filed for the polygamy court proceeding, provincial school inspector Edward Vanderboom wrote that Bountiful Elementary has had decreasing numbers of students enrolled in upper grades for most of the past decade. Since 2007, when the school’s curriculum fell short of meeting provincial requirements for high-school graduation, Bountiful has not been able to offer a B.C. graduation certificate.

This year, Mormon Hills has been approved to grant the graduation certificate.

The inclusion of Bountiful in the Fraser Institute Rankings comes as the provincial ministry of education and BCTF continue their long-running war of words over the test. In an open letter to parents last month, education minister Margaret MacDiarmid said the government remains committed to the tests, which she described as a building block for academic success.

The attorneys-general of Canada and B.C. have argued that polygamy harms women, children and society and that Canada’s law against polygamy should be upheld. A court-appointed amicus curiae has argued that the law is unconstitutional and should be struck down.

A Monday court ruling cleared the way for cameras and webcams for the final stage of the proceeding. Closing arguments are expected in March.
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