How good is our school? How do we know? Parents can judge for themsleves.

by Mr. Hugh Burke

How good is our school? How do we know?

I just had a call from the Maple Ridge Times newspaper, asking about the latest Fraser Institute rankings. As usual, I said that the rankings were not very useful to us, nor were they particularly informative. However, I did say that schools needed to answer any parent who asked two questions:

Is our school a good one? How do we know?

In my last two posts, I tried to answer these questions. The FSA tests are just one indicator of the kids’ basic skills in literacy and numeracy, and all of our kids are doing well in them. And while we reject the rankings, we embrace accountability and transparency. There are many people who don’t like school rankings, or any school evaluation, and yet there are no real proposed alternatives. There is even a group called the “Great Schools Project” – read about it here – who claim to be “progressive educators” and who want to work towards just this kind of thing in public schools, but point out that the project is in its early stages.  Although somewhat ideological, the article is still well worth reading.

Some things considered  by this “Great Schools Project”, in considering how to measure public schools,  include some forms of random testing, criteria for assessing schools, accreditation processes, parent handbooks, surveys, being a “rights respecting school”, looking after kids with special needs, opening the schools to parent visits for a week, and alternate forms of assessment.  Thoughtful suggestions, all of them, which I think public schools ought to consider.

What was interesting to us is that this group seems to have summarized the multiple ways in which we open our own school to assessment and evaluation. It does not seem particularly complicated: Feedback is the breakfast of champions, and the more we get, the better we become.  We also think that parents are smart enough to interpret results for themselves; they just need to know the results of whatever assessments come along in a planned and careful way. As well, we do not simply want to be a very good school; we want our kids to get a world-class education, and we verify this constantly.

Last week, I reported on the SEAL Accreditation process. We did very well on that, and got some very useful suggestions. This week, I wanted to let everyone know that our school just got an Evaluation Report on the PYP from the International Baccalaureate Organization (arm’s-length detailed inspection, including interviews with teachers, kids, and parents).  Here is what they concluded:

  1. We received 34 commendations, including commendations for the school philosophy, the organization, the curriculum, the students, the teachers, the coordinators, the administration, the collaboration, and so on.
  2.  If a school were not doing well in some area, the IB states that there are “matters to be addressed”…we have no such statements, so we continue to be fully accredited for the next five years.
  3.  There was a suggestion that we add “global” to our mission statement (…living well in a just global community), but we respectfully disagreed.
  4. There were a number of positive recommendations, which we are acting upon.
  5. We were specifically commended for submitting our program of inquiry to Cardiff for international moderation.

Please join me in congratulating our teachers, parents, directors of learning, and especially our children for impressing the International Baccalaureate team so much.


On the next post, at the suggestion of our Parent Guild, I would like to discuss homework…always an interesting and lively topic. In the future, I would like to report the results of our parent survey, and the Visioning meetings that we held in our school, with both parents and students.

P.S. I would like to thank the approximately 170 families who have now joined us as contributors to Annual Giving. As you know, it is the kind gesture of joining our giving community that matters, more than the amount that anyone can give. I really appreciate the fact that we now have about 50% of families involved.