VANCOUVER, BC-Public secondary schools in BC's Lower
Mainland appear to be doing a better job of serving students
from families with below average incomes than secondary schools
in the rest of the province.
The Fraser Institute's
Report Card on Secondary Schools in British Columbia and Yukon
2009 shows 19 public secondary schools ranked among the report card's top 100 (based on average
ranking over the most recent five years) with student
populations from families whose income was below the provincial
average of $68,600.
Of these 19 schools, 15 are found in the Lower Mainland:
Hugh McRoberts, J.N. Burnett, and Richmond Secondary from
Richmond; Johnston Heights, Princess Margaret, and Sullivan in
Surrey; Eric Hamber and Winston Churchill in Vancouver;
Pinetree and Gleneagle in Coquitlam, Burnaby North and Moscrop
in Burnaby; W.J. Mouat in Abbotsford, Port Moody Secondary, and
New Westminster Secondary.
Dover Bay in Nanaimo, L.V. Rogers in Nelson, Stanley
Humphries in Castlegar and Sparwood Secondary are the only
secondary schools outside the Lower Mainland ranked in the top
100 that serve students from families with below average
"These 19 public schools are among the highest performing BC
secondary schools, yet they all serve student populations whose
parents have below average incomes. Clearly their success shows
you don't need to be in a wealthy neighbourhood or have parents
with multiple university degrees to do well in school," said
Peter Cowley, Fraser Institute director of school performance
"The public school system should be able to educate all
children to the same high level, no matter where they live nor
how much their parents earn. Educators must try to raise their
school's level of performance and find ways of helping students
The Fraser Institute's
Report Card on Secondary Schools in British Columbia and
rates 316 public and private secondary schools from across
British Columbia and Yukon using seven key indicators of school
performance. Secondary schools in Yukon follow, for the most
part, British Columbia's secondary school curriculum and their
students participate in provincial exams administered by BC's
Ministry of Education.
The report card also includes key demographic information
about a school including the number of ESL students, special
needs students, and parents' average income.
Cowley said critics of the Fraser Institute report card too
often excuse a school's poor results by blaming them on
socio-economic factors. By doing so, these critics are
essentially writing off a student's chances of success based on
their family's economic standing.
"Why is it that secondary schools in other communities
outside the Lower Mainland where parents have a below average
income can't match the success of the schools in Nelson,
Castlegar and Sparwood?" Cowley asked.
Average income for families with students attending Nelson's
L.V. Rogers is $53,600 and the school's five-year average
ranking in the report card is 55 out of 267. Sparwood Secondary
has a five-year ranking of 64 out of 267 and families with an
average income of $55,400. Stanley Humphries in Castlegar has
families with an average income of $58,400 and the school has a
five-year ranking of 86 out of 267.
By comparison, Wellington Secondary in Nanaimo (147th out of
267) has an average income of $59,600; Elphinstone in Gibsons
is ranked 162nd out of 267 despite having an average income of
$85,900, South Peace Secondary in Dawson Creek (204th out of
267) has an average income of $67,700, and Columneetza in
Williams Lake (229th out of 267) has an average income of
But even within communities, there are differences in
schools with similar characteristics. Alpha Secondary (204th
out of 267) in Burnaby has a similar average income but fails
to match the performance of Burnaby North (78th out of 267).
Terry Fox in Coquitlam (136th out of 267) does not match the
performance of Pinetree (45th out of 267) despite having a
higher average income ($68,000 to $59,300).
Cowley points out that in Alberta, rural secondary schools
are among the best performing schools compared to their urban
counterparts, with almost half of the 50 highest performing
schools coming from rural communities.
"In Alberta, attending a rural school can be an advantage.
But here in BC, rural schools appear to be at a disadvantage
compared to schools in urban areas."