South Okanagan schools slide in rankings

Four of five high schools in the South Okanagan saw declines in student performance last year, according to fresh rankings from the Fraser Institute.

The think tank’s annual report card placed Princess Margaret Secondary at No. 102 in a B.C.-wide field of 293 public and private institutions, making it the top-ranked high school in the region during 2012-13.

Penticton and South Okanagan secondaries tied at No. 106, while Summerland was next at No. 125.

Osoyoos was ranked lowest at No. 169.

Each of the schools slid between eight and 21 spots in the rankings, except for Summerland, which improved by 23 places.

Rankings for each school are based on a combination of statistical measures, such as graduation rate and percentage of exams failed, to calculate a total score out of 10.

Summerland Secondary’s improvement was helped along by a reported graduation rate of 100 per cent and a reduction in the percentage of provincial exams failed.

Peter Cowley, who led the project for the Fraser Institute, said that with the exception of Summerland, schools in the South Okanagan have little to brag about.

“Almost all of them are middle of the pack … but there’s no improvement,” he said.

“And for parents at each of these schools, they’ve got to be asking: Can and should our kids do better?

“They should be talking to the principal and saying: What is your improvement plan?

“When do you think it will be reflected in better results and how can we help you achieve it?”

Penticton Secondary principal Alan Stel said his school’s improvement plan is posted online and constructed by a council of parents, students and teachers whose focus is on increasing performance in ways that are sometimes hard to measure.

Last year’s plan was aimed at jacking up attendance rates, while this year it shifted to helping students make connections and feel like they belong, “all with the intent of improving achievement,” he explained.

“There’s always room for improvement,” Stel continued, “and that’s what we’re looking at with the school planning council.”

He acknowledged the Fraser Institute rankings are rooted in good statistics, but said the numbers don’t receive a lot of scrutiny from principals because they don’t tell the whole story.

“It really doesn’t give us the indicators as to why we’re not, maybe, achieving,” Stel explained.

Principals from Princess Margaret and Summerland secondaries didn’t respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Vancouver private schools York House and Crofton House were tied atop the Fraser Institute rankings for a second straight year.

The top-ranked public school in the Southern Interior was Kelowna’s Okanagan-Mission at No. 34.

Full results for each school are available online at


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