Ok, real talk: We’re the first to admit that we’ve openly used the oh-so-coveted Fraser Institute Report Card to rank schools and, by extension, neighbourhoods in Burlington. For those of you who are interested, you can find all the info on our schools page. We realize there are many parents who take these scores very seriously and always will. But is this really the only way to judge a school? And should you base your next home purchase on whether the school got an 8.2 or a 7.4?
While the score for the school does tell you something about overall academic performance of the students, that score isn’t everything. It’s important to know that positioning your life and choosing where you’re going to live based on proximity to a high-ranking school could be a huge mistake.
You could be setting yourself up for the wrong living situation (ruling out a bunch of great neighbourhoods in Burlington), while setting your kids up for the wrong type of education.
Ok, ok. All faithful Fraser followers, please let me finish before you boo me off the stage.
The Fraser Ranking: Decoded
In a nutshell, the people at The Fraser Institute have devised
a ranking system based on the results of standardized tests (EQAO) in literacy (reading and writing) and mathematics. Kids in grade 3
and 6, then 9 and 12 are given one 2 hour test and everything hinges on their performance right there and then. No pressure kids! But do poorly and you could just devalue mommy and daddy’s house by 100k.
Kidding aside, these test results can be used effectively to improve student learning through initiatives such as:
-schools developing literacy and numeracy improvement plans
-boards providing extra resources to meet the needs of students
-giving parents tips and strategies to help their children at home
That said, many people criticize the ranking system for telling an incomplete story.
In fact, the biggest critics of the system have slammed it for being culturally biased and ignoring things like the number of impoverished, ESL or special needs students a school may have. School board trustees in Ottawa have even accused the system of “ghettoizing kids.”
However, homebuyers still put a lot of weight in this ranking. Why? Because, people like numbers. People trust numbers. Numbers are finite and reliable. And numbers are easily obtained.
When you’re looking for a home, your life is all about numbers; your credit score, your mortgage rate, and walkability scores. So, relying on a number to rank schools is just one more way to make the most informed choice about which home you want, right?
Looking Beyond the Numbers
Are bad schools really bad? Should you pay a premium for a home or give up comfort and function to get your kid into the “good school district?”
A ranking or algorithm can’t tell you what your children need.
Does the school have an after school program? Or will you have to make an arrangement for your children until you get home from work?
How effective is the parent council at raising extra funds for the school? This makes a real difference in the “extras” your kids will get.
How walkable is the school? Studies show that kids who walk to school are healthier, happier and get better grades!
Studies have also shown that there are many benefits to kids who participate in extracurricular activities after school, beyond the joy of the activity.
These benefits include:
-Improved academic performance
-Better time management skills
Does a Bad Ranking Mean a Bad School?
You will never convince everyone on the nuances of education. For some, academic scores will always be of paramount importance. But, there is value in looking beyond the numbers to see what a school really offers.
For example, Kings Road Public School in Burlington ranks last in the list of Burlington Elementary schools by an alarming margin. But, one of their dedicated teachers recently wrote me to explain how, “King’s Road is so much more than one test score.”
“We have top-notch teachers delivering excellent programming each and every day. We have a dedicated and supportive administrator who continuously goes out of his way to make sure students, parents and teachers work effectively together.
Our school has all the sports teams with great coaches (basketball, volleyball, cross country, and possibly even a soccer team soon). They even learn how to golf in the later grades! Do you want your child to be a leader? We have Student Voice U.N. Stewardship, Global Read Aloud, a STEM club, and chess club. Appreciate the Arts? We have a guitar club, a choir, and even a bell choir. If mornings are really busy for you we have a breakfast and healthy snack program.”
A client of ours with a child at the elementary school that presently ranks 39th in Burlington said she “couldn’t be happier” with the experience her child has had at Mohawk Public School. And she then went on to describe the “amazing outdoor education” program her son got to experience, where every Wednesday for the whole year his class spent the day visiting parks and conservation areas and learning outside.
Develop Your Own Ranking System
Some people will always value the academic results of a school above all else. But, should you pay a premium to be in the catchment area for the school ranked #1 according to EQAO scores? The answer is… it depends.
Ask yourself, what’s important to you? What’s important for your specific child? Do you want him or her in a sea of other more academically-driven kids? Or would they benefit from being amongst a more diverse population?
And find out more about a school that ranks “low” before you rule out the area entirely. Talk with parents who live in the area. As local realtors and moms, we can put you in touch with people who have an insider’s perspective. This is important to you and your child. More information is never a bad thing!
It’s also important to remember that Catholic schools often perform quite well on these tests, but also rarely have much of an ESL population. And students with special needs are more likely to be enrolled in a public school.
We Know Burlington’s Neighbourhoods an
d Burlington’s Schools
Proximity to good schools is always at the top of every family’s must-have list when looking for a new home. That’s why we specialize in helping families find the perfect home to suit their needs.
If the academic performance is a top priority for you, be aware. Catchment areas are tricky!
To help buyers in Burlington we have designed Maps that show you exactly where you need to live to go to one of Burlington’s highly ranked elementary schools.