The Ponoka News story of Nov. 18, entitled “Provincial tests results need explanation” is right on. What misses the mark completely is the analysis of statistics by reporter Jordie Dwyer that infer Ponoka schools are failing your students.
Comedian George Burns once quipped that we should all attempt to reach age 100 because few people died after age 100; like Dwyer’s analysis, true, but misleading in its inference. I moved to Central Alberta after working as a college educator and chairing the Greater St Albert School Board, so I know a little about education. One of the things that I know is that educators can improve their statistics by “cherry picking” students and it is done all the time, particularly in areas with known low performing communities. Our First Nation peoples are one such community where a large educational gap exists. According to a study by Dr. Eric Howe of the U of A, in 2006 in Alberta, over 45 per cent of First Nations youth failed to achieve a high school education as compared with 15 per cent for other groups, and education correlates closely with better jobs, reduced rates of criminality, fewer divorces, fewer family interventions, greater life satisfaction and even longevity.
A few Alberta schools are challenging that problem by allowing any and all students into their schools. In doing so, they have improved the First Nations student success rate by 11 per cent over a single decade and the numbers are improving yearly. So, the simple answer to the challenge that the Ponoka school results “need explanation” is this: Your educational leaders are prepared to accept diminished schools statistics (not performance) in order to give all young people a real chance at a future. I think it is regrettable that Superintendent Larry Jacobs failed to explain that, because in doing so, he has allowed that article to leave a negative public impression of your schools and their teachers and leaders.
In truth, the schools are better than most and the educational leadership should not be criticized, but commended for their integrity and foresight.