Nanaimo school district explains test data discrepancies

NANAIMO – School district Superintendent Dave Hutchinson said pro-rated test results were used when considering closure.

The Nanaimo school district didn’t misrepresent Foundation Skills Assessment test numbers when considering the closure of Cedar Community Secondary School, according to superintendent Dave Hutchinson.

Hutchinson and school trustees have been under fire from the Save Cedar Schools Coalition for the school’s closure, part of the district’s 10-year facilities plan. Differences between district numbers and those from the Ministry of Education were part of a coalition argument against closure, something the superintendent addressed at a meeting last week.

Ministry test results for 2013 pointed to 65 per cent of Grade 7 students in B.C. meeting writing skills expectations, with 67 per cent of school district students meeting expectations; the district said 79 per cent of provincial students met expectations while 74 per cent of district students met expectations. Students performing below the provincial average was cited in the proposed plan to consolidate schools.

“What we’ve done as a district historically – and this started to happen before my time and that’s why there’s a difference in the proration of the scores across the various categories – [is] we focus only on the students who took the test. We don’t calculate any of the students who did not do the test,” Hutchinson said.

The superintendent said school district students on average are not yet meeting curricular outcomes compared to the provincial average in Grade 4 and 7, when the tests are taken, adding that it was particularly noticeable in terms of numeracy.

Another concern of the coalition centred around safety, as some Cedar students will be going to John Barsby Community School, which is in proximity of the Colliery dams and it is thought there could be loss of life if the dams fail.

“We reassure people in our report and will continue to do so, that we are working with the City of Nanaimo to make sure that we work with them for short-term and long-term mitigation projects and that we have a really good emergency response plan in place,” Hutchinson said.

The superintendent also addressed optimal school size guidelines, operational costs and savings, capital costs, plan consultation timelines and alternate proposals at the meeting and his report can be found at the school district website at www.sd68.bc.ca.

Save Cedar Schools Coalition spokesperson Steve Rae said his group is not done fighting and will be sending a letter to Hutchinson, Premier Christy Clark, Education Minister Peter Fassbender, the board of trustees and media in response to the report.