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Beyond the Rankings - What Truly Makes a Number One School
Gordon MacIntyre

The Fraser Institute released its annual BC Elementary Schools Report Card this week. Mulgrave was ranked number one for the third successive year. Although we are rated as the best in BC, we continue to find the process of ranking schools to be troubling, especially given the Fraser Institute's conceptually flawed and ill-conceived methodology.

I have written extensively about the blatant shortcomings of both the elementary and the secondary school rankings. Being ranked as the best in the province is flattering, but the truth is the Fraser Institute has no idea what really makes Mulgrave a number one school. They know nothing about us. What truly makes Mulgrave a number one school cannot be found in numbers, cannot be quantified, and cannot be computed with stats. Instead, the answer lies largely in three "Cs". The first "C" is for caring. At Mulgrave, the sense of caring for students at all ages is unique. It begins in the Early Learning Centre with the warmth and love our three- and four-year olds receive everyday so that they feel secure in order to learn, experiment, inquire and grow. It continues into the Junior School with a deep sense of pastoral care and up into the Middle School, where advisors and subject teachers know students individually and foster respectful, connected relationships. Finally, caring for students culminates in the Senior School, where teachers challenge students to stretch their intellects while exercising unconditional regard for their physical and social-emotional wellbeing. Modelling caring for students nourishes a culture of caring about others, a culture that provides the moral foundation for social good. While caring for tends to occur in tender moments of human interaction, caring about - people, places, animals, the environment - is unbound by time and place. At Mulgrave, a sense of caring for and about others is an essential component of being a number one school. The second "C" is about community. Community arises out of common purpose and a shared set of beliefs. It is the glue that binds parents, students, teachers and the school as a whole together. Its embodiment takes many forms - the school uniform, the traditions like Memory Lane and Junior School assemblies, the personalisation of student learning, the service learning trips, and the experiences of exhibiting art, singing in a choir, playing in a band, performing on stage, producing a film, debating and donning a Mulgrave jersey in athletic competition. When a family first joins Mulgrave, not only are the children joining a school community, but so, too, are the parents. Parents who share in common the value of a Mulgrave education, the commitment to support it, and the experiences that result from it share a common bond. A genuine sense of community is all too rare in schools, but it is a hallmark of Mulgrave. This is what contributes to being a top school. The third "C" is about curriculum. Mulgrave is a leading IB Continuum World School, one of the select few in North America practicing the Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma Programmes within a single-school context. The IB programmes represent the best educational platform and the only internationally recognised programmes at elementary, middle and secondary school levels. It is the context of IB at Mulgrave, however, that provides a real value-added difference in student learning. When you have supportive parents in combination with capable students, a team of world class teachers, a great educational framework and purpose-built facilities, you create the recipe for being a number one school. The Fraser Institute typically releases its Report Card on Secondary Schools in British Columbia and Yukon in the late spring. We anticipate that we will not be ranked at the top. This is due to the Fraser Institute's misuse of data and to our own focus as a school. Our focus is on maximising the student scores in the IB MYP and Diploma subjects and not on teaching to the requirements of the provincial exams. Despite this, our students still routinely score about 10 percent above the provincial and independent school averages. The provincial exams test a different range of knowledge and skills compared to the IB MYP and Diploma courses and drilling students to do well in them is a significant distractor to IB progress. Provincial exams have little to do with our end goals at Grade 12. We hope that parents understand this important context and that learning and schooling are far more complex that what can be summarised in a ranking. Regardless of the Fraser Institute, we will remain committed to our goal of continuous improvement as a school. We will be steadfast in our strategic direction and we will not lose sight of what truly makes us a number one school – the relationships, the sense of common purpose, the shared values, the great teachers, and the best educational programme on offer. Caring, community and curricular excellence, not numbers –these are the keys to excellence in learning. Gordon MacIntyre Deputy Head of School
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