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Three Cheers for Canadian Principal Who Stands for Principle

Susan Notes: Send this principal your kudos. People who stand for principle should be acknowledged.
Send the school $1, as a token of our admiration. Here's the address

Darlene Braeder
Lord Byng High School
3939 West 16th Ave
Vancouver, BC V6R 3C9

If you want to send e-mail kudos:

Lord Byng principal walks the talk, refuses to bite 'big carrot'

Awards are usually welcomed-especially when they're associated with money. But when Lord Byng principal Darlene Braeder learned the Fraser Institute, a right-wing think tank, had shortlisted the secondary school for a Garfield Weston award for excellence in education, she turned the honour down.

If the high school placed first in its category-overall academic excellence (non-selective enrollment schools)-it would have collected $3,000. Second and third place would have earned a $1,000 prize.

"So in these days of budget restrictions, that was a really big carrot," Braeder said.

But Lord Byng decided not to bite that carrot to send a message about the Fraser Institute's controversial rating system, which rates schools according to criteria including exam marks and graduation rates.

Critics of the ranking argue comparing schools from wealthy and poor neighbourhoods is unfair and that other factors aside from academic performance should be assessed when judging the quality of schools.

"We believe these awards are designed to give credibility to the Fraser Institute's report card but, as you have been informed on numerous occasions, educators, trustees, parents and students feel your survey instruments are seriously flawed," Braeder wrote to Peter Cowley, the Fraser Institute's director of school performances studies. "Limiting your assessment solely to academic achievement might have been appropriate 100 years ago but today's schools place great emphasis on preparing our students for productive and enriched lives in an increasingly complex world." Programs, she pointed out, are focused on social, emotional, aesthetic and intellectual development.

Lord Byng, at 3939 West 16th Ave. between Crown and Wallace streets, serves 1,200 students from West Point Grey and parts of Kitsilano and Dunbar. It also has international students and cross-boundary students, many of whom are involved in the school's arts program.

Although the high school has landed in the top 25 per cent of ranked schools since the report card's inception, in the past few years it's climbed to the top five per cent. In the most recent results, it placed 18th out of 279 with a score of 8.8 out of 10.

"According to their formula our success has been phenomenal in academics, and it has been. But as you know, the Fraser Institute doesn't go anywhere towards recognizing the entire school and all the components that go in to supporting and engaging children," Braeder said.

Cowley, who has co-authored the rankings since they were first issued in 1998, was surprised by Byng's decision, especially since it initially accepted the nomination.

"But the great thing about Canada is that everybody can have different ideas," he said.

Cowley questions Braeder's suggestion that many people find the survey flawed, pointing out the last report was downloaded 89,000 times in the last eight months.

Cowley said the awards are meant to identify and encourage schools that are doing exceptionally well, and provide an example that other institutions can learn from.

— Naoibh O\'Connor
Vancouver Courier


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