Bountiful’s suspicious report cards

Chris Selley,

National Post

Friday, Feb. 11, 2011

‘The Fraser Institute released its controversial B.C. elementary school rankings today,” a TV news anchor intoned earlier this week, “and this year a school in the polygamous community of Bountiful topped the list. That’s giving opponents of the rankings more ammunition.”

The report continued with Susan Lambert, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, saying that “everyone who has anything to do, credibly, with the public education system, will tell you that the rankings are worthless.” (The thousands of parents who consult the rankings don’t count, as they should have realized by now.) “It’s just another example of how … meaningless the rankings are, and that we should pay no attention to them.”

And then the Fraser Institute’s Peter Cowley rebutted: “How is it possible that … a president of a teachers’ union can say, on the basis of the evidence that shows that [the school is] doing well, for one year, in reading, writing and math skills at Grades 4 and 7, we have to invalidate those results because of [the community’s religious] beliefs?”

And that was pretty much it. It was the line most media outlets took, and it was almost completely beside the point.

The Fraser Institute’s rankings are based on the publicly available results of the B.C. Ministry of Education’s foundational skills assessment test, and nothing else. All the Fraser Institute does is crunch the numbers and rank the schools. Complaining about the rankings instead of the test on which they’rebased– as Ms. Lambertdid– is like a Maple Leafs fan blaming the NHL for his 11th-place team missing the playoffs, instead of the team for not winning enough games to get to eighth.

The Teachers’ Federation hates the tests too, of course; it thinks the game’s rigged. Ms. Lambert might just as easily have railed against standardized testing. But here’s the thing: Bountiful Elementary students didn’t fare significantly better on this round of tests than they did in the previous two. (In fact, the Grade 4 reading test results are declining.) It’s just that nobody noticed the previous two years’ results because not enough students wrote the tests to be included in the Fraser Institute rankings. Same goes for the other school in

Bountiful, Mormon Hills, which also cracked the top 100.

So there’s nothing new here — just something most people didn’t know.

But now that we do know, let’s take a closer look at those top test results — which somehow have emerged from a Bountiful education system that is widely reported to be utterly dreadful.

If you look at the Bountiful Elementary-Secondary school student head-count published by the Ministry, you’ll notice an unmistakeable downward curve as age increases — especially among male students. In the current school year, there are 12 male students in Grade 8, seven in Grade 10 and two each in Grades 9 and 11. Few will ever graduate. At the B.C. Supreme Court reference case on Canada’s anti-polygamy law, ex-Bountiful resident Truman Oler said he’d never even heard of post-secondary education until he left.

Bountiful Elementary is well aware of the charges against it, to put it mildly. “The continual complaint that is raised year after year by opponents of our school … is that our students fare poorly on these standardized exams and are not properly educated enough to qualify for post-secondary education,” Principal Merrill Palmer writes on the school web-site. “The results speak for themselves.”

Do they? Bountiful is a community under siege. The B.C. Supreme Court is currently considering the legality of its very existence. It’s not inconceivable that these test results could be outright frauds.

As journalist Daphne Bramham has reported, the oversight of Bountiful’s two government-funded independent schools has been spotty and sometimes rather credulous — one report seemed to suggest Bountiful was a mainline Mormon community! — and it has yielded some disturbing results. A 2008 assessment of the Mormon Hills school found (in Bramham’s words) that “two of the five teachers didn’t have accreditation”; “criminal records checks had not been done on half the staff”; and “there was no way to tell what, if anything, the 14 students in Grades 8 and 9 were learning.”

The real story here, in other words, is part of a larger one: We desperately need to get a handle on what’s going on in Bountiful. Even if the courts strike down Canada’s anti-polygamy law, there will be a bright side: There will no longer be any excuse for politicians to hold their noses, nervously look the other way and hope for the best. If polygamists are just like any other group of Canadians, we can demand they behave as such.

  1. Someone should investigate why the Fraser institute put this loser school at the top of their rankings. These test scores have to be outright frauds as the lies by the FLDS are nonstop-shame on the Fraser institure for failing to detect this obvious chicanry. The Bountiful school even claims on their website that their studens score far higher than the BC average while making this ridiculous claim

    “Our most recent external evaluations were in 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2010. We had a program evaluation in 2007 and monitoring inspections in 2002, 2004, 2007, and 2010, (and scheduled for 2011) and two other unannounced visits from OIIS personnel during this time also. In addition to the frequency of these evaluations, they have usually been UNANNOUNCED as well. That makes a total of 11 inspections and follow up visits in less than 7 years, where most independent schools would have had only two or three in that same time frame.”

    These lies by the Bountiful school need to be stopped.

  2. Does anyone know if the classroom computers have been hooked up to the internet, yet? They were sited at one time for having a closed loop system with not outside information access. They ballyhoo about their technology computer lab but fail to allow access to the internet.

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