Students, teachers and administrators at Whistler Secondary School cheered on their peers at a ceremony April 10 to recognize students on the school honour roll, and those who scored more than 80 per cent in their provincial exams.
Principal Bev Oakley was inspired to hold the ceremony after parents pointed out to her that the school is constantly being recognized for producing great athletes, overshadowing the excellent academic and artistic work being done at the school.
Students like Emily Wharin, who scored 100 per cent on her Science 10 provincial exam, were recognized for their accomplishments.
Oakley said Wharin's perfect score is rare. Across the province, students often score that high on math exams but it's rare to have a Grade 10 student ace the provincial science test.
One hundred provincial science, English and math exams were written by Grade 10 students and of those exams written, 39 students scored 80 per cent or better. A total of 45 Grade 11 provincial exams were written and 12 students scored better than 79 per cent. In Grade 12 there were 40 exams written and five students got 80 per cent or better.
"You can see how much more difficult the exams get as you go up from grade to grade," said Oakley.
The students who wrote Apprenticeship Math exams scored, as a group, 11 per cent above the provincial average.
"We presented certificates to all that got 80 per cent or better on their provincial exam and then we honoured the honour roll folks as well," Oakely said.
A total of 137 students made it onto the honour roll out of 395 students enrolled at Whistler Secondary. Oakley pointed out that about 35 per cent of the school population made it onto the prestigious list.
The academic recognition event at the school comes on the heels of the Fraser Institute releasing its annual ranking of schools around the province. Whistler Secondary is ranked 72nd out of 293 schools, based on information from the 2012-13 school year. The school scored an overall rating of 7.2 out of 10 with a graduation rate of 97.8 per cent.
The overall Fraser Institute rating for Pemberton Secondary is 4.2 and the school is ranked 250th in B.C. The graduation rate at Pemberton Secondary last year was 90 per cent.
One thing working against Pemberton in the Fraser Institute rating system is the school's high percentage of students with special learning needs. Almost a quarter of the students in the school have special needs and 11 per cent of the students report that English isn't their first language. The special needs percentages at Howe Sound and Whistler are under 15, and the two southern schools have English as a second language numbers below three per cent.
Howe Sound Secondary School in Squamish is at No. 106 the Fraser Institute rankings and the overall rating for the school is 6.5. The graduation rate in Squamish was 99.4 per cent.
School District 48 Superintendent Lisa McCullough is critical of the annual rankings published by the Fraser Institute.
"It's an unethical ranking, and then it's ranking an achievement indicator that is archaic and does not show anything about what our kids need for the future anymore," said McCullough. "It doesn't consider any vulnerability or socio-economic factors."
She also noted that it doesn't reflect things like Pemberton's significant improvement in aboriginal graduation rates over the last few years.
"Our school district has the fastest improving aboriginal graduation rate average in the province," said McCullough.
She pointed to the district's northern-most high school as a shining example of a successful school that doesn't do well in the Fraser Institute ratings.
"Pemberton's rocking," McCullough said.