BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - The No. 1 ranking among Western New York's middle schools hasresembled a revolving door in recent years.
Williamsville's Transit Middle School finished first in 2006.Buffalo's City Honors School pushed into the top spot in 2007. AndWilliamsville's Casey Middle School rotated to the front in2008.
Which brings us full circle. Transit has regained first placethis year, marking its fourth appearance at the head of the listsince Business First began rating middle schools in 2002.
"We're very proud of our record," says Jill Pellis, Transit'sprincipal. "It comes from a combination of things -- children whoare prepared and ready to learn, families who support education athome, and an outstanding staff of teachers who take their jobs veryseriously."
Full details will be available in Business First's 2009-10 Guideto Western New York Schools, which hits newsstands Friday.Highlights are also available at the newspaper's website:buffalo.bizjournals.com.
Last year's champion, Casey, is this year's runner-up. The twoWilliamsville schools, which are just three miles apart, annuallycontend for first place in the middle school rankings.
"But there's no competition between us, not at all," saysPellis. "My colleagues at Casey are wonderful. We all want our kidsto do well, and we were thrilled for them last year."
Ranked third through fifth, respectively, are Christ the KingSchool of Amherst, City Honors and Amherst Middle School.
Business First assessed 211 middle schools across Western NewYork, combing through four years of statewide test results foreighth graders. All test scores were provided by the New York StateEducation Department.
Middle schools typically run from sixth through eighth grade,though some begin in fifth grade. Many private schools and a fewpublic schools have an even broader span, educating everyone fromkindergartners to eighth graders.
They consequently receive two rankings from Business First --one as a middle school, another as an elementary school.
Transit earned first place on the middle school list with awell-balanced curriculum:
- It was one of four Western New York schools where more thanhalf of all eighth graders achieved superior scores (Level 4) onthe statewide math test in 2008.
- It was among four schools where more than 20 percent of eighthgraders hit the superior level on the statewide English test.
- It was one of just two schools to belong to both groups above.(The other was Kadimah School of Buffalo.)
Five of the top six middle schools are public institutions, withChrist the King the sole exception. A second Catholic school, St.Gregory the Great, has edged up to seventh place from ninth a yearago.
St. Gregory is unusually large for a private school, with 650students from preschool through middle school. Principal PatriciaFreund says the Williamsville school's size has helped it rise inthe rankings.
"It absolutely is an advantage," she says. "It allows us to havemore programming available, more to choose from. For example, wehave three classes at every grade, and we have a completespecial-education team, too."
The 11 leaders in the middle school standings are all in ErieCounty. The top-rated outsider is No. 12 Stella Niagara EducationPark, which is located within the Lewiston-Porter district inNiagara County, but draws from a radius that is considerablylarger.
"We actually have a pretty broad geographic base," says KristendeGuehery, the school's director of institutional advancement. "Wehave students from Lockport, Kenmore, Grand Island, even fivefamilies who come over from Canada. They went out and got theirNexus cards, and they make the drive every day."
Thirty-four middle schools have qualified for subject awards,putting them among the 10 percent of Western New York middleschools that rank the highest in English or math.
Ten schools have earned honors in both subjects. Among them areTransit, Casey and the six schools immediately behind them in theoverall standings.
Also sweeping a pair of subject awards is No. 11 Kadimah Schoolof Buffalo, which (despite its formal name) is located in theAmherst district. Kadimah was the top-rated school in its categoryin 2002 and 2003, back when Business First ranked private K-8schools separately. But it slipped to 47th place by 2007, when thecombined public-private rankings of middle schools debuted.
Joel Weiss, Kadimah's head of school, says the Jewish school hasemployed a simple strategy to rebound -- plenty of hard work byeveryone involved.
"If you send your child to Kadimah, it's a parental commitment,"he says. "If your child needs extra help, you have to be willing toprovide that extra help. At the same time, our teachers go aboveand beyond. We have teachers who work with students on Sunday atthe library. They work with them at all hours of the night."
Private schools that don't participate in the statewide testingprogram are not included in Business First's rankings, since theirperformances can't be measured against standardized benchmarks.Among the better-known middle schools that don't take part areElmwood Franklin School, Nichols School and Park School ofBuffalo.
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