BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - The Williamsville Central School District finds itself in aposition that is definitely familiar, yet never grows old.
Williamsville is No. 1 in Business First's 18th annual rankingsof Western New York's public school systems. It has monopolizedfirst place since 2004 -- a six-year streak.
"We're fortunate in so many ways," says Howard Smith,Williamsville's superintendent of schools. "When you have a verycommitted board of education, an outstanding staff of teachers andadministrators, a pro-education community and hard-workingstudents, that's quite the formula for success."
Full details will be available in Business First's 2009-10 Guideto Western New York Schools, which hits newsstands today (Friday).Highlights are also available at the newspaper's website:buffalo.bizjournals.com.
Williamsville took first place when the rankings debuted in1992, and won again in 1997, 2001 and throughout its 2004-2009 run.It hasn't finished lower than third place since 1995, and has neverbeen lower than sixth.
Business First analyzed 97 school districts in the eight WesternNew York counties, based on four years of test data compiled by theNew York State Education Department. Each district's ratingreflects the collective performance of its public elementary,middle and high schools.
Williamsville sets the pace with a broad record of academicexcellence:
- Its 2005-2008 subject scores for math, science and socialstudies were the best in Western New York, according to BusinessFirst's analysis of test results from fourth grade through thesenior year of high school.
- Sixty-five percent of Williamsville's seniors earned Regentsdiplomas with advanced designations in 2008. That's 22 points abovethe regional average of 43 percent. (A student must pass eightRegents exams to receive an advanced diploma.)
- It's the only district where more than 57 percent of lastyear's graduates achieved superior scores (85 or better) on Regentsexams in English, math, science, global history and U.S.history.
- Williamsville's eighth graders posted the region's top scoreson statewide tests in English, math, science and socialstudies.
"The other part of what we do -- all our extracurricularactivities such as music, athletics and clubs -- don't show up inthe rankings, but they have a really positive impact on studentachievement, too," says Smith. "For example, we have as many musicteachers as math teachers. That makes for well-rounded, committedstudents, and those are usually successful students."
Williamsville's overall score was pegged at 100 points, with themarks for all other districts being calculated from that benchmark.Nineteen ended up with scores of 90 or better, qualifying forBusiness First's Honor Roll of outstanding school systems.
Four districts have made the Honor Roll every year since 1992:
Williamsville, Clarence (which ranks second this year),Amherst (third) and Orchard Park (fifth). Rounding out this year'stop five is No. 4 East Aurora, which has made 17 Honor Rollappearances in 18 years.
All but two of this year's Honor Roll districts also qualified ayear ago.
The newcomers are Eden, joining the elite group for the firsttime since 2005, and West Seneca, returning after a 13-yearabsence.
The latter upswing was nearly a decade in the making, accordingto Jean Kovach, superintendent of the West Seneca Central SchoolDistrict.
Developing consistent instructional techniques andidentifying the best textbooks took time, she says, but the effortis paying off.
"Our goal is not to teach to the test, but to teach to thestate's standards," Kovach says. "We've spent the last eight yearsworking diligently to align our curriculum -- to make sure that wedon't repeat ourselves in different years and that each grade levelbuilds on the one before."
Fourteen of this year's Honor Roll districts are in Erie County.They range in size from Williamsville, with 10,649 students, downto Eden, which has 1,688.
The outlying honorees are considerably smaller, with an averageenrollment of 1,346. The very smallest is also the top-rateddistrict outside of Erie County, No. 6 Alfred-Almond, which has 670students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
"We're a very rural district in the Southern Tier, but our kidsare going into the same marketplace as everyone else," says RichardNicol, Alfred-Almond's superintendent. "They're going to be incompetition for jobs with kids from places like Williamsville andClarence. So they need the very best education we can givethem."
Sixteen districts are recipients of this year's subject awards,signifying that they rank among the 10 leaders in English/foreignlanguages, math, science and social studies. Bemus Point, Clarence,East Aurora, Orchard Park and Williamsville have made clean sweepsby winning all four awards.
Business First has also generated a series of specializedratings to further illuminate each district's performance. Amongthem: Lancaster ranks first for cost-effectiveness, based on acomparison of expenditures and classroom results. And tiny Sherman(enrollment: 478) is the biggest overachiever, determined bymatching academic outcomes against socioeconomic conditions.
"We may not be rich, but we have strong family values," saysThomas Schmidt, Sherman's superintendent. "Our parents really careabout their children's education. There's something to be said forhaving everyone in a K-12 building, with the strong sense ofcommunity that it brings."
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