Business First Middle School Rankings

June 12, 2013 Updated Jun 12, 2013 at 8:02 AM EDT

By WKBW Admin

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Business First Middle School Rankings

June 12, 2013 Updated Jun 12, 2013 at 8:02 AM EDT

The streak continues at Williamsville's Transit Middle School, which
remains No. 1 in Business First's rankings of Western New York middle
schools.

This marks the fifth straight year that Transit has occupied first place --
and the eighth time it has led the pack in a dozen years.

The rankings, which are based on four years of statewide test data, cover
208 middle schools in the eight-county region.

Full details will be available in Business First's 2013-2014 Guide to
Western New York Schools, which hits newsstands on Friday. Highlights are
also available right now at the newspaper's website:
www.bizjournals.com .

"We're obviously proud of our continued success, of how well our students
do on those state assessments. It's a good indicator that our compass is
pointed in the right direction," says Daniel Walh, Transit's principal.

"But it's not just about the tests. The other 175 days of the school year
matter just as much, maybe even more. Everybody here is working to make sure
that our students receive a rich educational experience, not only in the
classroom, but also in the arts, music and physical activity. The whole
experience matters."

Buffalo's City Honors School is the runner-up in this year's middle school
standings, just as it was a year ago. (City Honors, which runs from fifth
through 12th grade, is rated both as a middle school and a high school.)

Principal William Kresse says City Honors' students benefit from an
accelerated curriculum, as well as the ambitious standards set by their
teachers and parents.

"We have a group of very talented students who come to us," he says. "All
of their families, no matter their backgrounds, have the highest
expectations for their success."

This year's leaders have been dominant since the middle school rankings
debuted in 2002. Transit has been No. 1 eight times over that span, while
City Honors has finished first three times. The only other middle school to
rank first was Williamsville's Casey Middle School in 2008.

Right behind Transit and City Honors in this year's standings are two
private schools, Lewiston-Porter's Stella Niagara Education Park in third
place and Williamsville's St. Gregory the Great School in fourth.

Stella Niagara is the only newcomer to the top 10 this year, pushing up
from 13th place a year ago. The school has a relatively small enrollment of
175 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

"We call it the Stella advantage," says Kristen deGuehery, the school's
director of institutional advancement. "We have a strong core curriculum,
and the class sizes are small. And we also take a holistic approach --
tapping into extra things like the performing arts and physical fitness."

Business First analyzed the records of 208 middle schools across Western
New York, combing through four years of statewide test results for seventh
and eighth graders. All test scores were provided by the New York State
Education Department.

Middle schools typically run from sixth through eighth grade, though some
include younger students. Most private schools and several public schools
cover an even broader arc from kindergarten through eighth grade. They
consequently receive two rankings from Business First -- one as an
elementary school, another as a middle school.

Transit earned first place on this year's middle school list because of its
well-rounded excellence:

-- It's one of four Western New York schools where more than 9 percent of
seventh and eighth graders earned superior scores (Level 4) on last year's
statewide English tests.

-- It's one of five schools where at least half of seventh and eighth
graders hit the superior level on statewide math tests. (Students typically
score higher in math than in English on the state exams.)

-- It's the only school to be a member of both of the previous groups.

Walh credits his faculty with maintaining this balance by pursuing
excellence on all academic fronts.

"Our teachers hold our students to high standards, but they push
themselves, too," he says. "They can be their own biggest critics
sometimes."

Erie County dominates the middle school rankings, filling 22 of the top 25
slots.

The exceptions are three entries from Niagara County: No. 3 Stella Niagara,
No. 8 St. Peter School of Lewiston-Porter and No. 12 Holy Ghost Lutheran
School of Niagara-Wheatfield.

Business First has also generated separate rankings of all middle schools
in math and English, based on a detailed analysis of 2009-2012 test data.
Transit is No. 1 in math (and No. 3 in English), while St. Peter is the
leader in English.

Subject awards are given to the top 10 percent of all middle schools in
English and math. Eleven schools hold awards in both subjects this year,
while another 20 schools have a single award apiece.

Among this year's double award winners is St. Benedict's School of Amherst,
which shot up from 59th place a year ago to 14th in the current standings.
That's the sharpest rise by any middle school in the region.

Principal Molly Halady attributes the upswing to her school's emphasis on
the fundamentals.

"Our philosophy is that we don't teach to the test," she says. "We give our
kids the tools they need in their toolbox to do well on any assessment, not
just the state tests."

Private schools that don't participate in the statewide testing program for
seventh or eighth graders are not included in Business First's rankings,
since their performances can't be measured against objective benchmarks.

Among the better-known middle schools that don't take part are Elmwood
Franklin School, Nichols School and Park School of Buffalo.

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TOP 20 MIDDLE SCHOOLS IN BUSINESS FIRST'S RANKINGS

1. Transit MS (Williamsville)
2. City Honors School (Buffalo)
3. Stella Niagara Education Park (Lewiston-Porter)
4. St. Gregory the Great School (Williamsville)
5. Casey MS (Williamsville)
6. St. Mark's School (Buffalo)
7. St. Christopher's School (Sweet Home)
8. St. Peter School (Lewiston-Porter)
9. Heim MS (Williamsville)
10. Mill MS (Williamsville)
11. St. John the Baptist School (Alden)
12. Holy Ghost Lutheran School (Niagara-Wheatfield)
13. East Aurora MS (East Aurora)
14. St. Benedict's School (Amherst)
15. St. John the Baptist School (Kenmore-Tonawanda)
16. Nardin Academy ES (Buffalo)
17. Christian Central Academy (Williamsville)
18. St. John Vianney School (Orchard Park)
19. Amherst MS (Amherst)
20. Clarence MS (Clarence)