Business First High School Rankings:
NARDIN REMAINS NO. 1, BUT CITY HONORS CLOSES THE GAP
The outcome may be familiar, but the margin is tighter than ever.
Buffalo's Nardin Academy High School once again is No. 1 in Business
First's rankings of Western New York high schools. It has monopolized first
place since the separate ratings of private and public high schools were
consolidated in 2007.
"It's not something we talk about a lot," says Rebecca Reeder, principal of
the Catholic all-girls school. "It just seems to continue to happen. Our
students know they're going to be challenged and asked to produce good work.
We're fortunate that they're so motivated and driven to succeed."
Yet this year's gap between Nardin and the runner-up, City Honors School of
Buffalo, is just 0.51 points on Business First's 100-point scale. It's the
first time that Nardin's margin of victory has been less than a full point.
Full details will be available in Business First's 2013-2014 Guide to
Western New York Schools, which hits newsstands tomorrow (Friday).
Highlights are also available right now (Thursday) at the newspaper's
website: www.bizjournals.com .
Dozens of local high schools have elevated their academic standards, Reeder
says, which is making for a much more competitive environment.
"Overall, everybody is pushing their students to do well," she says.
"They're pushing them to take academically challenging classes, and I don't
know if that was as true at every school a few years ago. Certainly, parents
are more interested than ever in the tougher classes."
City Honors, which draws top-flight students from all corners of Buffalo,
has been Nardin's close rival ever since Business First added private
schools to its high school rankings in 2002.
Nardin topped the private school list from 2002 to 2006, while City Honors
was consistently No. 1 among public schools over the same five-year span.
Nardin began its long run atop the combined rankings in 2007, with City
Honors always among the five best schools, including three years in second
"We have a selective process of admitting students, no doubt about that,"
says William Kresse, the principal at City Honors. "But they far outperform
their socioeconomic backgrounds. That's partly because of our accelerated
requirements, and partly because of the hard work of everybody involved."
Rounding out this year's top five are Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart
(which is located in the Amherst district), East Aurora High School and
Williamsville East High School.
Business First analyzed 135 high schools in the eight-county region, using
four years of test data from the New York State Education Department. The
rating formula took each school's Regents diploma rate into account, as well
as its scores on a wide array of Regents exams.
Nardin repeated in first place because of its broad record of solid
-- Nearly 87 percent of its 2012 graduates earned Regents diplomas with
advanced designations, which are awarded to students who pass eight Regents
exams. Only three other Western New York schools exceeded 80 percent.
-- More than half of Nardin's students achieved superior scores on Regents
exams in English, geometry, global history, U.S. history and biology in
2012, the latest year for which results are available. Just seven other
schools matched that performance. (A superior score is defined as 85 or
-- Nardin is the only place where more than 90 percent of all test-takers
hit the superior level on the English and U.S. history exams.
But there are two signs that a few other schools are catching up.
Nardin usually posts the region's highest percentage of graduates with
advanced diplomas, but it was passed in 2012 by Sacred Heart (90.1 percent)
and City Honors (89.0 percent).
Sacred Heart moved up from third place in the previous year's rankings of
advanced diploma rates. Jennifer Demert, Sacred Heart's head of school,
attributes the improvement to an increase in instructional time for
upper-level math courses.
"We looked at the impediments for girls achieving that (advanced diploma),
and we worked to take the roadblocks out of the way," she says. "And the
girls are rising to the challenge."
One other school, Buffalo's Holy Angels Academy (88.9 percent), also
surpassed Nardin's advanced diploma rate of 86.6 percent. Holy Angels is
ticketed to close this summer because of declining enrollment, yet it
registered its strongest performance in half a decade, finishing ninth in
the overall standings.
The other indication of a tightening field can be seen in Business First's
subject rankings for mathematics, science, social studies and
English/foreign languages. City Honors is No. 1 in the first three fields,
based on an assessment of 2009-2012 test data, with Nardin in the No. 2
position each time. Nardin remains first in English/foreign languages, with
Sacred Heart as the runner-up.
The 10 high schools atop this year's standings are all located in Erie
County. No. 11 Maple Grove Junior-Senior High School of Bemus Point is the
top performer in the other seven counties.
"It's my last year, so what the heck, I'll just say the doggone principal
deserves all the credit," laughs Edward Turkasz, who is retiring after 13
years as Maple Grove's principal. "But seriously, it's all because of the
relationship between the students and the teachers. If you've got a good
relationship, the kids will work really hard for you, and that's what they
Twenty-five high schools are winners of subject awards, putting them among
the top 10 percent in the four academic fields that are separately rated.
Six schools have swept all four awards in English/foreign languages, math,
science and social studies: City Honors, East Aurora, Nardin, Sacred Heart,
Williamsville East and Williamsville North.
Two others -- Clarence and Mount St. Mary -- hold three of a possible four
Private schools are not required to administer Regents exams, and Buffalo
Seminary, Canisius High School, Nichols School and Park School of Buffalo
are among the few that don't. They have been excluded from the academic
rankings, since Business First lacks the necessary data to generate
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TOP 20 HIGH SCHOOLS IN BUSINESS FIRST'S RANKINGS
(EACH SCHOOL IS FOLLOWED BY THE DISTRICT IN WHICH IT'S LOCATED; SEE BOTTOM
OF PAGE FOR ABBREVIATIONS)
1. Nardin Academy HS (Buffalo)
2. City Honors School (Buffalo)
3. Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart (Amherst)
4. East Aurora HS (East Aurora)
5. Williamsville East HS (Williamsville)
6. Clarence SHS (Clarence)
7. Mount St. Mary Academy (Kenmore-Tonawanda)
8. Williamsville North HS (Williamsville)
9. Holy Angels Academy (Buffalo)
10. Christian Central Academy (Williamsville)
11. Maple Grove JSHS (Bemus Point)
12. St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute (Kenmore-Tonawanda)
13. Williamsville South HS (Williamsville)
14. Orchard Park HS (Orchard Park)
15. Lewiston-Porter SHS (Lewiston-Porter)
16. Iroquois SHS (Iroquois)
17. St. Francis HS (Frontier)
18. Notre Dame HS (Batavia)
19. Immaculata Academy (Frontier)
20. Lancaster HS (Lancaster)