BUFFALO, N.Y. ( Business First ) The streak began when Ann Fuqua was in charge, continued during Howard Smith's seven-year tenure, and is still going strong under Scott Martzloff.
The Williamsville Central School District has occupied first place for nine straight years (under three different superintendents) in Business First's annual rankings of Western New York's public school systems.
This year's No. 1 finish is the 12th for Williamsville since the rankings
were launched in 1992. No other district has been first more than five
"We have a tremendous team effort here," says Martzloff, who assumed the superintendent's post after Smith's retirement last summer. "We have terrific students, teachers and administrators, and a community that really values education. It's ideal."
Full details will be available in Business First's 2012-2013 Guide to
Western New York Schools, which hits newsstands tomorrow (Friday).
Highlights are also available right now (Thursday) at the newspaper's
Williamsville's eastern neighbor, Clarence, has extended its own streak by holding onto second place for the ninth year in a row. Clarence dominated the rankings between 1998 and 2003 -- finishing No. 1 five times out of six -- before settling into the No. 2 slot in 2004.
The challenge, says the district's new superintendent, Geoffrey Hicks, is to avoid complacency.
"Clarence has a culture of continuous improvement," says Hicks, who
replaced the retiring Thomas Coseo last year. "It's true the students are high-performing, but it's also true that people here are not satisfied with staying at the same level. Expectations are high."
Rounding out the top five in this year's academic standings are East
Aurora, Orchard Park and Amherst.
Business First rated 97 public school districts in the eight-county region, using four years of test data compiled by the New York State Education Department. Each district was scored on a 100-point scale, reflecting the collective performance of its elementary, middle and high schools. (The region's 98th district, Wyoming, was not rated since it does not extend beyond eighth grade.)
Williamsville retained its grip on first place because of its wide array of
-- It ranks as Western New York's best district in three subject areas
(English/foreign languages, mathematics and social studies), according to Business First's analysis of 2008-2011 test scores from fourth grade through the senior year of high school.
-- Sixty-five percent of last year's graduates from Williamsville's three
public high schools earned Regents diplomas with advanced designations. The corresponding figure for the entire region was 42 percent. (A student must pass eight Regents exams to receive an advanced diploma.)
-- It's the only district where more than half of 2011's test-takers had
superior scores on Regents exams in English, algebra, geometry, global history, U.S. history, biology and earth science. (Superior on a Regents test is defined as a score of 85 or better.)
-- Williamsville's seventh and eighth graders posted the region's best
marks on their respective statewide tests, based on the percentage of
students with superior scores. And its fourth and eighth graders both ranked among the top three districts in English. (Superior on an elementary or middle school exam is defined as a Level 4 score.)
Martzloff says his staff keeps a close eye on nine top-flight districts
across the state -- including Clarence, Pittsford and Brighton -- to make sure that Williamsville remains competitive.
"No matter how good we are, we can always do better," he says. "We can always try to expose more students to a more stringent curriculum."
Business First adjusted Williamsville's raw score to 100 points, and then calculated the scores for all other districts off of that benchmark.
Nineteen districts finished above 90 points, thereby qualifying for the 2012 Honor Roll of outstanding school systems.
Eighteen of this year's honorees also made the elite list in 2011. The sole newcomer is No. 19 Southwestern, a Chautauqua County district that returns after a one-year absence. Southwestern had previously been on the Honor Roll from 2008 to 2010.
"I'm not running a manufacturing plant here, so I can't point to some new process or new machine as the reason," says Southwestern's superintendent, Daniel George, when asked for the secret to his district's success. "Education is a people-intensive business. It's all about people, and I think we've put together an excellent staff that does a great job."
Eden is the only 2011 Honor Roll district to drop off the list this year,
slipping from 19th place a year ago to 20th this time. Eden's score of 89.31 leaves it just 0.69 points below the Honor Roll threshold. Five other districts came within two points of qualifying: Starpoint, Chautauqua Lake, Pembroke, Niagara-Wheatfield and Wilson.
Fourteen of this year's Honor Roll districts are located in Erie County.
The highest-rated exception is Lewiston-Porter of Niagara County, which vaults from 10th place in 2011 to sixth place now.
"We've developed a good synergy here between students, teachers and administrators," says Chris Roser, Lewiston-Porter's superintendent. "That's what makes us move forward. Collaboration and cooperation have become the strength of this school district, which is why we keep climbing, keep going up."
Other outlying districts on the Honor Roll are Bemus Point and Southwestern from Chautauqua County, Alfred-Almond from Allegany County and Barker from Niagara County.
Fifteen school systems have divided this year's subject awards, which honor the 10 best districts in the four core subjects of English/foreign languages, math, science and social studies.
Bemus Point, East Aurora, Orchard Park and Williamsville have pulled clean sweeps, winning subject awards in all four fields.
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BUSINESS FIRST'S SCHOOL DISTRICT RANKINGS
(EACH DISTRICT IS FOLLOWED BY ITS COUNTY)
HONOR ROLL DISTRICTS:
1. Williamsville (Erie County)
2. Clarence (Erie County)
3. East Aurora (Erie County)
4. Orchard Park (Erie County)
5. Amherst (Erie County)
6. Lewiston-Porter (Niagara County)
7. Bemus Point (Chautauqua County)
8. Alfred-Almond (Allegany County)
9. Grand Island (Erie County)
10. Iroquois (Erie County)
11. Alden (Erie County)
12. Hamburg (Erie County)
13. Lancaster (Erie County)
14. Akron (Erie County)
15. West Seneca (Erie County)
16. Barker (Niagara County)
17. Holland (Erie County)
18. Frontier (Erie County)
19. Southwestern (Chautauqua County)
20. Eden (Erie County)
21. Starpoint (Niagara County)
22. Chautauqua Lake (Chautauqua County)
23. Pembroke (Genesee County)
24. Niagara-Wheatfield (Niagara County)
25. Wilson (Niagara County)
26. Springville-Griffith Institute (Erie County)
27. Fredonia (Chautauqua County)
28. Westfield (Chautauqua County)
29. Depew (Erie County)
30. LeRoy (Genesee County)
31. Sweet Home (Erie County)
32. Pavilion (Genesee County)
33. Ellicottville (Cattaraugus County)
34. West Valley (Cattaraugus County)
35. North Collins (Erie County)
36. Sherman (Chautauqua County)
37. Allegany-Limestone (Cattaraugus County)
38. Oakfield-Alabama (Genesee County)
39. Elba (Genesee County)
40. Tonawanda (Erie County)
41. Newfane (Niagara County)
42. Clymer (Chautauqua County)
43. Alexander (Genesee County)
44. Attica (Wyoming County)
45. Letchworth (Wyoming County)
46. Byron-Bergen (Genesee County)
47. Cheektowaga-Maryvale (Erie County)
48. Kenmore-Tonawanda (Erie County)
49. Albion (Orleans County)
50. Cuba-Rushford (Allegany County)
51. Lyndonville (Orleans County)
52. Pine Valley (Chautauqua County)
53. Batavia (Genesee County)
54. Frewsburg (Chautauqua County)
55. Cleveland Hill (Erie County)
56. North Tonawanda (Niagara County)
57. Perry (Wyoming County)
58. Kendall (Orleans County)
59. Lockport (Niagara County)
60. Portville (Cattaraugus County)
61. Bolivar-Richburg (Allegany County)
62. Royalton-Hartland (Niagara County)
63. Evans-Brant (Erie County)
64. Panama (Chautauqua County)
65. Warsaw (Wyoming County)
66. Falconer (Chautauqua County)
67. Yorkshire-Pioneer (Cattaraugus County)
68. Cheektowaga-Sloan (Erie County)
69. Cassadaga Valley (Chautauqua County)
70. Fillmore (Allegany County)
71. Olean (Cattaraugus County)
72. Medina (Orleans County)
73. Belfast (Allegany County)
74. Randolph (Cattaraugus County)
75. Wellsville (Allegany County)
76. Silver Creek (Chautauqua County)
77. Whitesville (Allegany County)
78. Gowanda (Cattaraugus County)
79. Cattaraugus-Little Valley (Cattaraugus County)
80. Cheektowaga (Erie County)
81. Genesee Valley (Allegany County)
82. Ripley (Chautauqua County)
83. Brocton (Chautauqua County)
84. Franklinville (Cattaraugus County)
85. Andover (Allegany County)
86. Scio (Allegany County)
87. Jamestown (Chautauqua County)
88. Hinsdale (Cattaraugus County)
89. Holley (Orleans County)
90. Forestville (Chautauqua County)
91. Friendship (Allegany County)
92. Niagara Falls (Niagara County)
93. Salamanca (Cattaraugus County)
94. Canaseraga (Allegany County)
95. Dunkirk (Chautauqua County)
96. Lackawanna (Erie County)
97. Buffalo (Erie County)