Its competitors may be edging closer, but Williamsville remains the No. 1 school district in Western New York.
This is the 11th straight year -- and the 14th time in 23 years -- that the Williamsville Central School District has occupied first place in Business First's rankings. No other district has topped the annual standings more than five times.
"There is an expectation that we will do well," says Scott Martzloff, Williamsville's superintendent. "We all hold ourselves as educators to very high standards, and our goal is to continue doing that."
WESTERN NEW YORK SCHOOL DISTRICT LINK:
• Top-to-bottom school district rankings.
• Slideshow of all 97 school districts.
• Profiles of all school districts.
• Subject awards for school districts.
• Explanation of how the ratings were done.
Runner-up East Aurora has ranked among the six best districts every year since 1997, but has never climbed all the way to first place. It's closer to that goal now than ever before, trailing Williamsville by just 0.18 points on Business First's 100-point rating scale.
"Our teachers, counselors and administrators work very well together," says Brian Russ, East Aurora's superintendent. "They're focused on creating quality programs, always pressing forward. And the community is on board. So we've got a lot of good things in place here, which really helps us succeed."
Third in this year's district standings is Clarence (itself only 0.59 points behind Williamsville). It's followed by Iroquois and Orchard Park.
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's rank reflects the collective performance of its elementary, middle and high schools. (The region's 98th district, Wyoming, was not rated because it did not operate a high school during the four-year period.)
Williamsville retained its hold on first place because of its broad range of academic achievements:
It is rated as Western New York's best district in mathematics, based on Business First's analysis of 2010-2013 test scores from third grade through the senior year of high school.
It also ranks among the top three districts in English/foreign languages, science and social studies. (Clarence leads the first two of those categories, while Lewiston-Porter is No. 1 in social studies.)
Sixty-eight percent of last year's graduates from Williamsville's three public high schools earned Regents diplomas with advanced designations. The only district to do better was Akron at 70 percent. (A student must pass eight Regents exams to receive an advanced diploma.)
It's one of three districts that had more than 40 percent of test-takers post superior scores on 2013 Regents exams in English, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, global history, U.S. history, biology and earth science. (Superior on a Regents test is defined as a score of 85 or better.) East Aurora and Clarence are the other members of that elite group.
"All students are able to learn, but it's up to us to figure out how they can learn best," says Williamsville's Martzloff. "The easiest road is not the best road for students to take. I'm really proud that our teachers and principals are focused on challenging our students, not letting them take that easy road."
Fourteen districts finished with ratings higher than 90 points, thereby qualifying for Business First's 2014 Honor Roll of outstanding school systems.
Thirteen of this year's honorees also made the list a year ago. The sole newcomer is No. 13 Starpoint, a Niagara County district that returns after a 16-year absence. Starpoint previously qualified for the Honor Roll in 1994, 1996 and 1997.
"Many years back, the expectation here was to pass and to graduate," says C. Douglas Whelan, Starpoint's superintendent. "So we had great passing levels and great graduation rates, but our mastery levels (superior scores) were not great. We made the decision to up our game and focus on mastery, and we're seeing results."
Southwestern and Alden are the only 2013 Honor Roll districts that fell from the list this year, though neither slipped very far below the 90-point threshold. Southwestern is 16th with a rating of 89.60 points, while Alden is 18th at 89.14. Five other districts came within two points of the Honor Roll: Frontier, Barker, Holland, Fredonia and Wilson.
Seventeen districts have divided this year's subject awards, which honor the 10 best school systems in the four core subjects of English/foreign languages, math, science and social studies.
Williamsville, East Aurora, Iroquois and Orchard Park have pulled clean sweeps, winning subject awards in all four fields.