There has been a changing of the guard in Business First's academic rankings of Western New York's elementary schools.
Clarence's Ledgeview Elementary School has attained first place, making its first appearance at the top of the regional standings. Principal Keith Kuwik says a wide range of people deserve credit.
"Our teachers are phenomenal," he says. "The time they put in is incredible. That, in and of itself, makes a huge difference. And the community is very involved, very supportive."
Full details will be available in Business First's 2012-2013 Guide to Western New York Schools, which hits newsstands on Friday. Highlights are also available right now (Monday) at the newspaper's website:
Ledgeview has hovered close to first place ever since Business First's separate rankings of public and private elementary schools were consolidated in 2007. It finished eighth that year, then bounced from fourth to sixth to
fifth on the three subsequent lists. It climbed to second place a year ago.
Business First graded 278 elementary schools in the eight counties of Western New York, based on four years of test data from the New York State Education Department.
The rankings cover every school that participates in the statewide testing program for fourth graders. (The threshold will drop to third graders in 2013.)
Ledgeview's strength in core subjects enabled it to reach the No. 1 position overall:
-- It's the region's top-performing elementary school in mathematics, according to Business First's breakdown of standardized test data from 2008 to 2011.
-- It was one of just two Western New York schools where more than 30 percent of third graders and 60 percent of fourth graders achieved superior scores on 2011's statewide math tests. The other was Elmwood Village Charter School of Buffalo. (Superior is defined as a Level 4 score on any elementary school test.)
-- And Ledgeview ranks fifth among all 278 schools in English. Nardin Academy Elementary School of Buffalo holds first place in that subject.
Kuwik says proficiency in English (commonly known to educators as English language arts or ELA) is the key to success in the early grades. Students who develop solid communication skills, he says, will blossom in other
subjects as well.
-- ELA affects math. It affects everything," says Kuwik. "There is so much reading and writing on every test, even in math. It all comes back to English."
Second place on this year's list belongs to St. Gregory the Great School, a Catholic school in the Williamsville district. It has been surging upward in recent years, rising from 12th place in 2010 to sixth a year ago and now to the runner-up position.
Principal Patricia Freund says St. Gregory is making a determined effort to elevate its test results in both core subjects. It currently ranks second among all elementary schools in math, sixth in English.
"We consistently use test scores to drive our instruction," says Freund. "If we note a deficit area in the test results, we specifically address that problem without taking away from the other aspects of our curriculum."
The No. 1 elementary school the past two years, Southern Tier Catholic School of Olean, drops slightly to third place this year.
Southern Tier Catholic was the first school outside of Erie County to hold first place in any category of Business First's rankings -- and it remains the sole elementary school from the seven outlying counties to qualify for
the top 10.
"Our faculty is fantastic," says Tom McGlinn, the new principal at Southern Tier Catholic. "They come in early, they work through lunch, they stay late. It's all about helping kids succeed, and it shows in the test scores."
Rounding out the top five are Country Parkway Elementary School of Williamsville and Christ the King School of Amherst.
Forty-two schools are recipients of subject awards, which are given to the top 10 percent of all Western New York elementary schools in English or math. Twenty-eight honorees have earned a single award, while 14 have
reached the elite level in both subjects.
Among the double winners are all of the top 10 schools in the overall standings, including Orchard Park's South Davis Elementary School, which is 10th.
"One of the best things I can say about education in Orchard Park -- and it doesn't matter which elementary school I'm talking about -- is that we have a sound team approach," says Christine Rassow, the principal at South Davis. "We have outstanding teachers, instructional leaders who truly excel and an administrative team that works together."
Private schools that don't take part in the statewide testing program are not included in Business First's rankings, since their performances can't be assessed objectively. Two of the better-known elementary schools that don't participate are Elmwood Franklin School and Park School of Buffalo.
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TOP 100 ELEMENTARY 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. Ledgeview ES (Clarence)
2. St. Gregory the Great School (Williamsville)
3. Southern Tier Catholic School (Olean)
4. Country Parkway ES (Williamsville)
5. Christ the King School (Amherst)
6. Nardin Academy ES (Buffalo)
7. Maple East ES (Williamsville)
8. St. John Vianney School (Orchard Park)
9. Smallwood Drive School (Amherst)
10. South Davis ES (Orchard Park)
11. Sherman ES (Sherman)
12. Elmwood Village CS (Buffalo)
13. Sheridan Hill ES (Clarence)
14. Christian Central Academy (Williamsville)
15. Maple West ES (Williamsville)
16. Charlotte Avenue ES (Hamburg)
17. P.S. 64 Frederick Law Olmsted (Buffalo)
18. Eggert Road ES (Orchard Park)
19. Charles A. Lindbergh ES (Kenmore-Tonawanda)
20. Big Tree ES (Frontier)
21. Tapestry CS (Buffalo)
22. Our Lady of Pompeii School (Lancaster)
23. Ellicottville ES (Ellicottville)
24. Harris Hill ES (Clarence)
25. St. Peter & Paul School (Williamsville)
26. St. Christopher's School (Sweet Home)
27. Heim ES (Williamsville)
28. Parkdale ES (East Aurora)
29. East ES (West Seneca)
30. St. Stephen School (Grand Island)
31. Forest ES (Williamsville)
32. St. Leo the Great School (Sweet Home)
33. St. Mary's School (Williamsville)
34. St. Aloysius Regional School (Springville-Griffith Institute)
35. West ES (West Seneca)
36. Ellicott Road ES (Orchard Park)
37. St. Peter's Lutheran School (Niagara-Wheatfield)
38. St. Mary's ES (Lancaster)
39. Errick Road ES (Niagara-Wheatfield)
40. Sheldon ES (Attica)
41. St. John Lutheran School (Niagara-Wheatfield)
42. Southtowns Catholic School (Frontier)
43. Dodge ES (Williamsville)
44. Prospect ES (Attica)
45. Pinehurst ES (Frontier)
46. St. Bernadette School (Orchard Park)
47. Armor ES (Hamburg)
48. St. Vincent DePaul School (Iroquois)
49. Byron-Bergen ES (Byron-Bergen)
50. Clinton ES (West Seneca)
51. Holy Ghost Lutheran School (Niagara-Wheatfield)
52. Holy Family School (LeRoy)
53. Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School (Clarence)
54. Alfred-Almond ES (Alfred-Almond)
55. Allendale ES (West Seneca)
56. Immaculate Conception School (East Aurora)
57. Kaegebein School (Grand Island)
58. Mullen ES (Tonawanda)
59. Clarence Center ES (Clarence)
60. Fletcher ES (Tonawanda)
61. Nativity of Our Lord School (Orchard Park)
62. St. Peter School (Lewiston-Porter)
63. Union Pleasant ES (Hamburg)
64. Pembroke IS (Pembroke)
65. Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament School (Lancaster)
66. Starpoint IS (Starpoint)
67. Immaculate Conception School (Wellsville)
68. Cayuga Heights ES (Depew)
69. St. Mark's School (Buffalo)
70. St. Benedict's School (Amherst)
71. William Street School (Lancaster)
72. Huth Road School (Grand Island)
73. Alexander ES (Alexander)
74. St. Andrew's Country Day School (Kenmore-Tonawanda)
75. Maplemere ES (Sweet Home)
76. St. Peter & Paul School (Hamburg)
77. Winchester ES (West Seneca)
78. Eden ES (Eden)
79. St. Francis of Assisi School (Tonawanda)
80. Iroquois IS (Iroquois)
81. Colden ES (Springville-Griffith Institute)
82. Alden PS (Alden)
83. Kadimah School of Buffalo (Amherst)
84. Thomas Marks ES (Wilson)
85. Southwestern ES (Southwestern)
86. P.S. 67 Discovery School (Buffalo)
87. Geraldine J. Mann School (Niagara Falls)
88. Queen of Heaven School (West Seneca)
89. Pratt ES (Barker)
90. Windom ES (Orchard Park)
91. Willow Ridge ES (Sweet Home)
92. Alexander Hamilton ES (Kenmore-Tonawanda)
93. Herbert Hoover ES (Kenmore-Tonawanda)
94. Meadow School (North Tonawanda)
95. Perry ES (Perry)
96. Maple Avenue School (Niagara Falls)
97. Northwood ES (West Seneca)
98. Wolcott Street School (LeRoy)
99. Notre Dame Academy (Buffalo)
100. Anna Merritt ES (Lockport)
ABBREVIATIONS: CS-Charter School, EMS-Elementary-Middle School,
ES-Elementary School, HS-High School, IS-Intermediate School, JHS-Junior
High School, JSHS-Junior-Senior High School, MHS-Middle-High School,
MS-Middle School, PS-Primary School, SHS-Senior High School, VHS-Vocational