How Business First Does the School Rankings

June 15, 2013 Updated Jun 15, 2013 at 9:49 AM EDT

By G. Scott Thomas, Projects Editor- Business First

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How Business First Does the School Rankings

June 15, 2013 Updated Jun 15, 2013 at 9:49 AM EDT

Business First issues annual academic ratings for school districts, high schools, middle schools and elementary schools, generating separate standings for Western New York and the Rochester Area in each of those four categories.

Western New York consists of Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties. The region is divided into 97 full-service school districts, as well as the Wyoming Central School District, which offers classes from kindergarten through eighth grade. (Wyoming is excluded from the district rankings because it doesn’t have a high school, though its middle and elementary schools are rated.)

The Rochester Area encompasses Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne and Yates counties. It is split into 67 school districts.

All of Business First’s rankings are based on the latest four years of test results and graduation rates available from the New York State Education Department.

The 2013 ratings have been generated from data for the period of 2009 through 2012.

The formulas detailed below make use of these statistics to calculate an annual score (on a 100-point scale) for each district or school. Annual scores for the past four years are then averaged according to a 4-3-2-1 ratio, with the most recent year being given the greatest weight.

Formulas have been adjusted over the years to meet changing conditions. This is the first time, for example, that results of French, Italian and Spanish tests are unavailable from the Education Department, which discontinued those Regents exams after the 2010-11 academic year. Foreign languages have consequently been eliminated from Business First’s formulas for school districts and high schools.

Annual scores for prior years continue to be based on the formulas that were then in use. Foreign language exams were factored into the scores for 2009, 2010 and 2011, which account for 60 percent of this year’s overall scores for districts and high schools.

Each component of each year’s formula is analyzed twice. Districts and schools are given one score for the percentage of students who demonstrated superior skills on a given test, and a second score for the percentage with basic skills.

Scores for each component are determined by comparing the results for a given district or school against the average for all districts or schools in its category. A given district’s percentage of superior results on the Regents geometry exam, for example, is compared to the average percentage of superior marks for all Western New York districts on the same test.

Superior on a Regents exam is defined as a score of 85 or better. Basic is defined as 65 or better.

Superior on an elementary or middle school exam is defined as a Level 4 score. Basic is defined as a Level 3 or Level 4 score.

SCHOOL DISTRICTS

District ratings reflect the collective performance of each district’s public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Ten percent of each district’s annual score is determined by the percentage of all graduates who received Regents diplomas, with extra emphasis on those who earned diplomas with advanced designations.

Another 50 percent is based on its high school students’ scores on Regents exams in 10 subjects: English, integrated algebra, geometry, algebra 2-trigonometry, earth science, living environment, chemistry, physics, global history and U.S. history.

The final 40 percent is based on 10 elementary and middle school tests: English and math for third, fourth, seventh and eighth graders, and science for fourth and eighth graders.

That means a total of 42 statistical indicators are analyzed to determine each district’s annual score -- two results per test, 20 tests per year, plus two Regents diploma rates. That equals 168 indicators over a four-year period.

If a district did not offer a specific Regents exam, or if fewer than five students took a given test, it was not included in Business First’s calculations. No penalty was assessed.

HIGH SCHOOLS

Business First rates all public and private high schools that participate in the Regents testing program.

Twenty percent of each school’s annual score is determined by the percentage of all graduates who received Regents diplomas, with extra emphasis on those who earned diplomas with advanced designations.

The other 80 percent is based on its students’ scores on Regents exams in 10 subjects: English, integrated algebra, geometry, algebra 2-trigonometry, earth science, living environment, chemistry, physics, global history and U.S. history.

That means a total of 22 statistical indicators are analyzed to determine each high school’s annual score -- two results per test, 10 tests per year, plus two Regents diploma rates. That equals 88 indicators over four years.

If a school did not offer a specific Regents exam, or if fewer than five students took a given test, it was not included in Business First’s calculations. No penalty was assessed.

Two types of high schools have not been rated:

1. Schools that have been open for less than two years, or that have not generated at least two years of test data.
2. Private schools that don’t participate in the statewide testing program.

MIDDLE SCHOOLS

Business First rates all public and private middle schools that participate in the statewide testing program for seventh and/or eighth graders.

Fifty percent of each school’s annual score is determined by its students’ scores on the statewide English tests for seventh and eighth graders.

The other 50 percent is based on the statewide math tests for seventh and eighth graders.

That means a total of eight statistical indicators are analyzed to determine each school’s annual score -- two results per test, four tests per year. That equals 32 indicators over a four-year period.

If a school did not offer a specific statewide test, or if fewer than five students took a given test, it was not included in Business First’s calculations. No penalty was assessed.

Two types of middle schools have not been rated:

1. Schools that have been open for less than two years, or that have not generated at least two years of test data.
2. Private schools that don’t participate in the statewide testing program.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

Business First rates all public and private elementary schools that participate in the statewide testing program for third and/or fourth graders.

Fifty percent of each school’s annual score is determined by its students’ scores on the statewide English tests for third and fourth graders.

The other 50 percent is based on the statewide math tests for third and fourth graders.

That means a total of eight statistical indicators are analyzed to determine each school’s annual score -- two results per test, four tests per year. That equals 32 indicators over a four-year period.

If a school did not offer a specific statewide test, or if fewer than five students took a given test, it was not included in Business First’s calculations. No penalty was assessed.

Three types of elementary schools have not been rated:

1. Schools that have been open for less than two years, or that have not generated at least two years of test data.
2. Elementary schools that don’t extend to third grade.
3. Private schools that don’t participate in the statewide testing program.

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