BUFFALO, NY (WKBW/BUSINESS FIRST) -- The faculty at Nardin Academy High School has good reason to feel satisfied with its work. But Rebecca Reeder insists the all-girls Catholic school has no intention of resting on its laurels.
"All of the teachers here look at their academic results on a regular basis," says Reeder, who is Nardin's principal. "We're shooting for as much mastery as possible, and there's always room for improvement."
Nardin, which is located in Buffalo, once again holds first place in Business First's annual rankings of Western New York's high schools. It has occupied the No. 1 position ever since the separate ratings of public and private schools were combined in 2007.
Full details will be available in Business First's 2010-2011 Guide to Western New York Schools, which hits newsstands tomorrow (Friday). Highlights are also available at the newspaper's website: buffalo.bizjournals.com.
A key reason for Nardin's preeminence is its unparalleled Regents diploma rate. Ninety-six percent of its 2009 graduates earned advanced designations, which are awarded to students who pass at least eight Regents exams. No other Western New York high school did better than 86 percent.
Reeder concedes that 100 percent is an obvious target, though she's not sure it will ever be reached.
"It's a goal to strive for," she says. "But we have students of varying abilities. Many are high achievers, but many others have to work very hard to do their best. So we'll work toward 100 percent -- it's always in the back of our minds -- but not at the expense of pushing students over the edge."
Business First analyzed the academic records of 133 high schools in the eight-county region, using four years of test results collected by the New York State Education Department.
Williamsville East High School ranks second in this year's standings, just as it did in 2008 and 2009.
"There's a lot of hard work going on here -- by teachers and parents, and don't forget the students," says Scott Taylor, Williamsville East's principal. "They're not only great test-takers, but they do well in the courses themselves. They work hard, and they really learn the material."
Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, an all-girls school in Amherst, ranks third this year. Rounding out the top five are a pair of public schools, Clarence Senior High School and Buffalo's City Honors School.
Business First not only rates the overall academic performances of the region's high schools, but also grades them in four core subjects, based on four years of test scores.
Nardin ranks first in English/foreign languages and social studies. It's a close runner-up in the other two subjects -- second behind Sacred Heart in mathematics, and third behind Batavia's Notre Dame High School and East Aurora High School in science.
Notre Dame has a second distinction besides being the regional leader in science. It's also the top-rated high school outside of Erie County, ranking ninth in this year's standings.
"There's no particular secret for our success," says Joseph Scanlan, Notre Dame's principal. "It's just old-fashioned high expectations and hard-working teachers -- the same in science as in all of our other subjects."
Twenty-eight schools have earned subject awards this year, indicating that they rank among the top 10 percent of Western New York's high schools in at least one of the four core fields. Only three schools have pulled clean sweeps of all four awards: Nardin, Williamsville East and City Honors.
Another 16 schools have picked up two or three subject awards. Among them is West Seneca East Senior High School, which ranks among the elite schools for English/foreign languages and social studies. Angela LaPaglia, East's principal, gives the credit to her district's redoubled emphasis on English language arts at all grade levels.
"If kids do well on ELA, they're going to do well on everything else," she says. "The focus on literacy is huge in West Seneca."
Regents exams are not compulsory for private schools. Among those that do not participate in the statewide testing program are Buffalo Seminary, Canisius High School, Nichols School and Park School of Buffalo.
Business First does not rate schools that are not on the Regents track, since it lacks the necessary data to objectively measure their academic records.
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TOP 100 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. Williamsville East HS (Williamsville)
3. Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart (Amherst)
4. Clarence SHS (Clarence)
5. City Honors School (Buffalo)
6. Mount St. Mary Academy (Kenmore-Tonawanda)
7. East Aurora HS (East Aurora)
8. Williamsville North HS (Williamsville)
9. Notre Dame HS (Batavia)
10. Christian Central Academy (Williamsville)
11. St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute (Kenmore-Tonawanda)
12. Holy Angels Academy (Buffalo)
13. Alfred-Almond JSHS (Alfred-Almond)
14. Williamsville South HS (Williamsville)
15. St. Francis HS (Frontier)
16. Maple Grove JSHS (Bemus Point)
17. Immaculata Academy (Frontier)
18. West Seneca East SHS (West Seneca)
19. Orchard Park HS (Orchard Park)
20. Lewiston-Porter SHS (Lewiston-Porter)
21. Alden SHS (Alden)
22. Iroquois SHS (Iroquois)
23. Holland HS (Holland)
24. Eden JSHS (Eden)
25. Hamburg HS (Hamburg)
26. Grand Island SHS (Grand Island)
27. St. Mary's HS (Lancaster)
28. Amherst Central HS (Amherst)
29. Lancaster HS (Lancaster)
30. Akron HS (Akron)
31. West Seneca West SHS (West Seneca)
32. Fredonia HS (Fredonia)
33. Chautauqua Lake Secondary School (Chautauqua Lake)
34. Wilson (MS) HS (Wilson)
35. Mount Mercy Academy (Buffalo)
36. Southwestern SHS (Southwestern)
37. West Valley Central School (West Valley)
38. Elba JSHS (Elba)
39. Barker HS (Barker)
40. Pembroke JSHS (Pembroke)
41. Niagara-Wheatfield SHS (Niagara-Wheatfield)
42. Sweet Home SHS (Sweet Home)
43. Frontier SHS (Frontier)
44. LeRoy JSHS (LeRoy)
45. Starpoint HS (Starpoint)
46. Niagara Catholic HS (Niagara Falls)
47. Bishop Timon-St. Jude HS (Buffalo)
48. Sherman HS (Sherman)
49. Griffith Institute HS (Springville-Griffith Institute)
50. Pavilion JSHS (Pavilion)
51. Falconer MHS (Falconer)
52. Westfield HS (Westfield)
53. Allegany-Limestone HS (Allegany-Limestone)
54. Oakfield-Alabama MHS (Oakfield-Alabama)
55. Newfane SHS (Newfane)
56. Depew HS (Depew)
57. Kendall JSHS (Kendall)
58. Frewsburg JSHS (Frewsburg)
59. Byron-Bergen HS (Byron-Bergen)
60. Ellicottville MHS (Ellicottville)
61. Batavia HS (Batavia)
62. Kenmore East SHS (Kenmore-Tonawanda)
63. L.A. Webber MHS (Lyndonville)
64. Portville JSHS (Portville)
65. Silver Creek HS (Silver Creek)
66. Maryvale HS (Cheektowaga-Maryvale)
67. Attica HS (Attica)
68. North Collins JSHS (North Collins)
69. Cardinal O'Hara HS (Kenmore-Tonawanda)
70. Letchworth SHS (Letchworth)
71. Wellsville SHS (Wellsville)
72. Kenmore West SHS (Kenmore-Tonawanda)
73. Genesee Valley HS (Genesee Valley)
74. Belfast School (Belfast)
75. Alexander MHS (Alexander)
76. Clymer Central School (Clymer)
77. North Tonawanda HS (North Tonawanda)
78. Tonawanda SHS (Tonawanda)
79. Pine Valley Central JSHS (Pine Valley)
80. Lockport HS (Lockport)
81. Cheektowaga HS (Cheektowaga)
82. Olean SHS (Olean)
83. Bolivar-Richburg JSHS (Bolivar-Richburg)
84. Medina HS (Medina)
85. Cleveland Hill HS (Cleveland Hill)
86. Royalton-Hartland HS (Royalton-Hartland)
87. Randolph JSHS (Randolph)
88. Pioneer SHS (Yorkshire-Pioneer)
89. Warsaw MHS (Warsaw)
90. Cuba-Rushford HS (Cuba-Rushford)
91. Panama HS (Panama)
92. Charles D'Amico HS (Albion)
93. Cassadaga Valley MHS (Cassadaga Valley)
94. Archbishop Walsh Academy (Olean)
95. Fillmore Central School (Fillmore)
96. Perry HS (Perry)
97. Whitesville Central School (Whitesville)
98. Ripley Central School (Ripley)
99. Gowanda HS (Gowanda)
100. Brocton MHS (Brocton)
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 High School.