Fourteen school districts in the Buffalo region rank among the 50 best in Upstate New York, according to a new Business First study.
Williamsville, the top-rated school system in the state's eight westernmost counties, is No. 4 in the expanded rankings of 431 Upstate school systems. The local runner-up, Clarence, is 10th in the Upstate standings, based on an analysis of four years of standardized test scores.
Twelve other Western New York districts belong to Upstate's academic top 50, led by East Aurora (13th place), Orchard Park (20th), Alfred-Almond (22nd) and Amherst (24th).
Business First has issued annual performance ratings for Western New York schools since 1992, using raw data from the New York State Education Department. Annual rankings for the Rochester Area were added in 2010.
The new Upstate ratings cover a much broader territory, encompassing the 48 New York counties that are north of the 42nd parallel.
Each district has been rated on its students' annual performances on 21 Regents exams and statewide tests during the period of 2007-2010. Final scores are based on 172 statistical indicators -- the same formula that generated this year's Western New York and Rochester Area rankings. (Click here for the methodology.)
The Rochester suburb of Pittsford holds the No. 1 position in the Upstate standings, thanks to its broad record of academic excellence:
• Pittsford posted Upstate's best grades on the 2010 Regents exams in chemistry, English and global history, as determined by the percentage of test-takers achieving superior scores of 85 or better.
• More than 50 percent of Pittsford's students earned superior marks on 11 different Regents exams in 2010, tying for Upstate's broadest record of Regents success. (Three districts share this distinction: Bethlehem, North Colonie and Williamsville.)
• Pittsford's 2007-2010 scores in English/foreign languages, science and social studies are Upstate's best, according to Business First's breakdown of test scores in those subjects from fourth grade through high school.
Rounding out the top five in the overall standings are Fayetteville-Manlius (a Syracuse suburb), Brighton (suburban Rochester), Williamsville and Skaneateles (suburban Syracuse).
Business First also rated each Upstate district in four subject areas, as noted above.
Fayetteville-Manlius is No. 1 in the mathematics category, while Pittsford leads the other three.
Williamsville is the only Western New York district to rank among the 10 best districts in all four subjects. The other local school systems to earn that rarefied honor at least once are Clarence, East Aurora and Orchard Park.
These are the Western New York districts among the 10 Upstate leaders in each category:
English/foreign languages: Clarence (fourth) and Williamsville (seventh).
Mathematics: Williamsville (second) and Clarence (fifth).
Science: Williamsville (fifth), Orchard Park (seventh) and Clarence (eighth).
Social studies: Williamsville (eighth) and East Aurora (10th).
The Upstate standings can be subdivided into smaller regions. Business First has already issued academic rankings for two of them (Western New York and the Rochester Area), which can be found in a separate publication, the 2011-2012 Guide to Western New York Schools.
Copies can be obtained by calling Business First's circulation department at 716-541-1638.
The following are the three top-rated districts in the seven regions outside Western New York, based on the new Upstate rankings:
Albany Area: Niskayuna, Voorheesville and Bethlehem.
Binghamton-Elmira Area: Vestal, Maine-Endwell and Chenango Forks.
Plattsburgh Area: Chazy, Saranac Lake and Westport.
Rochester Area: Pittsford, Brighton and Honeoye Falls-Lima.
Syracuse Area: Fayetteville-Manlius, Skaneateles and Cazenovia.
Utica-Rome Area: New Hartford, Clinton and Town of Webb.
Watertown Area: Potsdam, Beaver River and Colton-Pierrepont.