29, 2007 06:16 pm
EDUCATION: Grand Island,
Lew-Port in Business First top 20
Niagara-Wheatfield continues to climb; Falls near
By Paul Laneemail@example.com
Two local school districts finished in the
top 20 in Business First of Buffalo’s annual
Grand Island finished No. 10 and Lewiston-Porter was
ranked No. 20 in the list, which is compiled by
using four years of test data from the state
Education Department. The score of each of the 97
districts that were ranked reflects the collective
showing of its public elementary, middle and high
Officials in Grand Island, which finished No. 12
last year, had a goal of cracking the top 10, which
makes the district’s finish that much sweeter this
year, Superintendent Robert Christmann said.
“It’s pretty hard to do ... There is a great
deal of pride,” he said. “I think it speaks very
well of the hard work that goes on every day.”
District officials have put a focus on enhancing the
performance of elementary school students, which
Christmann feels yields results in the higher grades
and is reflected in the rankings.
“If you have a weak foundation, you’re not going
to make up for it when you hit the middle school or
high school,” he said.
Lew-Port has been consistent in the rankings,
according to G. Scott Thomas, special projects
editor for Business First. Since climbing into the
top 25 in 2001, the district has stayed between 16
and 22 each year.
Despite a slight drop from 16 last year, district
officials are proud of their ranking.
“This is a testimony to our quality teachers,
dedicated staff and parent volunteers who together
create an environment that promotes student
growth,” Interim Superintendent Don Rappold said
in an e-mail.
Along with the overall ranking, Lew-Port earned a
subject award for social studies, which Thomas said
it got for finishing in the top 10 in that subject.
Social studies is also a top subject in
Niagara-Wheatfield, which continued its climb in the
rankings this year. After placing 76th in 1999,
Niagara-Wheatfield has climbed every year but one
since then; that ascension continued this year, he
said, as the district went from 37 to 28.
“They rank as one of the real success stories,”
Thomas said. “It really shows a pretty strong
That thrust is thanks to a change in how things in
Niagara-Wheatfield are run, Superintendent Judith
Howard said. An emphasis on more rigorous hiring,
professional development and elementary-level
literacy has improved the academic output there, she
“What we have done since the late ’90s was
change the focus on this district to one on
instruction,” she said. “If children can’t
read and write, they can’t really been successful
in anything else.”
While Niagara-Wheatfield continued its climb,
Niagara Falls remained a model of consistency in
another light. The Falls finished at No. 93 for the
fifth time in six years, Thomas said, a position
with which Superintendent Carmen Granto wasn’t too
“I don’t pay attention to the rankings,” he
said. “It’s biased against (economic)
Granto thinks the rankings fail to take into account
the financial situations of the district’s
residents; families in the Falls tend to rank among
the lowest earners in the area. There should be an
equalization system in place to account for that, he
“You get our top 10 percent (of students from the
highest-earning families) against their top 10
percent, we’d outrank them. You get our poorest
against their poorest, we’d outrank them,” he
said of other area districts. “The impact (of the
Business First rankings) is the public perception
that somehow we’re behind Williamsville. I don’t
think so. It just means we have a harder road to
While admitting that socioeconomic factors play a
role, Thomas said the numbers are from the state and
based on state standards.
“Everything is performance-based,” he said.
“The fact is that in real life, there is no
equalization factor. No one gives breaks to kids
from underperforming districts.”
The top five consisted of Williamsville, Clarence,
Amherst, Orchard Park in Erie County, and Bemus
Point in Chautauqua County. Buffalo finished last.
BY THE NUMBERS
Following is where Niagara County’s school
districts came in on the annual Business First list
of highest achieving districts (numbers are out of
97 total districts).
• Wilson, No. 11.
• Lewiston-Porter, No. 20.
• Barker, No. 21.
• Starpoint, No. 25.
• Niagara-Wheatfield, No. 28.
• Newfane, No. 38.
• Lockport, No. 42.
• North Tonawanda, No. 43.
• Royalton-Hartland, No. 60.
• Niagara Falls, No. 93.
Grand Island, in Erie County, was ranked No. 10.