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Inside the 11th edition of the Report Card

Welcome to the 11th edition of the Rochester Business Journal Schools Report Card. This examination of area schools has changed in a number of ways since it debuted in 2005. At first, the Report Card examined only Monroe County schools. By the third year, we’d added a separate edition for schools in Ontario County. Five years ago, we merged both into a combined publication for Monroe and Ontario counties.

Last year, we significantly revised the approach we take to examining the schools’ performance. With the same intent—to provide vital information on public and private schools in each county while avoiding subjective analysis—we put the spotlight on performance benchmarks for academic achievement and effective use of taxpayers’ dollars.

The following list of frequently asked questions explains in detail how and why we compiled and presented the information as we have in this year’s edition.

Why do you rank the schools by student performance and other measures?

Starting out 11 years ago, we considered whether to create a weighted system of ranking the schools based on a mix of test scores and diploma rates. Would rankings generate headlines? Almost certainly. We decided, however, that any rating formula would be arbitrary and prone to unfair qualitative assessments.

So, we asked you to draw your own conclusions about how much weight to give each measure of academic performance or cost-effectiveness. It was not a reader-friendly approach, to be sure. Comparing districts or schools was a lot of work. With the 2014 edition we simplified things, adding rankings for a range of performance benchmarks to make comparisons easy. From Regents diplomas and SAT scores to elementary school test results, these charts allow parents and taxpayers to compare districts and schools.

We still believe, however, that you are the best judge of how much weight to give each measure of academic performance or cost-effectiveness.

What other highlights will I find?

Last year we expanded the guide to include more data, and that continues this year. We’re able to include the latest graduation rates because of a slightly later publication date. We have information on school taxes and district spending, as well as data on superintendent and teacher pay. And for the second year we have a greater number of staff-written stories on topics ranging from the state’s plan to address failing schools to classroom technology use.

Where do you get the test-result data?

The state Education Department remains our primary source. Schools have the opportunity to review the information before it is released publicly. We use the most recently available numbers. For some tests, results were provided by individual schools. Unless otherwise noted, the data in this edition are for the 2013-14 school year and were released this spring. All percentages are rounded to the nearest whole percentage point.

Why do some schools have no test results?

Some schools are listed in a particular category but do not administer tests common to most of the schools in that category. In other cases, the number of students taking the test was fewer than required for reporting standards.

Even with all the data you provide on the schools and the rankings that have been added, it’s still not clear to me which district would be best for my kids.

Parents must assess numerous factors in making choices among school districts or between public and private education. What’s important for one child—special education offerings or sports or music programs—may not be for another. And, as any property owner knows, tax rates matter too. There’s no formula that can provide a clear answer. But this publication contains a wealth of key information on the schools in Monroe and Ontario counties, and we think it can help you reach a decision.

I think I found a mistake in the data. Whom should I contact?

An error-free Schools Report Card is our goal. If you spot erroneous information, please contact Research Director Andrew Green by phone at (585) 546-8303 or by email at research@rbj.net.

7/10/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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