Monroe County’s best school? It’s in the city, our exclusive Quality Index shows

By Justin Murphy, @citizenmurphy

The last bell of the day rang at 3 p.m. and the 300 students at Francis Parker School 23, in Rochester’s Park Avenue neighborhood, spilled out onto the playground on a warm early summer afternoon.

You couldn’t tell from looking at them whether they’d made adequate yearly progress on the state exams they’d just completed. It was striking, though, how many teachers had come out of the school to join them on the playground or give them a hug on the way to the bus. They were joined by a phalanx of parents, in cars or on foot. And it was clear that the students came from all different backgrounds and ethnicities.

“It’s very fun,” fourth-grader Peyton Crony said. “We have a 20-minute recess and a nice snack time — some schools don’t have that. And the teachers explain things really well and give students a lot of chances.”

Sara Martinen was there to pick up her kindergartner. She moved into the Park Avenue neighborhood specifically so her son could attend School 23 after hearing rave reviews from other parents.

“I think it’s the best possible environment,” she said. “He’s just so comfortable and happy, and the adults are so warm.”

No one on the playground that day was shocked to hear that School 23 is ranked as the best public school in Monroe County according to the USA Today Network’s New York State School Quality Index. The exclusive index measures every public and charter school in New York on a variety of non-academic factors that parents say they value, but can be hard to measure.

Attendance, suspensions and class sizes are low; diversity is high. The teaching staff includes a healthy mix of seasoned veterans and young teachers straight out of college.

“When I got here, everyone told me: ‘They’re our kids. Not just the 25 in your class, but all 300,’” fourth-grade teacher Jason Ford said. “There’s a real sense of ownership, and there’s a consistency across the building in terms of language and expectations.”

The same is true at David Crane Elementary School in Rush-Henrietta, which narrowly edged out East Irondequoit as the top district in Monroe County, according to the index.

When Emily Nudds began there as a literacy coach, she was worried that older teachers wouldn’t listen to her. Instead, she found a professional community that valued everyone’s contributions.

“Young or old, the main goal is to help kids,” she said. “If (veteran teachers) have to re-do something they’ve been doing for 20 years, they’ll do it.”

 

Crane also has strong academics, with 57 percent of fourth-graders achieving competency in math. School 23 is lower, at 16 percent competency. Neither are in the top 20 among Monroe County schools by that metric, but staff and administrators at both buildings said that is missing the point.

“Teachers work so hard here at Crane, and the amount of growth will never be reflected in test scores,” Nudds said.

 

The median score on the New York School Quality Index is a 77.5 out of 100, a mark exceeded by 90 of Monroe County’s 178 ranked schools. School 23 ranks 47th in the state at 96.4, while Rush-Henrietta’s districtwide mark of 85.8 beats East Irondequoit by one tenth of a point.

Most of the top academic schools in Monroe County also do well on the New York School Quality Index, including those in Pittsford, Honeoye Falls-Lima, Penfield and Brighton. They mostly lack student diversity, however, and have relatively few young teachers.

 

Both RCSD and charter schools rank as some of the very best and the very worst. Children’s School of Rochester (School 15), Genesee Community Charter School and Urban Choice Charter School all make the top five overall, while the bottom of the list includes a number of schools that have been closed for poor performance, including Charlotte High School, Rochester Career Mentoring Charter School and the schools that used to make up the Edison Tech campus.

Berken Subasi, a fifth-grader at Crane, struggled to put his finger on what he likes so much about his school.

Was it the kindness of the teachers? The kickball games? The wacky relay races at the end of the school year?

“I don’t know, it’s hard to explain,” he said. “They’re just really great at teaching. It’s not just any normal school.”

JMURPHY7@Gannett.com

Database: Top 10 elementary schools

1. SCHOOL 23 – FRANCIS PARKER

2. LAURELTON-PARDEE INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL

3. SCHOOL 15 – CHILDREN’S SCHOOL OF ROCHESTER

4. URBAN CHOICE CHARTER SCHOOL

5. GENESEE COMMUNITY CHARTER SCHOOL

6. BUCKMAN HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

7. MONICA B LEARY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

8. DURAND-EASTMAN INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL

9. DAVID B CRANE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

10. SCHLEGEL ROAD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Database: Top 10 high schools

1. MINERVA DELAND SCHOOL

2. RUSH-HENRIETTA SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL

3. PITTSFORD MENDON HIGH SCHOOL

t-4. SCHOOL 58 WORLD OF INQUIRY SCHOOL

t-4. RUSH-HENRIETTA NINTH GRADE ACADEMY

6. PITTSFORD SUTHERLAND HIGH SCHOOL

7. CHURCHVILLE-CHILI SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL

8. FAIRPORT SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL

9. SPENCERPORT HIGH SCHOOL

10. HONEOYE FALLS-LIMA SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL