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How has your school done on state tests for the past decade?

Over the past several months, as I've been writing about the persistently lowest-achieving schools in Buffalo, I've gotten plenty of inquiries from readers wanting to know how long it's been since one school or another has been doing poorly.

Well, over the weekend, I stumbled onto a little gold mine of information. And it's not just for low-performing schools, and it's not just for Buffalo schools.

The New York Times has an excellent site at http://projects.nytimes.com/new-york-schools-test-scores where you can get historical test score information about any school in the state. Included in the mix are charter schools as well as traditional public schools.

Once you select your school, the site generates line graphs that compare your school's performance on standardized tests, dating back about a decade, to the state median.

At the elementary/middle school level, you get tests broken down by grade level. For high schools, you get the data broken down by subject area.

For instance, here's a screen grab of Bennett High School's performance on the English Regents exam. The blue line is Bennett's performance; the grey line is the state median.

(Quick explanation: The first graph reflects the performance index, which is a number the state puts together; second from left is percent of students scoring 65 percent or higher; third from left is percent of students scoring 85 or higher; and finally, on the right, is the percent of students who scored 55 or higher.)

Bennett hs screen grab
 
The data has been posted on the State Ed website for years -- but in individual PDFs for each year, for each school -- or in separate databases for each year -- making it pretty much impossible to do any kind of comparison or analysis, unless you have plenty of time to spend.

Lucky for us, the NY Times crew had that kind of time to invest. They make it possible to get a flavor of what's gone on in a school over the recent past, and how that compares to what's gone on statewide.

Like any such interface, this one has its limitations. For instance, at the elementary level, you can't break apart the ELA scores from the math scores. (Update: A reader more astute than I am wrote in to point out that you can, in fact, hone in on specific subjects. There are tabs toward the top of the screen, under the school's name, that enable you to select either "all subjects" or a specific subject.)

And I don't think there's a way to directly compare two or more schools to one another.

But this is still, without a doubt, one of the most user-friendly data analysis gizmos I've found online for New York school data.

I spent quite a bit of time fiddling with this. One of the things that most interested me was looking at how steady or jagged a school's performance was, compared to the state. Many schools fairly closely mirrored the general trend line of the state, while others were all over the map, year to year.

There's way too much data here for me to absorb all by myself. So, as always, let me know (mpasciak@buffnews.com) what you stumble across that's particularly interesting.

- Mary Pasciak

E-mail me at mpasciak@buffnews.com or follow me on Follow  SchoolZoneBlog on Twitter Twitter. Check out the Buffalo News' education page at www.buffalonews.com/schools.

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