In combining public and private schools this year, Business First set out to give a more accurate comparison of the institutions in Western New York.

In general, private schools in western Niagara County and Grand Island outperformed their public school counterparts.

High school

Out of 129 high schools ranked by Business First, Niagara-Wheatfield was the top local finisher at 39. Lewiston-Porter was close behind at 42, with Niagara Catholic placing 72 and Niagara Falls coming in at 118. The top-ranking high school was the all-girls Catholic school Nardin Academy in Buffalo.

Niagara-Wheatfield as a district placed 28 this year out of 97, a climb of nine spots. Business First Special Projects Editor G. Scott Thomas commended the school and district for continuing to show improvement.

“It is pretty consistent,” he said. “With many of those elite, private high schools up there, that is a pretty significant accomplishment.”

The high school ranking formula took into account Regents diploma rates as well as scores on a wide array of Regents exams, Thomas said.

Middle school

St. John Lutheran School in Niagara-Wheatfield was the top-ranked local middle school, coming in at 17 out of 207 schools. The highest-ranked middle school not in Erie County, St. John has just 84 students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“That size is beneficial because it allows us to have smaller classes,” Herbert Meissner, the school’s principal, told the publication. “There’s a lot more individual instruction that way.”

Other local middle schools finished as follows (schools with grades lower than sixth were ranked in this category only from sixth through eighth): St. Stephen in Grand Island, 25; Connor Middle in Grand Island, 38; Stella Niagara Education Park in Lewiston, 46; Lewiston-Porter Middle, 80; Edward Town in Niagara-Wheatfield, 96; St. Peter’s Lutheran in Niagara-Wheatfield, 100; St. Dominic Savio in Niagara Falls, 110; Holy Ghost Lutheran in Niagara-Wheatfield, 125; LaSalle in Niagara Falls, 151; St. Peter in Lewiston, 160; and Gaskill in Niagara Falls, 171.

St. John and Stella Niagara both won subject awards in math, Scott said, which means that their four-year records in that subject are in the top 10 percent of all Western New York middle schools.

Schools that are closing, such as Niagara Middle, 60th and 66th Street elementaries, are not on the list.

“We don’t rank schools that are scheduled to be closed, since the primary aim of our guide is to help parents make future decisions about schools,” Thomas said.

City Honors in Buffalo was the top-ranked middle school.

Elementary school

Three Niagara-Wheatfield schools — St. John Lutheran (19), St. Peter’s Lutheran (20) and Errick Road (22) — finished in the top 25 out of 291 elementary schools. While the top two of those are private schools, the overall push in the district toward elementary-level literacy seems to be paying off, Superintendent Judith Howard said in a previous interview.

“If children can’t read and write, they can’t really been successful in anything else,” she said.

Rounding out the local rankings are: St. Stephen, 28; Kaegebein School in Grand Island, 40; St. Peter in Lewiston, 49; Lewiston-Porter Intermediate Education Center, 53; Stella Niagara, 54; West Street in Niagara-Wheatfield, 86; Huth Road in Grand Island, 89; Geraldine J. Mann in Niagara Falls, 99; Prince of Peace in Niagara Falls, 141; Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Niagara Falls, 157; Colonial Village in Niagara-Wheatfield, 164; Maple Avenue in Niagara Falls, 179; Kalfas Magnet in Niagara Falls, 181; Holy Ghost Lutheran in Niagara-Wheatfield, 186; 79th Street in Niagara Falls, 188; Hyde Park in Niagara Falls, 202; Sacred Heart Villa in Lewiston, 203; Abate in Niagara Falls, 239; Niagara Street in Niagara Falls, 245; and Tuscarora in Niagara-Wheatfield, 247.

Elementary scores were based on fourth-grade state tests. Smallwood Drive School in Amherst topped the elementary list.

Private schools that don’t participate in state tests including Nichols and Park schools in Buffalo are not included since there is nothing against which to compare them, Thomas said.