NEW YORK CITY — Dismal results in this year's reading exams pegged to new, tougher federal standards saw less than a third of the city's third- through eighth-graders pass the tests.
But that number doesn't reveal what most parents want to know — how do their school's scores compare to the more than 700 other elementary schools in the city?
To help answer that question, Tom Goodkind, a Lower Manhattan accountant and former public school parent, crunched the numbers of publicly available data for the 2013 fourth-grade English Language Arts test results, stacking the schools up against each other.
For more than a decade, Goodkind has created the ranking system using these ELA scores, since they are a key part of students' applications to middle schools and are obsessively tracked by many families who often base real estate decisions on public school test results.
"Whether they make the test harder or easier, it’s really harder or easier for everyone because it’s a comparative rank," Goodkind said.
Many of the schools in the top 10 percent have consistently been among the best-performing schools, year after year, even as the tests have changed, he noted.
"You want to move to an area where the schools are at least in the top half [of scorers]," he said, adding, "Nothing drives [real estate prices] higher than families wanting to move in because they’re saving on private school."
NEST+M on the Lower East Side took the No. 1 spot, with 99 percent garnering pass grades of 3 or 4 on the ELA, moving it up from the No. 5 spot last year. The Anderson School on the Upper West Side was No. 2 (down from No.1), TAG Young Scholars in East Harlem ranked No. 4 (up from No. 9), and No. 6 was the Brooklyn School of Inquiry in Bensonhurst.
The Upper East Side's Lower Lab School, which ranked No. 3 (the same as last year), is a G&T school with priority given to students in District 2, stretching from Battery Park City to the Upper East Side. Bayside's P.S. 188, a Queens neighborhood school with a G&T program, came in at No. 5.
Rounding out the top 10 were strong neighborhood schools.
The Upper West Side's sought-after P.S. 199 was the seventh top-scoring school. Park Slope's P.S. 39 — once considered "a poor cousin of other, larger Park Slope elementary schools," according to Insideschools — bested its district's coveted neighbors, landing in the No. 8 slot. Another Bayside school, P.S. 203 — which the U.S. Department of Education named a Blue Ribbon school for academic achievement and improvement — came in ninth, and the Upper East Side's popular P.S. 6 was No. 10.
"It gives me a sense of school pride and makes me feel they're on the right track," said Evie Rabeck, whose 9-year-old son is entering the fourth grade at the Brooklyn School of Inquiry.
Since his elementary school transitions into a middle school, her son doesn't have to fret about his scores as much as other kids might. But Rabeck still worried that the "nosedive" that schools took citywide would result in more "teaching to the test," and she was concerned about the stress from the tests.
"He was a nervous wreck," Rabeck said of her son around exam time. "It really wasn't coming from the school. They were trying to prepare him, but downplay it. He wants to be perfect."
The biggest surprise on this year's rankings was yet another Bayside school: P.S. 205, which jumped 160 spots to No. 13.
Also known as the Alexander Graham Bell School, P.S. 205 is a small school — it has fewer than 400 kids — with a strong science program, a student-tended garden and active parents whose fundraisers help keep extracurriculars such a Lego robotics running, according to Insideschools.
"I've inherited a magnificent school with a loving community that is very family-oriented," Principal Karen Scott, who took over in 2008, told Insideschools.
"You want to know if they're eating Wheaties or something," Goodkind said of P.S. 205.
His takeaway from this year's spreadsheet: "Everyone is going to move to Queens now if they read this properly."
For parenting advice on how to talk to your child about the Common Core test results, click here.