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Column One: Research

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What is the "top performing'' school district in the nation?

According to a recent issue of Expansion Management magazine, a Boulder, Colo.-based publication for corporate-relocation experts, the answer is the Evanston, Ill., public schools.

The suburban Chicago district came out on top in the magazine's third annual calculation of its "education quotient'' for 500 districts nationwide. The formula takes into account seven factors: a district's high-school-graduation rate, college-entrance-examination scores, minimum and average teacher salaries, per-pupil spending on instruction, teacher-student ratios, community education level, and community income level.

Eric Patterson, the education-quotient-research director for the magazine, said the rankings help readers decide whether a community will be able to provide enough educated workers to make placing a business there worthwhile.

The magazine does not rank all the nation's school districts because it cannot get the same data for all of them, he said. The 500 districts in the sample tend to be large districts or those in major business centers.

Since Americans appear to love rankings of any kind, the magazine's list of the top 10 school districts has received several mentions in the mainstream media, including such newspapers as the Chicago Tribune.

The Evanston schools came out on top with an "E.Q.'' score of 140.2 out of a possible 150, with 100 being average. (The city has separate elementary and secondary school districts, which the magazine combined for the comparison.)

Rounding out the top 10 were Fairfax County, Va., with an E.Q. of 137.8; State College, Pa., 136.1; Ann Arbor, Mich., 135.6; Montgomery County, Md., 135.5; Appleton, Wis., 134.6; Madison, Wis., 134.3; White Plains, N.Y., 132.4; Ames, Iowa, 131.2; and Lincoln, Neb., 129.9.

The lowest-scoring district in the magazine's sample was Greenville, Miss., with an E.Q. of 64.7. But the district was one of several that did not disclose college-entrance-test scores, which the magazine said could add anywhere from zero to 16 points to its education quotient.

The lowest-scoring district that did disclose its test scores was Benton Harbor, Mich., which had an E.Q. of 64.8.

Gary Marx, the senior associate executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, said "it's a free country, so anyone can develop a list.''

"It's a matter of just taking it for what it's worth, and not giving it any more credence'' than it deserves, he added.

For more information on the survey, call the magazine at (800) 839-7263.--M.W.

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