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Author Topic: D&C: Pittsford dominates top school rankings  (Read 1874 times)

SKuykendall

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D&C: Pittsford dominates top school rankings
« on: June 13, 2011, 08:48:35 AM »
Pittsford dominates top school rankings
1:31 AM, Jun. 13, 2011 
Staff reports
http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20110613/NEWS01/106130328/Pittsford-dominates-top-school-rankings?odyssey=tab|

Scribner Road Elementary School in the Penfield Central School District was named the top elementary school in the Rochester area, while Pittsford came out tops in the district, high school and middle school rankings in an analysis released last week by a Buffalo-area business publication.

The listings, compiled by Business First, were based on four years of test scores, said Scott Thomas, the publication's projects editor.

This is the second year that Business First has ranked schools in the Rochester area, including 154 public elementary schools in Monroe, Livingston, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne and Yates counties.

The publication has ranked Buffalo-area schools since 1992.

Full details are available in Business First's 2011-12 Guide to Western New York Schools, which hit newsstands Friday, and at bizjournals.com/buffalo.

Districts

The overall district ratings were based on four years of data from the New York State Education Department, covering the period from 2007 through 2010, according to the publication, with the greatest weight given to results from the most recent academic year. The Pittsford Central School District again was the top-rated district, and Brighton and Honeoye-Falls Lima kept their ranks of second and third, respectively.

The rest of the top 10 districts, in order, are West Irondequoit, Victor, Penfield, Canandaigua, Fairport, Webster and Avon, Livingston County.

High schools

Ratings for high schools were based on four years of test data from the state Education Department, according to Business First.

Pittsford Mendon and Pittsford Sutherland were ranked first and second, respectively.

They were followed by Brighton High, Honeoye Falls-Lima High, Greece Odyssey Academy, Penfield High, Irondequoit High, Webster Thomas High, Geneseo High and Canandaigua Academy.

Middle schools

Again, rankings were based on four years of test data from the state Education Department. Coming out on top were Calkins Road and Barker Road middle schools in the Pittsford district. They were followed by Geneseo Middle, Twelve Corners (Brighton), Dake (West Irondequoit), Willink (Webster), Victor Junior High, Canandaigua Middle, Honeoye Falls-Lima Middle and Martha Brown (Fairport).

Elementary schools

Scribner Road Elementary School in Penfield was ranked the top elementary school, and Pittsford captured the next three spots: Mendon Center Elementary, at No. 2; Jefferson Road Elementary, at No. 3; and Thornell Road Elementary, at No. 4. Penfield also held spots No. 5 (Harris Hill Elementary) and No. 6 (Cobbles Elementary).

Rounding out the top 10 were French Road (Brighton), Erwin Valley (Corning-Painted Post), Iroquois (West Irondequoit) and Florence Brasser (Gates Chili).
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SKuykendall

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Re: D&C: Pittsford dominates top school rankings
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2011, 09:22:26 AM »
What does this mean?  Anything at all?

I think it would be more useful information if other data were factored in -- for instance, if they had controlled for subsidized meal rates or for median housing prices or something like that.  Anyone can actually look up test scores on the NYSED site, so reading them and putting them in order isn't that hard. 

It would be interesting, though, to see how much of this has to do with educational quality and how much of it has to do with family resources (the sort of pre-schools and extra-curricular activities families can afford).   And I think it would be interesting to see the which of the suburbs are providing the best education to children of more modest means -- for perspective homebuyers, for city policymakers, for charter-school operators, for school administration employees.

To some degree, there's the assumption that it doesn't matter which of the east-side suburbs you buy a home in -- within the context of the east-side suburbs, that how well your child does in school depends on your home life, your child's innate abilities and what you can provide your child with outside school.

The rankings would be more interesting if they dug a bit deeper into questions about that assumption.  Does Penfield do a marginally better job of educating children who don't come from extremely prosperous families?  Does Pittsford do a marginally better job of educating kids in the Urban-Suburban program?  Etc.
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Hilary

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Re: D&C: Pittsford dominates top school rankings
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2011, 09:31:46 AM »
The guy who puts this survey together was on 1370 Connection on Friday (I called in to argue his contention that there is no more testing/emphasis on testing than 40 years ago. He countered with, "well what are these wonderful things schools would be doing if there were less testing?" I said, science and social studies? Interesting, creative activities?)

Anyway, he said people always suggest they "curve" the rankings to factor in socioeconomic factors, but colleges don't look at that (actually, I think they do!) so they didn't either. And he said realtors love their rankings.

And he pointed out a poor rural school that does very well to argue that it's not *all* about economics, and also dissed SOTA when someone from Pittsford called in and said it was a wonderful school. It was actually an interesting discussion.

But in the end, it's basically just looking up test scores and putting them in order.

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SKuykendall

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Re: D&C: Pittsford dominates top school rankings
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2011, 10:00:03 AM »
I bet realtors love his rankings -- especially the realtors in Pittsford and Penfield, perhaps? 

Would this be a good time to ask whether schools are set up to serve parents and children or realtors?

Colleges don't consider socio-economic factors in admissions, so parents don't need to know which school will best prepare a child of their socio-economic status for college?  What a perplexing argument!

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James

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Re: D&C: Pittsford dominates top school rankings
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2011, 10:06:41 AM »
The conversation in this thread is getting dangerously close to some of education's  most uncomfortable (and important) questions.  Yet another reason I enjoy this forum so much!  :)

I completely agree that a straight ranking of schools based solely on test scores, Regents performance, or graduation rates gives a false perception of school quality.  Ignoring key demographic factors of a school's student population (ethnicity, poverty, ELL, SpEd, etc.) results in misleading rankings.  Are we measuring which schools are having the greatest impact or which schools inherit student populations that are most likely to succeed regardless? 

This question keeps me up at night.  Every year when the NYS Ed Dept releases various layers of data on schools, I attempt to answer this question for myself by running statistical analyses.  Though far from perfect, my goal is to evaluate the predictive relationship between school performance (i.e. test scores or graduation rates) and demographic factors (poverty, ethnicity, etc.) and then determine which schools are actually bucking trends.  From what I've seen, socio-economic status is the strongest predictor of academic performance in schools (ethnicity a close second).  When this is considered in determining a school's quality, Pittsford and Penfield look far less impressive.  Their actual academic performance is only slightly above the statistical prediction based on poverty rates (or ethnicity, ELL, etc.).  A number of city schools (some which don't get discussed often enough) jump right off the charts.  Finding the real winners, or schools that are having a measurably greater impact upon students, is more complicated than a ranking of test scores alone.  I'd be happy to share the related charts if anyone is interested...just send me a private message since I'm not sure how to post files here.

 
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Hilary

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Re: D&C: Pittsford dominates top school rankings
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2011, 11:27:43 AM »
Give me the highlights :) -- which schools jump off the charts?
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James

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Re: D&C: Pittsford dominates top school rankings
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2011, 01:05:27 PM »
No problem...

The following schools "jump" off the chart by significantly outperforming the predicted rates of proficiency on 2010 NYS tests based upon poverty data trends for all Monroe County schools.  In other words, these schools are significantly bucking a trend that indicates poor kids should have an inverse relationship with academic success.  To my mind, this begins to get at a more nuanced measure of school quality.  Based on this measure, the top schools in 2010 include:

Top K-8 RCSD schools
School #19
School #23
School #58
School #33
School #2
Freddie Thomas

Top K-8 Charters
True North Rochester Prep
Eugenio Maria De Hostos

It's also worth noting the top K-8 suburban districts as judged on the poverty-controlled scale (all of which score far lower than the top RCSD poverty performers)
Wheatland-Chili
East Irondequoit
Brighton
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SKuykendall

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Re: D&C: Pittsford dominates top school rankings
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2011, 02:29:05 PM »
Interesting. 
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Hilary

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Re: D&C: Pittsford dominates top school rankings
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2011, 03:01:36 PM »
Makes perfect sense that they're shutting down Freddie Thomas, then ... *sigh*

There are other factors that should probably be taken into account, too, if you are really parsing the data. Like: School 58, as a highly chosen citywide, probably has more engaged and supportive families than your average city school. (Same probably true for the charters, though it wouldn't explain why they outperformed other charters.) School 23 has a MAP program, so you might expect that their test scores were higher than schools that don't have similar programs.  I'm not dismissing any of those schools' achievements, just pointing that out.

And then of course things you can't measure very well, like how much focus does a school put on teaching to the test.

James, I find it interesting that Northeast and Northwest Prep aren't on your short list. Are they high up on your long list, or do they not have good test scores, despite their good graduation rates?


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SKuykendall

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Re: D&C: Pittsford dominates top school rankings
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2011, 05:46:10 PM »
James,

I'm just curious about the data you are using to create a context for the test scores.  Free and reduced-price meals? 

Do the schools that jump off the chart in terms of doing a good job of educating low-income kids also do a good job of educating more affluent kids?  Or, when you look at the numbers, is it sometimes one or the other?

I'm just asking because we often hear that this school or that school is a good place for low-income city kids but "wouldn't be a good place for my kids."  I always wonder if that judgement is based on qualitative things or quantitative things -- is it the outcomes or the atmosphere that makes people say that?

Santosha
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James

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Re: D&C: Pittsford dominates top school rankings
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2011, 08:23:42 AM »
Hilary and Santosha,

There are definitely myriad other factors to consider for each school and Hilary spelled out a few great examples.  I chose to focus on poverty because it appears to be the strongest measurable demographic factor impacting student achievement across NYS. Again, it's less than perfect for sure, but at least provides a better sense of which schools are reversing the inverse relationship between poverty rate and student academic success.

It's somewhat difficult to discuss the details without seeing at least an example of the data involved.  Below is a table showing RCSD schools and Monroe County districts arranged by poverty-controlled performance on the 2010 6th grade Math test (I chose 6th grade mainly because it includes the greatest number of RCSD schools and should theoretically provide a more cumulative reflection of learning throughout elementary school).  My apologies in advance for the somewhat sloppy appearance of the table (I tried my best to get the column numbers to line up).  The first column of numbers ("FRPL") is the percentage of students in each school who qualify for free or reduced price lunch.  The second column ("A") is the actual percentage of students who scored proficient on the test.  The third column ("P") is the predicted percentage of students who should have scored proficient on the test based on the poverty rates and actual results for all other Monroe County schools.  And the last column ("E") is a statistical measurement of the distance between the school's actual and predicted proficiency based on poverty rates.  Essentially, I'm most interested in the value of E.  In other words, which schools are defying the downward pull of poverty on academic success to the greatest degree?  The list below is arranged by the value of E, from greatest to least. 

School/District                            FRPL   A      P       E
Eugenio Maria De Hostos Charter    89   92.7   41.2   2.3
School 19-Dr Charles T Lunsford   95   88.9   38.4   2.3
True North Rochester Prep        81   82.6   45.1   1.7
School 23-Francis Parker           67   82.2   51.7   1.4
School 33-Audubon                   88   63   41.7   1.0
School 2-Clara Barton                   97   57.4   37.4   0.9
School 58-World Of Inquiry            78   62.5   46.5   0.7
School 14-Chester Dewey           83   56.7   44.1   0.6
Rush-Henrietta Central              29   79.1   69.9   0.4
Churchville-Chili Central            23   81.8   72.7   0.4
School 45-Mary Mcleod Bethune   91   48.9   40.3   0.4
School 9-Dr Martin Luther King Jr   97   45.9   37.4   0.4
School 50-Helen Barrett           86   50   42.7   0.3
East Rochester Union Free             31   76.1   68.9   0.3
School 52-Frank Fowler Dow           71   56.9   49.8   0.3
School 20-Henry Lomb School   89   47.8   41.2   0.3
Pittsford Central School District   3   88.5   82.3   0.3
Penfield Central School District   9   85.5   79.4   0.3
School 35-Pinnacle                   90   46.1   40.8   0.2
School 42-Abelard Reynolds           79   50.8   46.0   0.2
School 41-Kodak Park                   92   44.5   39.8   0.2
Spencerport Central                  21   78   73.7   0.2
Brockport Central School District   30   72.6   69.4   0.1
Honeoye Falls-Lima Central        8   82.2   79.9   0.1
West Irondequoit Central          15   78   76.6   0.1
School 8-Roberto Clemente           91   41.5   40.3   0.1
School 16-John Walton Spencer   92   39.7   39.8   0.0
Fairport Central School District   10   78.8   79.0   0.0
Hilton Central School District           18   73.8   75.1   -0.1
School 22-Lincoln School           93   36.7   39.3   -0.1
School 5-John Williams                   88   39   41.7   -0.1
Greece Central School District   34   64.5   67.5   -0.1
School 4-George Mather Forbes   93   36.2   39.3   -0.1
School 7-Virgil Grissom                   81   41.8   45.1   -0.1
Webster Central School District   13   73.6   77.5   -0.2
School 54-Flower City                    86   38.5   42.7   -0.2
Brighton Central School District   9   73.8   79.4   -0.3
Gates-Chili Central                    30   62.4   69.4   -0.3
School 34-Dr Louis A Cerulli           94   31.5   38.8   -0.3
Wheatland-Chili Central            22   65.7   73.2   -0.3
School 30-General Elwell S Otis   94   30.8   38.8   -0.4
School 1-Martin B Anderson           83   34.8   44.1   -0.4
School 46-Charles Carroll           74   39   48.4   -0.4
Benjamin Franklin Montessori           61   44.4   54.6   -0.5
School 43-Theodore Roosevelt   84   33.3   43.6   -0.5
School 28-Henry Hudson           91   29.9   40.3   -0.5
Urban Choice Charter School           81   34.1   45.1   -0.5
School 25-Nathaniel Hawthorne   97   26.4   37.4   -0.5
School 44-Lincoln Park                   93   27.7   39.3   -0.5
East Irondequoit Central            45   49.8   62.2   -0.6
School 6-Dag Hammarskjold           96   23.1   37.9   -0.7
School 39-Andrew J Townson           89   24.6   41.2   -0.7
School 12-James P B Duffy           79   27.8   46.0   -0.8
School 17-Enrico Fermi                   96   19.4   37.9   -0.8
Genesee Community Charter         22   53.6   73.2   -0.9
School 29-Adlai E Stevenson           97   14   37.4   -1.1
School 36-Henry W Longfellow   95   14   38.4   -1.1
School 15-Children'S School            79   21.4   46.0   -1.1
School 3-Nathaniel Rochester           83   16.7   44.1   -1.2

Take a look at School #19 and Pittsford as a case study on this list.  Both had actual proficiency rates of 89% on the 6th grade math test in 2010.  But based on its 3% FRPL population, Pittsford's predicted proficiency was 82%, which it beat by a few percentage points.  School #19 on the other hand has a 95% FRPL population and absolutely obliterated its predicted proficiency rate of 38%.  There is a strong argument that those 89% proficiency rates are not equal achievements, much to the realtors' chagrin.

Of course, this is simply a snapshot of one grade level in one subject area for one year and it certainly does not tell the whole story.  But I do think it's important for urban schools and parents to make a better case for the great schools in our midst and learn from the ones that are doing remarkable things. 

As for the specific questions...
Hilary, you point out a number of great anomalies.  School #58 is indeed a highly sought after school so it's surprising that their actual score is not higher in 6th grade math (though they are regularly higher in other grades/subjects).  In looking at results for 8th grade tests, Freddie Thomas scores very high when controlled for poverty, but Northeast and Northwest are among the lowest.  And SOTA does not fare too well either (particularly odd for an intentionally selective school).  Perhaps 8th grade proficiency is not the best measure for a high school?  Though graduation rate is fraught for a whole different set of reasons. 
Santosha, the question about whether a particular school is "good for my kids" or good for low-income kids is especially troubling.  I know precisely the sort of conversation you are talking about.  I don't think the list here necessarily tells us whether or not schools are doing a good job of educating affluent kids, though generalities could be inferred.  My personal feeling is that folks who come to such conclusions are almost certainly drawing qualitative judgments (take a look at GCCS' rank on the list above for a related example).  And this begs a deeper question - when we talk about improving the RCSD, do we mean improvements for affluent kids or for the majority of students who come from low-income families?  Are these the same thing? 
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SKuykendall

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Re: D&C: Pittsford dominates top school rankings
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2011, 11:57:37 AM »
James,

Thank you for posting the data.  It is a fascinating topic, isn't it?  On so many levels.  We think of all city schools as predominantly low-income schools and tend to just look at test scores and say, "Oh, this school did better on the tests than one of the other ones did, so it must do a better job at educating poor children."  And it's interesting that we do this even though we know that, while pretty much every elementary school in Rochester (except GCCS, of course) is a predominantly low-income school, their subsidized meal rates vary from the 61% to 97%.  And, of course, we know that low-income families aren't entirely homogenous. 

A friend of mine is reading a book called Teaching to Poverty and says it's very good in terms of helping teachers peel away the perception of there only being one kind of low-income, educationally-disadvantaged family.  I keep meaning to check a copy out of the library.

I think Hilary's assumption that low-income families in highly sought-after schools are sometimes different from low-income families who come in to register their kids after the kindergarten lottery is past is something that is quite important, and for schools other than 58 as well.

If we get another data-driven administration, it would be really interesting to have someone look at which schools do the best job of educating children whose parents enrolled them after the lottery date was past -- as this would probably tell us more about how a school can overcome a home environment not conducive to educational achievement than the subsidized-meal rates do.

On the subject of whether some schools do a good job of educating affluent children and other schools do a good job of educating low-income kids and maybe some schools actually do a good job of educating both, we could probably write far more than anyone would ever want to read, right?  Especially since I feel so strongly that there is something morally wrong with the creation and acceptance of this sort of two-tier educational system, particularly on an elementary-school level, and am often so appalled by schools wanting to judge kids purely on their parents' behavior and ability to contribute to the school culture -- you hear of highly-selective NYC public elementary schools interviewing four-year-olds and, separately, their parents (although I believe they were ordered to stop doing that) and sometimes, when you hear people talk, you can't help wondering whether the interview with the kids was pro forma one and the interview with the parents was the one that really counted.  People do sometimes seem to forget that children are not just derivatives of their parents and that education should be formulated using something other an algorithm of home life, free-lunch applications, and the real-estate values around a child's place of residence, if for no other reason than because we really should first have the Supreme Court declare that "separate but unequal" is, after all, the law of the land.   (Sorry, I tripped over my soap-box there.)

When I looked at the high-school graduation rates, what struck me was the discrepancy between one suburban district and another when it came to the number of economically disadvantaged students who were graduating with advanced designation as versus regular Regents diplomas -- and the difference in absolute numbers was interesting, too.  Especially when you compare districts with Urban-Suburban programs (which means districts who that are selecting a lot of their economically disadvantaged students based on transcript review, right?) and districts that have a resident population of economically disadvantaged students and are therefore serving whichever economically disadvantaged students enroll.  When my migraine goes away, I might post some numbers too. :)

If I were looking for a suburban school district for my child (I'm not), I think I would choose one that prepares a larger portion of (non-handpicked) economically-disadvantaged students for college. 

Who wants to send their kid to a school where college prep is defined as your parents preparing you for college by going there themselves a generation ago?  That doesn't seem like a very decent environment to shoo your impressionable kid off to every day.

Santosha
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Ann W.

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Re: D&C: Pittsford dominates top school rankings
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2011, 04:19:01 PM »
James,
thanks for the data that was great.  I downloaded it to EXCEL so that I could play with it. 

It was very interesting.  And to me it goes back to the point of management at the school and at the district level.

Why did 19 do so well and 36 not so much. (I know nothing about either school or its adminitrators so my conclusions are being drawns strictly from the data) What if the entire district were managed like 19.  I look at Wegmans.  You go into any Wegmans and they are all good.  It's because the management at the top is good and it trickles down to the stores.  That's what the district needs.  You have a few schools here and there that do okay in spite of this.

Now to my point of only drawing my conclusion from the data.  If I knew nothing about UCCS, I'd be concerned just looking at raw data.  However, I know there are things that have happened that effected scores and plans in place to fix them.  My daughter didn't pass the 4th grade ELA in 2010 and she just barely squeaked by on math or vice versa I can't remember, but I know the school changed things up for 2010/2011 to address issues.

So maybe the same is true for some of the city schools but again I truly don't think the stats will get better until the leadership gets better.
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Hilary

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Re: D&C: Pittsford dominates top school rankings
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2011, 08:34:37 PM »
James,

I think you and Yousuf and Santosha need to start a think tank. :)

A few random observations, for those of you who are crunching the data:

- Although the free/reduced lunch rate varies from 61 to 97 percent among schools, I would be surprised if it varied that much among sixth grades, since I think the district experiences a lot of attrition of middle-class families in the upper grades. (On the other hand, the middle class percentage *might* increase at schools with MAP - I don't know.) I don't know if that data is easily available.

- While this is an interesting way to compare schools, I'm not sure it's as useful for looking at schools that do VERY well, like Pittsford, because the scale only goes up to 4, right? So if they are moving their already high-achieving children to fabulous heights, we wouldn't know it from the state tests. (This is sort of the same problem in judging teachers of high-achieving classes on their value-added test scores - if the kids are already getting 4s, then the teacher is apparently adding zero value, but it's because the tests aren't designed to measure that.)

And I have a lot of thoughts on what more affluent parents, including myself, mean when they say "this school wouldn't be right for my kid" but I am supposed to be doing other things and cannot post them now!


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Hilary

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Re: D&C: Pittsford dominates top school rankings
« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2011, 12:24:47 AM »
Also, my husband raised the question of whether these differences are statistically significant, given how small the sample sizes are. (At our school, there are 45 sixth graders. At Montessori, aren't there like six??? It wouldn't take much to move those results one way or the other.)
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