For our Best Schools issue, we ranked the top 20 public elementary, middle and high schools in the area. Here's how we performed the data analysis.

For our Best Schools issue, we ranked the top 20 public elementary, middle and high schools in the area. Here's how we performed the data analysis.

Choosing the Districts

We included 20 school districts in and around Columbus in this analysis, using the suburbs in our most recent Best Suburbs cover story (May 2013) as a guide.

The Method

We enlisted Ohio State University political science professor emeritus Herb Weisberg to perform the data analysis that led to our rankings. Weisberg is an expert in studying voter behavior via statistical models. For this, as he did for our Best Suburbs rankings in 2013, he used a standard method called factor analysis, which finds underlying themes, or correlations, in a big set of data. The method weights some data more than others, resulting in a more accurate ranking.

The Data

We gathered all data for this package from the most recent data on the Ohio Department of Education website. In choosing criteria, we asked ourselves common-sense questions about what makes a school good. Some of the things we came up with: the quality and tenure of teachers, attendance, class size, standard testing scores, district spending per pupil, graduation rates and indicators (like AP classes and ACT scores) showing graduating students are college-bound.

Weisberg used just four criteria in his rankings: class size (average pupils per class), average years of teacher experience, the percentage of teachers with master's degrees and district spending per pupil.

We included those criteria in our tables and also included other data we collected that are interesting but did not factor into the rankings.