Digging Deep Into Education

The Town of Westport’s new website is sweet.  Modern-looking, attractive, with a calming blue hue and rotating set of iconic photos, it shows off our beautiful town while drawing readers in to learn more.

Presumably, some of those readers are outsiders thinking of moving here.

Which is why it’s so odd that it’s so hard to find information about our schools.

Seven major tabs are arrayed near the top.  They read:  “About the town,” “Government,” “Residents,” “Visitors,” “Businesses,” “Departments & Services” and “How Do I…”

Two lead to education — but they’re hardly intuitive, and you have to click several times on each.

The “Residents” tab leads to “Life in Town.”   At the bottom of that dropdown menu, you see “Schools in Town.”  Underneath that, you get “Westport Public Schools.”  It’s a long way to go, and who would search for school info under “Residents”?

The 2nd link to education comes under “Departments & Services.”  This is a bit more intuitive, and “Education” is first on the dropdown list.  But rather than bringing up the Westport School District website, it delivers a dull and unnecessary page with the mission statement and school links — the exact same information that’s on the district site.

Westport is proud of its schools.  We’ve got outstanding students, staff, programs and buildings.  Our schools attract residents, and help us sell our homes.

Education deserves a place of honor on our town website.

17 responses to “Digging Deep Into Education

  1. Agreed. Seems like this should be pretty easy to fix. Love the new town website…. And the schools’ website as well. Thanks, as always for keeping us up to speed on all the happenings in Westport.

  2. It’s also not very obvious how to find information about recycling. Surely it should have a mention on the homepage.

  3. The Board of Education probably has a separate contract for web services.

  4. The Board of Ed probably has a separate contract for web services.

  5. Travis McGee

    You know everywhere I have lived from Virginia to Minnesota to southern Carlifornia to even Texas, I have chosen to live in “one of the best school districts” in the country. I guess I am just lucky or maybe they are just singing the same ole tune.

  6. If you enter “Best Public High Schools America” in your search engine, you will get a number of lists. There is only one schools at the top of each list, and none are in CT. Funny how that works. There is nothing so bullish as a bought bull.

  7. Rex, if you dig a bit you’ll find that the listed schools are largely self reporting and/or that much of the data used for comparitive purposes comes from sources that sell student testing services. These sources sell more product by marketing themselves as “experts” when they see but a single slice of the school systems they “report” on.

    Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Business Week have all oversimpified an evaluative process that is relatively harmless unless you’ve bought their bull.

    • If you dig further you will find that Staples students rank fourth in their DRG on the basis of math SAT scores. Feel free to suggest your own metric.

  8. The 5th and 7th grade scored first in their DRG on the basis of math CMT scores. Anybody else have any meaningless data snapshots to share?

  9. Feel free to supply meaningful data.

    • ditto

      • I did. Now it’s your turn, if you have any data more relevant or meaningful than SAT scores present it, or do you want to maintain that there are no meaningful data?

        • One test score for one class is not relevant. Why don’t you mention second in the DRG on Critical Reasoning? If we are number one next year do you think it means anything changed? Does the fact that math scores were 9 points lower than the year before mean the school is doing a worse job? Or was there a really good party the night before the test?

          • Well then, that’s a start. Let’s see if there is a trend in the SAT rankings within the DRG and a broader universe. The fact remains that there has not been presented a metric by the BOE; we are from the government, trust us. Kool Aid anyone. BTW “not relevant;” says who? Maybe not statistically significant, but relevant.

          • I should have said not statistically significant instead of not relevant.

  10. I think we’re missing the point of Dan’s piece, which is why the Town would choose to minimize the importance of our schools on their web site. While some of us might differ on the exact ranking of the Westport Public Schools, I don’t think its possible to ignore the fact that many residents have moved here and will continue to move here because of the quality and reputation of our school system. It says something about the Town’s relationship with, and feeling toward, the education community when the schools are not prominently displayed on the Town’s web site.

    On the other hand, as for metrics, why not use the number of Staples students who attend great colleges (and great includes non-ivy league schools that might be the best fit for the individual student)? You could also look at the number of state and national awards that have been given to Inklings, Staples Players, the robotics team, the Moody’s Math Challenge Teams, the music groups, our art students and our athletic teams. Or you could read the last report of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges that stated that Staples High School was one of the best high schools in the nation.

    Which brings me back to Dan’s question: Why wouldn’t the Town want to spotlight the schools on their web site?

    • All of those measures, such as they are, might make us feel good, but without a context or comparitive statistics we just end up patting ourselves on the back. I am sure that parents in Darien, New Canaan, and Wilton feel much the same about their schools.