We’re #5!

There’s been a bit lot of back-and-forth on “06880” lately regarding the value of the Westport school system.

Everyone’s got a different rating method.  They range from standardized test score comparisons with similar towns in our “District Reference Group,” which seems fairly reasonable, to the dip-shitty Newsweek method, which takes the number of AP (and AP-type) exams administered, and divides by the number of graduating seniors.  (Theoretically, the top school could be one where every student takes every AP test offered, and no one passes any of them.)

Into the fray roars Forbes — sort of.  In a story befitting “The Capitalist Tool,” they’ve created “The Best Schools For Your Real Estate Buck.”

Using their methodology — combining the 17,589 towns and cities in the 49 states that administer standardized tests (see ya, Nebraska!) with results from the standardized National Assessment for Educational Progress federal tests of randomly selected 4th, 8th and 12th graders — they calibrated results of “individual cities in a single state with national standards to come up with an absolute score for each city.  It then graded them on a curve.”

I am not bright enough to figure out what all that means.  (Hey, I took math at Staples in the ’70s.  I must have been absent the day we studied this stuff.)

I am, however, bright enough to know that standardized tests — particularly when each state sets different standards — are not the brightest way to assess schools, teachers, administrators, learning, learning outcomes, creativity, blah blah blah, even bang for one’s real estate buck.


Forbes ran the data, crunched the numbers, threw salt over their shoulder, and came up with the highest-ranking city.  The one that got the “100” that the rest of the 17,588 towns and cities get curve-graded against.

The best-bang-buckiest town — the one we should all immediately move to, to maximize our investments in our kids and our homes and the future — is, of course…

…Falmouth, Maine.


Using Forbes’ quasi-scientific methodology, Westport does not even make the top 10.

No Connecticut school systems do, though.  In fact, only 2 in the entire Northeast:  Barrington, RI (#4) and Bedford, NH (#5).  The rest of the top 10 includes Mercer Island, WA (#2), Pella, IA (#3), and from 6th to 10th, Manhattan Beach, CA; Moraga, CA; Parkland, FL; St. Johns, FL, and Southlake, TX.

But wait!

If you’re scoring at home using the “District Reference Group” method, Forbes has better news for Westport.  Sort of.

They’ve sliced and diced their list according to median housing prices.  We’re in the highest group — “$800,000 and Upand here the list is a bit more Northeast- and California-centric.

Westport — with a median home price of $931,690 (when?  2007?) and an “Ed Quality Index” of 87.81 — is the 5th best bang-bucking school district in the entire wealthiest Forbes quarter.

We trail the winner (Manhattan Beach, CA) and runners-up New Canaan, Lafayette (CA) and Palo Alto, but lead Darien, Orinda (CA), Weston (MA, not CT), Rye (NY) and Cupertino (CA).

This is described as "the women of the Manhattan Beach 6-man volleyball tournament." Yes, I understand these are not men, and there are more than 6 of them. But who am I to argue with the top school district in the category of wealthiest median home prices? Whatever they teach there must be right.

So there you have it.  Sort of.

But feel free to devise your own ranking system.

I have added together all the grades achieved by students in grades K-12 in every course taken (except physical education); divided by the number of parking spots in each parking lot; multiplied by the square root of parent or guardian’s IQ and cholesterol scores, and done something or other with the hypotenuse of the hotness factor of superintendents, boards of education and building principals.

I am happy to report that, by this perfectly logical method, the Westport school district is the 2nd best in the country.

Number one is — damn! — Falmouth, Maine.

13 responses to “We’re #5!

  1. Since you brought it up; from the same article.
    “Our second annual look at America’s top districts again demolishes the idea that more money equals a better education.”

  2. The Dude Abides

    Well, the City of Newark pays $22,000 a student so we should know that it is not about money. Congrats to Westport. I have been a constant cynic on this blog about the supremacy of the schools here only because it seems like superficial bravado and a justification for high property taxes and a pretentiousness that is irritating if not nauceous. I recant and applaud their efforts.

    • Constant cynic? Surely, you jest. ; )

    • I am so happy to hear that you have seen the emperor’s new clothes. The taxpayers of Westport will rest easier. Moreover, I am sure that through Dan’s efforts we will soon have from the BOE a set of metrics to measure just how well they are performing as they spend the $100 million or so they demand, and pigs will soon fly.

  3. The Dude Abides

    My visit to a hospice in Pittsburgh (where the sun never shines) has given me a new visison of the Emperor’s Armani clothes.

  4. westporter95

    I heard that two years ago CT Magazine used the “dip-shitty” Newsweek method that Dan mentioned, along with number of seniors going to Ivy league, to rate Staples #1 in the state.

    • All of this back and forth on the quality of the education our taxpayer dollers buys will soon be made more substantive when Dan gets his buddies at the BOE to come up with a set of metrics to measure their performance. We can all wait until then for the evidence to be presented or until hell freezes over. In the interim, the BOE will demand more money to produce results that are unaffected by money; at least according to Dan’s chosen citation.

    • Jim Goodrich

      CT Magazine used data from eleven different categories to develop comparisons between high schools. AP’s were used as a category and included in the category was additional credit for the percentage of students who achieved a 3+ or above (the score good enough for college credit). This alone distinguishes the CT Magazine piece from Newsweek.

      Other comparitives from CT Mag. included CAPT scores in Reading, Writing, Math, Science as well as average scores in the SAT Math and Reading. “Seniors going to Ivy League” was not used as a comparison but % going to college was as well as the % of faculty with advanced degrees. All data used came from the state Department of Education “Strategic High School Profiles”.

      • Thanks for that. When can we expect an official pronouncement from the BOE on the matter? Next Tuesday? Never? Will they make note of the conclusion presented in the Forbes article that Dan cited; money does not determine the outcome?

        • Thatcher,
          Why should the BOE “pronounce” on anything so lacking in intelligence?

          • What is lacking in intelligence is that there are no metrics for measuring the performance of the BOE as they soak up taxpayer dollars. The conclusion with respect to money and educational outcomes set out on the Forbes article chosen by Dan is found in numerous other studies of outcomes and money. So where again is the lack of intelligence? BTW I did not offer up the CT Magazine ranking as evidence of anything.

  5. Never trust the polls. Chicago got fattest city in the country for years and it was based on the number of restaurants in the city. Never bothered to see the runners at 4:30 a.m. around the lake.