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…
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.
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 Up” — and 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.