Friday, August 08, 2008

Why is the SPS Website So Lame?

Yet another post on a thread that deserves its own space.

This was from the AP thread from NEMom:

"Solvaygirl is right - there should be something provided by the district showing families what programs, services, assistance, etc is available at each school, and to whom it is available.

Why do parents have to be detectives and go through every school's website or attend every open house just to find out bits and pieces of info?"

NE Mom I have been saying this exact thing for years. Why indeed to we have to be detectives? Why are the Enrollment Guides not clear?

Why do we have a district website if it is not the central clearinghouse for information rather than just a place for each department/school to post information?

There is no FAQ page for the district; some departments have one, others don't. Bellevue School District has one.

The information on any school's website can vary; some don't even put bell hours.

Why not a page that has an organizational chart of the district (I know one exists but I don't know if it covers the entire district).

And yes, why not a page that explains programs and where they exist (even if only in one school)? This is information that private school parents would be interested in and for current SPS parents looking to start a program at their school, could provide valuable information.

(I know there are some departments that have a lot of information and try to keep it updated. But overall, the SPS website is not intuitive or easy to use.)


Christina said...

And I suppose if SPS could hire a Web Content Manager to provide a proper organization scheme to the site and keep it updated, people here would be griping about the waste in headcount and taxpayer dollars...

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, I doubt that. In today's world, the website is the face of your district and the frontline for information. This isn't necessarily about changing the format (although I think it's not very attractive). It's about putting information out there in an easy to find place.

anonymous said...

We already publish an enrollment guide for families. It includes the basic information for each school, why not update it to include all that a school has to offer. Which special ed programs are housed their, any support services offered and whom is eligible to receive them, unique programs offered like bio tech and IB, AP and honors offerings, sports offerings, visual and performing arts (like strong drama program at Roosevelt), competitive band, etc etc etc.

Here is an example. Looking at the enrollment guide you can see that Roosevelt and Hale both offer band. BUT, unless you are a detective or "in the know" you wouldn't know that Roosevelt has an award winning, nationally competitive band, and the Hale has a very small struggling band program that as part of the schools philosophy is not competitive.

Here is another example. Looking at the enrollment guide you would find that both Roosevelt and Hale offer the same sports. But again, unless you are a detective, or are "in the know" you would not know that Hale has a no cut, anybody can play sports program, while Roosevelt has a highly competitive sports program, and it's generally much harder for a student to make a team their.

Shouldn't parents have access to this information without having to dig forever, go to every open house, search every website?

We already have an enrollment guide. Why not add the information that would be useful for parents to know?

anonymous said...

Here is one more example that directly correlates to academics:
Looking at the district enrollment guide you see that both Roosevelt and Hale offer AP courses. But, what it doesn't tell you is that they are offered in completely different ways. Hale offers most of their AP classes as "add ons" meaning that all students attend the same classes, but AP students are given an extra packet of AP work to complete on their own. There is no AP instruction, so it puts a huge burden on a child. Roosevelt offers stand alone AP courses, which means that children who select an AP class, are in an AP class with AP instruction and AP curriculum. HUGE DIFFERENCE.

Another example: When looking at the enrollment guide you will see that both Salmon Bay and Eckstein offer foreign language. However what you don't see is that Salmon Bay offers one year of "intro to foreign language" where kids explore several languages to see what they might be interested in at the high school level. On the other hand Eckstein offers students three full years of Japanese or Spanish.

In my opinion this is critical information that parents should be given - and it would be easy to incorporate it into an enrollment guide.

SolvayGirl said...

I agree with nemom...the enrollment guide sohuld be all-inclusive. And, as a graphic designer, I know that it is very easy to use the same files for the printed guide to create a PDF file that can be posted to the website.

As for the disparity of info on school's individual website, the schools are responsible for creating their own site. Some have web-savvy parents who do the site or tech teachers. Hence there's a huge difference in quality--which is understandable. However...every school should be required to offer the same content to make it easier for parents to compare schools. But, a new assignment plan might make that all moot anyway.

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, a new assignment plan wouldn't make it moot. Parents may not have as many choices but that doesn't mean they will have none. Also, the issue of equity between what is offered between schools will become huge. I think many parents would use the Roosevelt versus Hale AP as a prime example. Just saying you have AP work available is not the same as saying you have separate AP classes.

It would be interesting to see how the district would solve that dilemma.

Charlie Mas said...

If you were to look at the Enrollment Guide you might think that two schools in the West Seattle-North Cluster offered Spectrum, Lafayette and West Seattle. What it doesn't tell you is that Lafayette has the strongest elementary Spectum program south of the Ship Canal and that West Seattle doesn't actually have any students enrolled in their program nor any teachers trained to deliver it.

The District has promised information about the various Spectrum programs on the web site for five years and has never delivered.

From the Enrollment Guide you might think that the Spectrum program at Lawton is somehow different from the Advanced Learning Opportunity programs at the other three elementary schools in that cluster. It isn't. All four programs have essentially the same structure and delivery model.

old salt said...

One difficulty I see to giving program information in the enrollment guide is that program changes are often made in the spring when decisions are made about budgets, teacher moves, room assignments.

In ne cluster schools for next year, some programs that parents saw when they toured, have been displaced to make room for the extra kindergartens. Staff changes based on the weighted staffing standards will mean discontinuing other programs. Standardized curriculum demands have pushed out other programs.

SolvayGirl said...

With Old Salt's observations in mind, doesn't that make the need for an all-encompassing, accurate and often-updated website even more critical? In this city, in this day and age, there is no reason that the SPS site should be so inadequate.
As parents, what can we do to convince the District that their website is an important component of community outreach?

Charlie Mas said...

For those who might wonder if constantly updating a web site might not be an extraordinary burden, it need not be.

Surely there must already be a document with the content that people have said they want to find online. No new content needs to be written, it only has to be posted.

For example, why isn't every school's School Transformation Plan online? They are already written, they are already electronic, they are already in the .pdf file format, so where's the difficulty in uploading them and making links to them? Isn't that the web master's job?

taylor said...

Why are so many things so lame with SPS. Shouldn't the Enrollment Guide indicate for high schools that graduation requirement VARY and shouldn't Roosevelt's different graduation requirements with the required AP Human Geo, be spelled out for all to see?

I still find it hard to understand why no one said that Roosevelt couldn't have different graduation requirements from the rest of the schools without school board approval, public input etc... and how could the parents let this happen without going to the school board to say NO? I don't know why Roosevelt continues to be the school in good graces... so much so that it can do its own thing and the other schools can't?

p.s. Heard the student scoop is that Roosevelt's AP Human Geo is far from AP given the students learn weekly vocab and get weekly quizzes... no higher level critical thinking skills needed and not as much fun in execution as was presented to parents.