Is it time to grade school systems’ websites?

Posted by Ronald | March 24, 2012  |  No Comment

When shopping, we sometimes rely on “first impression” to purchase a product. Similarly, parents may rely on this same approach when enrolling their children in various schools. This might include their “first impression” of the grades of students on standardized tests, the grades of parents’ involvement in the educational setting and the grades of the school system based on federal standards such as the No Child Left Behind Act.

Since parents can rely on various methods to determine where to enroll their children in school, the questions to be asked are: Is it time to grade school systems’ websites? Is there a criterion to grade school systems’ websites? What school systems received outstanding grades for their websites?

The Sunshine Review, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to local and state government transparency, grades government agencies such as school systems “that are doing an exemplary job at proactively disclosing information to taxpayers and setting a transparency standard that all governments can and should meet,” according to president Michael Barnhart of Sunshine Review.

With the goal of Sunshine Review to make government websites transparent, relevant and accessible to all stakeholders such as parents, editors from Sunshine Review analyzed more than 6,000 government websites and graded them on a 10-point checklist for the 2012 awards. These websites were graded on information pertaining to budgets, meetings, audits, academic performance, public records, etc. Out of the 6,000 websites, the Sunny Awards went to 214 government agencies.

The leading states for the Sunny Awards were Florida, Texas, Illinois, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.  Ten states, including Florida and California, earned an “A” on their school districts’ website. In fact, among the 110 school districts’ websites evaluated in California, San Francisco United School District (SFUSD) was the only district in this state to earn an “A” grade.  SFUSD’s multilingual site receives approximately 100,000 unique visitors each month.  The district redesigned its website ( through grant funding in 2011 making it more transparent and accessible for students, parents, teachers, administrators, community officials, etc.

In a quick perusal of the website, you can review pertinent information about SFUSD, the public schools affiliated with SFUSD and the enrollment process in the SFUSD schools. In addition, you can learn information about family resources, programs, services, curriculum and standards at SFUSD. This all provides a vehicle to assist parents in making their school choices and gaining the best opportunities for their children.

Florida had the most government agencies to win the Sunny Award and it had the most school districts in the nation to receive an “A” grade on their websites. Some of these school districts included Duval County Public Schools, Escambia County School District, Orange County Public Schools, Palm Beach County School District and St. Johns County School District.

While “first impression” is everything in the perception of people, this can also relate to parents as they rely on various resources to determine where to place their children in school. The Sunshine Review provides a valuable avenue for school districts to compare how their websites are meeting the standards of transparency and accessibility of information to all constituents and particularly parents.  School districts’ websites provide an important view into what is happening at the school and helps parents form their impressions about the school.  For additional information on all government entities that became recipients of the 2012 Sunny Awards, please visit:

Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of the book, Education Questions to be Answered.  He is the President of The Holmes Education Post, an education focused internet newspaper. Holmes is the National Superintendent of Education for the National Save the Family Now Movement, Inc., a former teacher, school administrator, and district superintendent and can be reached at the following website address: [email protected]



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