Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rating the APS Middle School Websites: Part I

A few weeks back I looked through all the APS middle school websites. I was doing this research in order to kickstart some communication between teachers in my little neck of the academic woods. Those not in K-12 teaching may be surprised to find out that little, if any, contact occurs between teachers.

For instance, I can't tell you exactly what in going on in any other 8th Grade Language Arts classroom anywhere in the District. Including my own school. And I "teach" 8th Grade "Language Arts".

But let us put aside that tasty factoid, for now, and instead focus on the websites of my fellow uncommunicative middle schools. Having been scarred through that earlier exposure to Internet APS Style, I decided another plunge might spare those out there lacking in the necessary bravery (not to mention inclination and time on their hands) to venture forth into this bewildering and largely uninformative virtual world.

And to have some fun, we'll do a little rating thing. So...proceeding in alphabetical order, let's go through the middle school sites using a 1-10 scale where:


1 = A 404 page error

&

10 = The information-filled, yet easily navigable website of your dreams


1. Cleveland Middle School: Rating 2.5

CMS suffers from the almost universal malady of APS websites: recently, or not so recently, deceased webmasters. Evidently there has been an nasty outbreak of "Instant Webmaster Death (IMD)" throughout the Albuquerque Public Schools. IMD must have struck the CMS webmaster on 10/27/08, because that's the indicated last "update".

CMS also suffers from the shared inexplicable tendency of most APS websites to put the phrase "Best Viewed With Internet Explorer" on their site. Why the Hell this is supposedly so, and why anybody after, say, 1998 would put such a statement on their site is mystifying.

Specific to the CMS site, I see we have some redeeming qualities (especially if one were to go into a time machine back to 10/27/08). Most of the internal links work. Almost all staffmembers have listed email addresses (which, unfortunately, are not links). There is quite a bit of information, albeit in a 10-point font with little irritating dots everywhere. If the CMS website was in the "real world", it would be deservedly laughed at. Heartily. As it resides within the APS milieu, however, a rating of 2.5 is "earned".


2. Desert Ridge Middle School: Rating 4

DRMS is one of those schools using a website template from "Professional Innovations, Inc". I don't know exactly when "Professional Innovations" was last innovative, but it must have been sometime in the previous century. DRMS has some useful stuff on its site, and it is updated. The "links" page actually has decent links on it.

At the same time, navigating through the website is nauseatingly reminiscent of sitting through every lousy PowerPoint you've ever had to sit through. The problem: clip art. You know...that clip art. Swinging email doors and stuff. Awful stuff.

And then there's the fact many of the links don't work. And the "Principal's Place" page has black text with a partially dark background. And the short "Principal's Place" message is kinda creepy, and way out of date. And why does this school get three principals, anyway?


3. Eisenhower Middle School: Rating 4.5

Eisenhower's site is slightly better than Desert Ridge's. Still the lousy "Professional Innovations" layout. Still has links that don't work, including one that would go to a really cool "courses" course description page...if the link worked. But there are more choices that DO work on the Eisenhower page.

Most of the EMS staff have their own web pages, and I clicked on a few. I found somewhat decent information on some. The biggest limitation of these staff pages is the unwieldy, outdated and visually nauseating "Professional Innovations" layout. Clicking through these pages is a chore worse than cleaning up dog poop in the backyard. Little fun exists here.

Oh, and another thing. The top of EMS webpages have that little 1996 scrolling announcement thing. Now that I think about it, going to just about any APS school website is like going into an Internet Museum. You start to remember what you were doing the last time you saw ancient crap like little 1996-era scrolling announcements on webpages. Personally, I recall things like using "Hyperstudio"for presentations and "Pine" for my email, while sitting in uncomfortable chairs at the UNM computer lab dungeon.

Oh, the memories.


4. Ernie Pyle Middle School: Rating 1

The EPMS website reflects the school it serves very, very well. It is a scary-ass website for a scary-ass school. The reasons are numerous, but I'll start with the "mission/vision statement thingie" prominent on the Teachers page:

EVERY PERSON MUST SUCCEED

That is some scary shit there. Pardon my inability to be less profane and more profound, but the simple imperative "MUST" just screams out Orwell and/or Nazis, doesn't it? Who cares that the main page was last updated in 2007, or that the soccer schedule is from early 2008? It's not the dated information here that offends, it's the combination of "Every Person Must Succeed" with the comic sans font and psycho layout.

This website is like an episode of "Night Gallery". One involving clowns, terribly distorted photos, and scary hyper-speed clip art. If online dictionaries carried definitions of phrases like "bad acid trip", the link for the entry would go straight to this website.


5. Garfield Middle School: Rating 1.25

A friend of mine was opining a few days back that Garfield is the single worst middle school in APS. Now that's a bold statement, because, well, we've got some very strong candidates for this honor. Achieving single worst status isn't something that can be done without some serious dedication to some serious bad practices.

I cannot report as to whether Garfield is the worst/best or most absolutely average middle school in APS. I've never been there, except for this soccer game about 10 years ago, and all I remember is that the school/team I was "coaching" tried to leave the Garfield premises as quickly as humanly possible, owing to some perceived threat or threats. But back in the late 90s this was common at APS middle school soccer games, and Garfield did not stand out in this regard. Compared to Truman or Van Buren, I recall Garfield as a veritable vacation hot spot when it came to this sort of thing.

But I digress. I'm here to report on websites, not harms to personal safety present at various middle schools in the late 90s. So...finally getting to the GMS website I can safely report that it sucks. It is awful.

In some ways it stands out as the worst one I've yet investigated. For instance, its teacher page has links to TWO teacher's pages. TWO. And only one of those has any information on it, and that information is from 2007. Everything else is outdated, but anybody who checks these APS pages quickly gets over the expectation that any information will be from this school year. But the teacher's page truly excels as the single worst I've yet seen.

Oh, and another thing. I admit I'm a bit cynical when it comes to "mission statements", "vision statements" and such. I believe the time spent creating such statements would be better spent doing ANYTHING, including spending that time hitting large, pointy rocks against one's head repeatedly at high speed.

So I'm a bit biased.

But the Garfield "mission statement" stands out. Let me retype it here (because I can't copy/paste it from the website, as it is obviously too fine and valuable a sentiment to allow for copy/pasting):

"The mission of Garfield Middle School is to achieve excellence and prepare our students to succeed in the challenging world of tomorrow, through continuous improvement."

There's much to like here, but my favorite is the unnecessary comma addition of the boilerplate "continuous improvement" phrase. I can't claim to be anything close to a perfect grammarian, but you'd think a room full of people at some Godforsaken six-hour "mission statement" brainstorming would be able to figure out where to put the commas.

An ugly, ugly website.


Okay, that's a wrap for Part I. I'll start with Grant Middle School in my next report.

6 comments:

Natalie said...

Mhhmm... The number one reason people are still visiting my I Spy APS blog is because they are seeking information they can't get from either their school website or the APS website. I still get an average of 100 hits a day. I haven't posted anything for over a year (Well, I did post about just that... ppl visiting for information and, recently, about how to register your kids.)'
I did a post similar to this about a year (maybe it was two, hell, I don't remember) and still... nuthin'. The comments were interesting that several complained that the "webmasters" were teachers doing it on their own time and it wasn't fair to rate them so poorly because they weren't given time or training to do it properly.
All this technology and no one to run it... even if it is from 1998, has frames and runs java like a stoned warrior...
Ugh!

Anonymous said...

I think you were too kind to give Eisenhower a 4.5.

Just on the front page you find a two-year-old parent survey, a safety update from last year, etc.

A couple of years ago it was current and easy to navigate and then they went to PI and it went downhill fast.

Not-So-Anonymous Eisenhower Parent

jscotkey said...

Natalie: Nice to "see" you here again...been a while. I'm sorry if I stole this idea from you, but I don't remember seeing that post. As for your information post, I remember it well and it's a great compendium of things APS. Too bad the District can't seem to make a post/site as good as yours.

Anon: 4.5 for EMS might be a tad high, but I did give some credit for those staff pages. At the same time, one must crack through an out-of-date (as you mention) surface to make it through to those staff pages. I'm keen to hear the story behind all this "Professional Innovations" business. I'm sure the story is both depressing and enlightening.

Abuelita2 said...

Oh, dear, another "great" new thing!!! PI, what???? Professional Innovations?? What the heck is that? I've been in APS and I have escaped hearing of that?

Robin said...

LOVE your in depth look at these dusty old relics! don't forget the Elementary schools too!

SydTheSkeptic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.