In what its organizers are calling the largest educational initiative on the Internet, the Family Education Network has connected more than 16,000 school districts via its Web site.
The local sites, which are accessible through the Family Education Network's core site, aim to give parents, teachers, administrators, and students a network of resources through the strategic partnerships set up with the Education Department, Reuters, Education Week, and the Congressional Quarterly, among other content providers.
"Education is most relevant and powerful at the local level," said Family Education president John Carson. "The problem is the information for parents is really fragmented. We're an aggregator, putting it into one place."
Although the local sites are already in place, districts can customize them further to reflect their community. Custom sites include templates that local districts can use to set up community-oriented sites with district-specific athletic, school lunch, and extracurricular activities schedules accessible online.
School districts that sign up with the Family Education Network agree to maintain a minimum of five of the sites' templates and to make the site the exclusive third-party default page for the district. So far, over 3000 schools have signed on.
The site also features a "Best Practices" section, where teachers and administrators can post local solutions to common problems facing educators.
Carson acknowledged that there are some hurdles inherent in bringing technology into schools. Many parents are nervous about giving children unfettered access to all of the content on the Internet.
"Parents don't have the choice to put the genie back in the bottle, so to speak, so it is incumbent upon developers to develop socially responsible stuff."