ederal officials who want a lesson in how to set up an attractive, comprehensive and user-friendly World Wide Web site should point their browsers in the direction of the Department of Education's home page.
Education's site (http://www.ed.gov) has been in operation for almost two years, but the department unveiled a new version in September that is among the classiest-and most useful-of all federal sites. It is the gateway to an "online library" of more than 11,000 different files of information for teachers, parents and policymakers.
The site's news section contains departmental announcements, press releases, transcripts of speeches and testimony by Education Secretary Richard Riley and other officials, as well as regular updates on legislation affecting the department.
The site also contains electronic teachers' and researchers' guides to the department-a parents' guide is in the works-and a special section on guidelines and regulations for applying for educational grants and contracts. There are links to dozens of files about the department's major legislative initiatives, such as Goals 2000 and the School-to-Work program.
In another section of the site, users can click on a map of the United States to get a list of Education programs and services available in their area. The site also includes links to other education-related Internet sites around the world, and has a keyword-search feature, enabling users to search the full text of all the files in the department's electronic library for a particular word or phrase.
Education officials say that usage of the Web site has tripled in the last year. In August alone, more than 37,000 users visited the site.
Both Internet World and PC Week have said Education's site is one of the most useful educational resources on the Internet. PointCom, an independent Web publication that reviews Internet sites, recently rated Education's site as among the top 5 percent of all Web home pages.
"The Department of Education ought to put up an excellent Web site," wrote Point's evaluators in their review, "and they do."