Data Visualization Competition Helps Colorado Schools

every kid deserves a high-performing schoolAs they say, the holidays are a time for giving.  I can tell you that for Kaggle and Visual.ly this definitely rings true!  Both of these companies have volunteered their time, expertise, and technology to host and judge a data visualization competition which seeks to uncover trends occurring in the Colorado Public School system.  I have been truly impressed with their willingness to lend their valuable time to the effort.

For those designers and data visualizers also looking for a way to give back this holiday season and get your work featured on Visual.ly, we have a Visualization contest launching December 10th.  The Challenge is to use 3 years of data released by the state of Colorado’s Department of Education to visually uncover trends in the Colorado public school system.

This is about more than just infographics.  It’s about diving deep into the data to uncover new insights using all the tools in the data science arsenal.  There’s is a nice prize pool for the winners, all submissions will be evaluated by the Visual.ly team and qualified visualizers will be given admission into the Visual.ly Marketplace for future work.

The contest is sponsored by Colorado Succeeds, a 501(c)3 who is interested in seeing what trends and insights visualisation experts can identify and explain in compelling data visualizations.  Colorado Succeeds as an organization has a vision that every student in Colorado has access to a high performing school and graduates with the knowledge, skills and behaviors necessary to succeed in the competitive global economy.

Their work provides the policy, advocacy and accountability supports necessary to make this ambitious goal a reality.  They are funding the $5,000 prize pool for the winning visualizations and will use the visualizations to communicate with parents and citizens what is going on with the Public School System.

Some questions they hope to have answered:

  • How have grades changed over time across the state (or perhaps more importantly how have they remained the same)?
  • Where are the high performing schools primarily located?
  • Are there correlations between high performing schools and student demographics (free/reduced lunch is a proxy for poverty or by race) – Do poor and minority kids have access to high performing schools?
  • Academic growth is an indicator used in the grading system. It is described in more detail below, but is perhaps the greatest indicator of how much teaching and learning is actually occurring in the school. That said, where are the schools that have the best sub-grades for student growth? Are there particular schools that have high percentages of low income students AND high grades for student growth. Some may say those schools are doing more to close Colorado’s achievement gap between the wealthy and the poor than any other.
  • What percentage of Colorado’s student’s are ready for college and career by school or by school district?
  • Which districts have the most high performing schools, low performing schools, or improving schools?
  • Which schools have improved their performance the most?
  • How do these grades, graduation rates, and college/career readiness metrics compare to labor market and economic data / needs?
  • What else does the data tells us?

data visualizationThe data itself comes from the State of Colorado Department of Education statewide system of accountability and support.  This data is generated to enable the state to better support district evaluation, planning, decision-making, and implementation in improving schools.

The performance framework data measure attainment on the four key performance indicators identified in SB 09-163 as the measures of educational success: academic achievement, academic longitudinal growth, academic gaps and post-secondary and workforce readiness. State identified measures and metrics for each of these performance indicators are combined to arrive at an overall evaluation of a school’s or a district’s performance.

For districts, the overall evaluation leads to their accreditation. For schools, the overall evaluation leads to the type of plan schools will implement.  This data, while publicly available on the CDE website, is quite complex, disjointed, and generally difficult for parents to use to identify trends and uncover information that they could use for choosing their child’s school.

Want to help?  If you have data visualization skills, the competition is free to enter.  If not, help spread awareness of the competition by forwarding this post on twitter/facebook/linkedin/etc. or through the link: http://www.kaggle.com/c/visualize-the-state-of-education-in-colorado

*Competition link on Kaggle will be live from Dec 10th*