Opening Up Education Data: Funding, Demographic, and Achievement Data for almost 14,000 U.S. Public School Districts

By Eric Gundersen on May 13 2009 . Posted in MapBox.

The New America Foundation’s Federal Education Budget Project just launched a new website that opens up the largest set of public data on the U.S. public education system. While the site targets policy makers and the press, with its unique data set – the site now reports on over 65 indicators for almost 14,000 public school districts in the United States – it is becoming a huge resource for parents and local officials as well.

The site’s data visualizations and custom report generators show you how your state stacks up to the rest of the country. Here’s a look at Washington, DC’s schools that will make you shudder:

More importantly, you can drill down to your individual school district to see how it ranks compared to surrounding districts and where it falls in your entire state. With this functionality you can really see the value in custom maps. These were all made with TIGER Census shape files that were generated on a custom mapping server (Mapnik, which is the same stack we used to generate the bird flu mapping project for USAID and InterAction) using Drupal’s Nice Map Module.

Here is a look at Nye County School District in Nevada.

But this site is more than just a visualization tool. You can interact with the entire data set through custom data query tools. For example, here is a custom comparison of per pupil expenditure, operating budget, and federal revenue per pupil of Nye County School District with other school districts in Nevada.

We didn’t want to keep this data locked into the site, so it’s easy to print it out and export a select data set into CSV and from which you can run your own analysis.

Here’s a look at a print friendly data for Washington, DC schools:

Here’s a CSV download for Nye County schools:

Lastly, to make sure users could immediately see how rich the data is on this site and why it’s directly relevant to them, there’s an IP lookup system that pulls data for the school district from where you’re browsing the website and displays it on the homepage. Here’s a screenshot of that in action:

Jeff and Young were the leads on this project and ran with the data architecture, the building of the site, the design, and even the rebranding and development of a new logo for the Federal Education Budget Project. Ben jumped in on some key sections, helped take the site live, and has led the charge on creating documentation and training for the New America Foundation. A lot of our focus went to making sure the data structure is flexible and easy to update, and it paid off. Jenny (data ninja) Cohen, who handles much of the FOIAing and data processing for the Federal Education Budget Project, can now directly export the data from SAS and upload the 6.6 MB csv when she wants to add fresh data to the site.

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