January 13, 2013

Visualize the State of Public Education in Colorado

I've just finished my entry for the "Visualize the State of Public Education in Colorado"-competition at Kaggle. The point of this competition is not to create an algorithm or predict something from some data, like the Traveling Santa Problem, but to make the numbers easy to understand with the help of an Infographic.
The background to the competition is as follows. The US State of Colorado wants to improve its schools and have begun to grade each school with a letter ranging from A+ to F. They have now done this for 3 years, and would now like to make some sense of all of these numbers which are currently hidden in many spreadsheets. The easiest way to make numbers easy to understand is to make an Infographic.
To create this Infographic, I've been using Inkscape which is a good, and free, replacement software for the more expensive Illustrator. Most of the colors in the Infographic comes from the State of Colorado flag. The code is written in Python and I've used matplotlib to make the graphs.
According to the book Freakonomics, you can find eight factors that are strongly correlated with school test scores:
  1. The child has highly educated parents
  2. The child's parents have high socioeconomic status
  3. The child's mother was thirty or older at the time of her first child's birth
  4. The child had low birthweight
  5. The child's parents speak English in the home
  6. The child is adopted
  7. The child's parents are involved in the PTA
  8. The child has many books in his home
It is here possible to see if number 2 is a correct one, "The child's parents have high socioeconomic status", by looking at the segment in the Infographic with the label "What about the poor students" and you can clearly see that the percentage of poor students are low in schools with good grades. In the future, the ColoradoSchoolGrades.com should maybe add all of the eight points above to their research.

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