Interactive Web Page Helps Kentucky Legislators Visualize School Data
Special to The Council of State Governments by the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission
Every year it lands on Kentucky legislators’ desks with a thud—literally.
It’s the annual 300-plus page data-heavy research report containing statistical profiles on the state’s 173 public school districts.
This year the Kentucky General Assembly’s Office of Education Accountability, known as OEA, used technology to allow people to access information in the report through an interactive experience. The webpage allows users to zip through voluminous information to zero in on what interests them.
“I think I speak for the membership when I say that is a very, very important tool for us and people all across the state with an interest in how these school districts are performing,” said Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee Co-chair Kentucky state Rep. Daniel Elliott when the webpage was unveiled on June 19.
Kentucky OEA Research Division Manager Bart Liguori said he saw an opportunity to apply what he had learned through Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research Strategic Data Project to the 11 years of data that had been compiled for the annual reports.
“This allows us to look back at a valuable trove of district-level data,” said Liguori, who started at OEA in August 2016. “The data compiled over the years at OEA lends itself to further examination.”
Using the business intelligence software called Tableau, Liguori and his colleagues created three different visualizations on the webpage: district data profiles for 2017, heat maps for selected variables and 10-year trends for those selected variables. It’s mobile friendly and allows one to compare the school districts.
To keep the feel of the printed report, the visualizations are divided into five tabs: demographic profiles, staffing data, finance, performance and Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress results. Three buttons take users directly to each visualization. And each tab within the visualization has additional data.
While some legislators are really invested in printed copies of the report, Liguori hopes the visualization effort becomes a best practice for any OEA report containing information that can be easily visualized on a computer. He added that the school district data visualizations are meant to serve as a supplement to the full report, which will still be printed.
Albert Alexander, the lead research analyst for the report, said it provides a one-stop source of comprehensive district-level education data.
"We wanted to make sure we were staying up with the times,” Alexander said. “It is pretty powerful.”