Education Graphics:  Patterns in Data

This website contains substantive information on Texas school test score performance and expenditures, relationships between donors and recipient members of the State Policy Network, and details of charter school funding in Texas.  But the main focus is on the use of several methods of interactive computer graphics to investigate and present that information. 

 

 

The above graph is an example of how the techniques used here can provide new and interesting views of raw data.  In this graph each of the 3,453 faintly visible gray points represents an elementary or a middle school among 90 of the largest school districts in Texas.  Those schools included in six school districts are highlighted in distinct colors.  The highlighted schools demonstrate that within the overall negative relationship between academic performance (vertical axis) and percentages of students who are economically disadvantaged, there are very distinct patterns within individual districts. This data is made available within the interactive graphics presentation included in the Big90 Graphs option to the left.

The software not only highlights individual or sets of schools, but also displays numerical information corresponding to those which were selected.

A Java language version of this software is described, and will soon be made available for downloading. This version, to be run on a desktop or portable computer, not within a web browser, has more features and capabilities than the web version available here.

The five options available on the select list to the left are briefly described:

Big90 Graphs. When first selected a brief description of the data being used is presented.  More importantly, a link to the interactive graphics page is presented.  Clicking on this link will present a page with two graphs and a data area beneath them.  Beneath this link, there are three labels Show steps. Clicking on these results in drop-down step-by-step instructions that will permit interacting with the graphs presented. Actually, if the label [AF] is selected (i.e. clicked on using the left-mouse button)  an automatic display of the schools among the 90 included school districts will be initiated, the districts being randomly selected in groups of five. The process can be interrupted by clicking on [Clear].  Clicking on [AS] gives a more slowly paced automatic display.

Beneath the row of select buttons is the link [Examples]. This includes step-by-step instructions for two more elaborate illustrations.

Clicking on the link [Instructions] displays a detailed, multi-page set of instructions for using the software.

The Javascript code used for this page can be packaged with other data sets. Also, even for the data included in this presentation, provision is made for a user to create different graphs, using the data included.  The parameters which designate any such newly created graph can be saved to local storage, retrieved, copied and pasted to an email, and sent to a colleague to be viewed by him or her on their own computer when connected to this web page.

 

ScatterBrain™. This selection presents a description of an earlier version of the Java-based ScatterBrain program.  Recently several significant new features have been added and the revised program will be made available for downloading. This page will soon be updated to permit downloading the current version of ScatterBrain.

It is pointed out that ScatterBrain does not involve any coding on the part of the user. It does require that the tab-delimited data set be structured in a very simple, but specific form, and that each graph to be displayed be defined—variables to be plotted selected, axes’ scales determined and labels entered.  Data to be displayed in the data table must also be selected and formats prescribed. From one to four interlinked graphs can be displayed simultaneously. The descriptions for an individual presentation, for all graphs and the data table, can then be saved in a setup file for future use.

ScatterBrain™ Videos. This page provides access to several videos made with ScatterBrain, using a variety of data obtained from the Texas Education Agency’s website.  A set of data that includes information for most school districts in the U.S is also used in one video, obtained from the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis. These were my first attempts at creating videos, so they are not very polished, but they are intended to demonstrate how the program can be used in meaningful ways.

Charter Papers. Sometime in 2016 I decided to attempt to resuscitate a Texas school finance simulation program that was developed nearly 25 years previously. Doing this required incorporating charter schools into the original program, as charter schools did not exist in Texas when the program was originally written. In carrying out this exercise it soon became apparent that the frequent claim by charter school proponents that charter schools received $1,000 less per student from the state than was received by regular school districts from both state and local funds was false. The series of papers and exercises contained in this section resulted from an attempt to support this realization.

These papers formed part of the underpinnings of a paper by David S. Knight and myself—"Do charter schools receive their fair share of funding? school finance equity for charter and traditional public schools”-- that can be accessed at the following link: https://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/4438.

 

SPN/ALEC. The State Policy Network (SPN) and The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), have been working for decades to redesign and reorient the U.S. economic and political systems.  In short, their goal has been to reverse progressive gains made during the New Deal era—lower taxes, less government regulation of the economy, and less autonomy for local governments.  The movement for so-called choice in public education, while often viewed as a separate movement to reform U.S. education, has in fact been one of the major goals of the State Policy Network and its affiliates. The relationship between the two movements can be demonstrated by observing the overlap in their funding sources.  The discussion papers and exhibits in this section amplify this assertion, which is illustrated in the following diagram.

 


 


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Larry Toenjes

Clear Lake Shores, TX

ltoenjes@aol.com