After the release of the Los Angeles Times’ teacher database that presented information on the effectiveness of hundreds of area teachers, many journalists’ eyes were opened to the possibility of using databases for education reporting.
The Times’ project is one of many education-related databases produced in the last several years that have transformed publicly available documents into useful and usable resources for readers. The examples below share many things in common, including search fields for school, ZIP code, etc., simple interfaces, and eschew clunky tables that are used often for online news reporting, but are usually hard to follow or absorb.
Chicago Tribune: 2009 Illinois School Report Cards
The Tribune’s project is a straightforward examination of area schools that contains searchable information such as class size, test scores, household income, — the kind of information parents and other concerned folks are likely to search for.
The Washington Post: Fixing D.C.’s Schools
This 2007 project from The Post is still a model from which other news databases should be modeled. Its easy to use interface makes searching for the tons of available data on student and teacher proficiency, crimes, health code violations and more a cinch.
The Los Angeles Times: California Schools Guide
“Grading the Teachers” isn’t the first education-related database created by the Times. In 2008, the Times debuted Schools Guide with test scores, enrollment data, and a slew of other information on hundreds of L.A.-area schools.
A schools-related database doesn’t have to focus exclusively on education. This 2008 project by USA Today illustrated how industrial pollution affected nearly 128,000 schools around the nation. Each school is ranked by percentile, indicating how many other schools have worse pollution problems than the selected school.
The New York Times: Diversity in the Classroom
This NY Times database takes a unique approach and examines the effect of immigration on American classrooms. The available charts show the number of students of color has changed over the years and readers can drill down information by state, county, and school district.
The New York Times: New York School Test Scores
Like the previously mentioned databases, this one has the standard search tools for county and ZIP code, but is also notable that it links to the largest schools in the region on the topmost page. This allows a large percentage of viewers to go directly to the test score information for that school. Once a school is selected, there is a plethora of information about how that school’s students fared on standardized tests.
Databases like the ones mentioned here take lots of time, effort, and resources to develop, so why should you endeavor to create one? Well besides the millions of potential page views, education-related databases provide information to schools, teachers, parents and students that is hard to find anywhere else and provides a public service.
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