IDEAS | BLOG

Data Visualization and the 2015 Nation’s Report Card for Reading & Math

This week, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) program published the results of the 2015 Reading and Mathematics assessment for Grades 4 and 8. Through our partnership with Education Testing Services (ETS) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Forum One worked closely with the NAEP team to translate large and complex amounts of data into a clear and interactive design for policy makers, media, educators, researchers, and interested parents to explore.

The Nation’s Report Card

The results of the NAEP assessments are also collectively called “the Nation’s Report Card” for their rigorous picture of the educational performance of the country’s students.  The NAEP assessments cover various subjects and grades (mainly Grades 4, 8 and 12). The Grade 4 and 8 Reading and Mathematics report is the benchmark report and occurs every two years.  Its importance and reach to a variety of audiences meant that we needed to find creative and intuitive ways for users with different levels of interest and expertise to explore the results, find what they were looking for, and easily comprehend what was being presented to them.

Understanding Results Through Data Visualization

This year’s report card showcases national-, state- and district-level data. In addition to overviews at each level, the data digs further into specific areas such as gender, race/ethnicity, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and types of schools. We knew that sifting through this much data could potentially be a lot to take in, so we focused on data visualization tools to support it.

Major highlights included:

  • D3 charts and graphics: we continue to make use of a growing library of D3 charts built up over previous Nation’s Report Card releases. As in other reports, we were able to make use of valuable usability feedback from key stakeholders to focus on improving these visualizations and ensuring they are as clear and concise as possible, given the depth of data and the rigor that is NAEP’s core value.
  • Visual sliding navigation: moving away from a traditional sidebar or drop-down list, the report sections are easily accessible from a sliding Table of Contents that also shows audiences what kinds of visualizations they will see on that page before they even get there.
  • Small multiples: to allow for comparisons between multiple graphs, the use of small multiples gives the user the ability to compare across data points without having to scroll (check out our recent blog post on small multiples to learn more).

We encourage you to explore the Nation’s Report Card. If you have any questions or feedback regarding the D3 data visualization tools that were used, feel free free to type them in the comments section below.