A civic-minded citizen seeking the singularity

An entry

Visualizing Enrollment Data

Date: 2009-08-04
Status: release
Tags: visualization data

I once worked at a public Charter school as Director of Operations, where I was responsible for the business aspects of the school, which included finances and technology. As a public school in California, funding is based on a fixed amount per year, pro-rated based on attendance. For example, the state pays a school $6,000 per year, per student, to attend 180 days of school. If a child attended 90 days (1/2 the full-time), then the school would get 1/2 of $6,000, or $3,000. I believe this is why I felt attendance measures were tightened late in my school career, as this type of funding was being put in place.

Nevertheless, at the school, I inherited a Student Information System that ran, but had bits of less-than-correct-or-complete data.

I turned to visualizing the problem in order to better understand and communicate it with others. I extracted data from an Oracle database using a Ruby ActiveRecord Adapter, and created and styled the visualization using a the PDF Writer .gem.

Here are the results.

With a clear, shared understanding of the issue at hand, we were able to address the data integrity issue by manually fixing the records based on paper backup, and staff was able to understand why the issue occurred and how to prevent again in the future.

Win, win, visual win.