Education in 2015 Visualized

Some of the most important issues of the year, from school discipline in elementary schools to students saddled with debt long after graduation.

The Atlantic

Education issues can be difficult to grasp; they can feel  overwhelming, intangible, or even irrelevant. Sometimes, the best and most effective means of conveying education stories are through charts, graphics, images, and videos. Here are some of the visuals from around the Internet this past year that helped visualize what mattered—student debt, early-childhood education, regional inequality in schools, campus protests, and so on—in a way that was engaging and provocative.

School Discipline:​
When Schools Are Forced to Practice Race-Based Discipline | The Atlantic

According to U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection, white students made up the largest percentage of one-time suspensions and expulsions,  but black students were expelled and suspended at rates three times higher than their white peers. Education Next polled 4,000 people and concluded that a higher percentage of white respondents, teachers, the general public, and parents opposed federal discipline policies set to correct disparate-impact policies.

Regional Inequality:

Countries With The Most Students For Each School Computer | Forbes / Statista

Niall McCarthy / Statista

The “digital divide”—the gap between regions that have access to modern technology as a tool, and those that don’t—is a growing problem that hinders how schools around the world are able to educate students. A report by OECD reported that some countries claim to have multiple computers available per student at school, but this does not translate to “appreciable improvements in student achievement in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in ICT (Information and Communications Technology) for education.”

Dividing Lines | EdBuild

In the U.S., the quality of public education is heavily determined by where a family lives. Lower-income families sometimes live in areas of concentrated poverty. School districts often receive funding from local property taxes, and without the funding generated by large income taxes from residents, barriers limit low-income students’ access to well-funded schools close to their homes. This map shows a system where community wealth and school budgets are inextricably linked: “School districts [are] drawn in odd shapes and sizes, many sitting next to—or even inside of—districts of wildly different means.”

Teacher Diversity:
More Minority Students, Fewer Teachers of Color | The Atlantic

As the student population grows more diverse—with minority students slated to outnumber their white counterparts by 2022—the Albert Shanker Institute, a think tank funded by the American Federation of Teachers, noted that the number of black teachers dropped from 2002 to 2012.  The report looks at nine major cities—Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.—to quantify the drop in teachers despite the presence of more students of color.

Early-Childhood Education:

Playground | James P. Mollison

Much debate in education circles has centered on the lack of playtime in schools, and its effect on early learning. This collection of photos was intended to be a series of moments that happened during a single break time, a kind of “time-lapse” photography. Students are featured playing in schools around the world: from Kenya to Israel to Japan to Norway.

Common Core Math Problems | Vox

The Common Core is a set of math and reading standards that students will need to have mastered by the end of a given grade level. For math, the problems are intended to help students understand the concepts and mechanics of mathematics by showing their work (a concept called “number sense”), instead of simple rote memorization. Some parents have been infuriated by problems that appear more complex than the non-Common Core math they were taught, and some students may find it tedious. This video explains simply why problems that look like they’re being made unnecessarily complex are actually teaching students in a more thoughtful way.

Student Debt:

Mapping Student Debt | The Washington Center for Equitable Growth

Pim Linders / Kavya Vaghul / Dave Evans / Marshall Steinbaum / Washington Center for Equitable Growth /

According to a paper by the Brookings Institute, federal student loan balances in the U.S. are exceeding $1.1 trillion. The amount of debt held by single individuals has sharply increased over the last generation, and now affects students in every state across the country. This map shows how the student-debt crisis and borrowing for college affects the nation, specific cities, and even zip codes. You can toggle between different map layers using the menu at the top right corner.

Student Poverty Timeline: 2006-2013 | EdBuild

Press the play button in the top right-hand corner to watch student poverty—a result of the student-debt crisis among other factors—increase drastically across the country from 2006 to 2013. Student poverty appears to develop the most drastically in the South and Northwest regions of the U.S.

Educational Attainment | OECD

In the first graph, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), tracked post-secondary education levels of the adult population ages 25 to 34 around the world from 2000 to 2013. The OECD average was in 2013 was 40.53 percent. Korea topped the list with 67.14 percent of adults attending post-secondary institutions or programs; the U.S. is listed at 44.77 percent. The second graph breaks down what percentage of the population achieved different levels of education: tertiary (post-secondary or college), upper secondary (high school), below upper secondary (primary or middle school).

Art in Classroom:
A Visit From Kendrick Lamar | NPR

Mito Habe-Evans / NPR

Brian Mooney, a teacher at High Tech High School in North Bergen, New Jersey, used Kendrick Lamar’s album To Pimp A Butterfly, an album centered around blackness, beauty, and social justice, as a learning tool to teach his freshman english class Toni Morrison’s classic novel, The Bluest Eye (a novel about a young black girl who wants blue eyes). Mooney wrote a blogpost about the lesson, which made its way to Lamar, who visited the school for a day.

College Student Protests:
Campus Politics: A Cheat Sheet | The Atlantic

Campuses across the U.S. have experienced a surge of student activism surrounding in response to race relations and diversity at colleges. Several student groups have issued demands to their respective universities ranging from the removal of members of the faculty and administration, the implementation of mandatory diversity trainings, and the removal of racist of symbols from university buildings. The first graph gives a timeline of major protests and aftermaths at universities starting with the protests at the University of Missouri, which resulted in the ousting of its president and chancellor, to the resignation of Erika Christakis, a Yale lecturer who came under scrutiny after making comments about students’ halloween costumes. The second graph shows many of the college or universities that have been faced with student demands.