• Megan Johanson

Visualization Struggles: Achievement Gap

I am participating in January's Storytelling With Data challenge of creating a small multiples chart. I work with education data a lot and one struggle I've encountered is how to visualize academic data that shows an achievement gap between races/ethnicities.

The Challenge of Achievement Gap Visualizations

The difficulty is that there are often many variables that need to be included (i.e. race/ethnicity, school/grade, subject) and each of those variables have multiple categories (e.g., Black, White, Hispanic, Asian).

I've tried several ways to visualize achievement gaps in the past: dot plots, clustered bar charts, and bar charts with "target" lines. However, I hadn't tried small multiples.

The Data

I started with real 3rd Grade Reading Proficiency data from the Ohio Department of Education, but removed the school names and changed the data points slightly to anonymize the data.

The Visualization

Here is what the small multiples bar charts look like for a district with six elementary schools. I used this trick to make my bar charts identical for each school.

The Critique

I still feel the visualization may be too visually overwhelming. I tried to make it easier on the eyes by consistently color coding each racial/ethnic group across the schools but with so many schools and so many racial/ethnic groups, it still feels like too much to take in at once.

In addition, I think the display would benefit from more white space between the schools, but I ran into issues with the standard page width and trying to avoid the race/ethnicity labels auto-rotating.

The Wrap-Up

I think this is the best visualization option that I've tried for the achievement gap, but I don't think it's perfect. I'm curious if anyone else has encountered this issue and how they resolved it.

Do you think this is a good way to visualize achievement gap data? How could the charts be improved?

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© 2019 by Megan Johanson.