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ESSA Report Card Design Challenge

On November 8-9, 2018, the U.S. Department of Education and the Data Quality Campaign hosted technical experts, subject matter experts, state leaders, parents, and other stakeholders for two days of sketching, prototyping and building solutions to help states design family-friendly approaches to report cards that make school data more transparent and accessible.

The Opportunity | The Design Challenge | Award Winners | Additional Resources | From Our Blog

The Opportunity

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as reauthorized and amended by the ESSA in 2015, requires State educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs or school districts) that receive funds under Title I, Part A of the ESEA to annually prepare and disseminate report cards that include more than 2,000 data points about their public school systems available to families. State and LEA report cards provide transparency regarding academic challenges and deficits and highlight areas in which States, LEAs, and schools have made gains. This information is a key resource to helping parents and communities understand how their school is performing, evaluate what is working and what needs to change, and drive changes that help kids succeed.

The ESEA requires that report cards be concise and presented in an understandable and uniform format that is accessible to the public. The updated report card requirements under ESSA present an opportunity for states to revisit their approach to report cards and consider new ways to empower parents with information that is easier to access and understand.

The Design Challenge

During the ESSA Report Card Design Challenge, teams were asked to focus on one of two challenge points.

  1. School Landing Page: Although not required under the ESEA, given the number of data elements required for inclusion in the report cards, many States are considering the development of school profile pages that include an introductory section to highlight key metrics of interest on report cards and tell a story about their schools. The goal of this challenge point is to develop designs that are visually appealing, easy to interpret and navigate, and that encourage deeper exploration of the data.
  2. Per Pupil Expenditure: Many States are exploring options for how to meet a new requirement to include per-pupil expenditure data on report cards in a way that is understandable and useful. The ESEA requires that each State and its LEAs annually report per-pupil expenditures of Federal, State, and local funds on State and LEA report cards, disaggregated by source of funds. Per-pupil expenditures must be reported for the LEA as a whole and for each school served by the LEA for the preceding fiscal year. The goal of this challenge point is to create solutions for visualizing school-level expenditure data in a way that is straightforward and easy to understand, while also incorporating important context and data limitations.

Award Winners

Best Overall Design & Best Data Visualization

Team The New Norm

Rutvi Gupta, Jessica Panicola & Umila Singh

School of Visual Arts

Screen capture of design shows first two value categories, Learning and Growth and Safety and Security

We wanted our design to use data to promote school transparency and equity. We identified five parent-centered values that informed our design, which were: 1) Learning and Growth, 2) Safety and Security, 3) Opportunities, 4) Culture and Climate, and 5) Well-being. Ultimately, we wanted to create an opportunity for data to inform parents, develop their sense of agency, and move them from awareness to action.

*This design is openly licensed.

View Design | View Presentation | View Feedback | Contact Team

Best User Experience & People’s Choice

Team Frenchie

I-Jui Chi, Kunal Eapen, Alisha Gonsalves & Shangcao Yuan

University of Maryland College Park

Screen capture of design shows the start of the path through the data - starting with Academics, then to Environment

School Profile page design created keeping in mind parents and students involved in making school choices.

*This design is openly licensed.

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Best Graphic Design & Excellence in Accessibility

Team Extraordinary Facility

Matt Brown

Extraordinary Facility

Screen capture of design shows plain language text describing the rating of the school

This design is prioritized for mobile and focuses on simple, conversational language. It also makes suggestions on how schools could add more local flavor to the top-down data.

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Plainest Language

Team The Dark Horse

Alex Gibbons, Joanna Libby, Jim Liu & Courtney Reynolds


Screen capture of design shows high-level questions to explore aimed at a student audience

We leaned on the design principle we employ in our education software company that “if it’s good for students, it’s good for adults”. Our design is: mobile first; focused on answering questions phrased by the learner; inspired by social media design patterns. When used to present data, all of these things meets a parents’ needs and, just as importantly, a student can use this for themselves. It give access for learners to see how the school is meeting their needs.

*This design is openly licensed.

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Creative Use of Context

Team Ultraviolet Flying Narwhals

Janice Chan, University of Maryland College Park; Brandon Goon, Be Anything; Stefan Heng, University of Maryland College Park; David Jansen, Fresno Unified School District; Kristopher Stevens, Kentucky Center for Statistics; & Michelle Wagner, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Screen capture of design shows options to discover a school or district by indicator

Our landing page meets users where they are by offering to curate a list of schools based on metrics of interest (broad themes like academic achievement, extracurriculars) or taking them directly to a school they are interested in. The design is responsive so it works equally well on smartphones and computers. The design combines easily accessible information with more detail for those interested.

*This design is openly licensed.

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Additional Designs

Team #NailedIt

Solace Arevalo Sabado, Vijit Bhati & Parv Rustogi

University of Maryland College Park

Screen capture of design dashboard shows visual display of teacher to student ratio data

Our design uses widgets with insightful information that parents can view at a glance to get a basic understanding of the information important to them without being overloaded by unnecessary data. They can choose to dive deeper into the data and view it in detail that shows graphs and information that can be compared to district data, state data and data from the last few schools viewed. These widgets are customizable and can be changed based on relevant data per state. For other information that is important to a parent, we have proposed a query assistant that uses keywords to auto generate questions that might be important to them. If a keyword doesn’t prompt a question it points the parent towards a conversational chatbot that classifies their question and routes it to the corresponding authority.

*This design is openly licensed.

View Design | View ChatBot Prototype | View Feedback

Team Not a School Board

Alexander Jue, Paul Negron, Matthew Repka & Brian Robinson

D.C. State Board of Education

Screen capture of design shows visual and textual display of school characteristic data

Our school report card is designed to facilitate fast comparisons between schools and state averages that are relevant and easy to understand for students and families. The school profile page suggests other schools of interest based on popular searches and other characteristics, and it contains overlay tools that allow users to view different side-by-side comparisons without navigating away from the school profile page.

n.b. While we have attempted to create as much contrast as possible on the comparison page, we are somewhat constrained by our software platform (e.g. it does not permit the use of different color fonts).

*This design is openly licensed.

View Design | View Landing Page with Overlay | View Feedback

Team Logic Model^2

Susan Armstrong, David English & Borys Mar


Screen capture of dashboard design shows visual tile display of school data

We approached this design with end-user in mind. We wanted to make sure all key audience’s known needs, concerns were addressed. We focused on all user groups but parents as main audience.

The Logic Model^2 report card organizes key indicators by inputs, intermediate outputs and outcomes of an actual logic model that state leaders might use for at-a-glance monitoring of process and performance goals. The central design features are “panels” for each measure that encourage comparison across schools, subgroups and over time and which each represent a single screen when the report card is uploaded to a cell phone. The measures themselves emphasize keeping students ‘on-track’ to mastery to promote fair comparisons between all schools and to incentivize progress for all students. An overall summative rating is provided, as well as a rating controlling for objective teacher quality measures and other resource measures.

*This design is openly licensed.

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Team The Right Angle

Alan Clemens, Northern Illinois University; Sara Kohn, Texas Education Agency; Sanny Lin & Angela Smithers, Smithsonian Institution.

Screen capture of design shows visualization of per pupil expenditure data

This submission represents the first phase design of a user experience related to Per-Pupil-Expenditures. It provides illustration of what we believe are the essential features that need to be included in the presentation of PPE data. Images are a combination of screen captures from existing report card tools in Illinois and Texas and team generated conceptual designs for PPE detail pages.

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Team State of the Art

Josh Newman, Mike Fee, Mark Teague, Han Liu, & Anna Tamez

Spotlight Education

Screen capture of design shows localized video animating the data about schools within the district

Multi-lingual personalized video descriptions of school report cards — each school has its own video, in multiple languages!

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Team Results

Michael Donofrio & KenRick Skerritt


Screen capture of design shows map display of per pupil expenditure data

Interactive Data Explorer to facilitate analysis and comparative benchmarking for all ESSA required data elements across all school districts. Target Audience- Federal, SEA’s, LEA’s and IHE’s.

View Design | View PPE Report | View Feedback | Contact Team

Additional Resources

From Our Blog

Join us for the ESSA Report Card Design Challenge to help rethink how families…

What if you could design a solution that would provide more accessible information for families and their advocates as they navigate…

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