Letter grades actually tell you very little about how well a student is doing in class. Nevertheless, most of us have a general understanding of what the traditional grading scale means: A for Excellent, B for Above Average, C for Average, D for Below Average, F for Fail.
But when it comes to other metrics about student performance -- particularly the data that comes from various assessments and benchmark goals -- there's nothing really like the letter grading scale to help parents and students understand performance, let alone take action to support improvement. As much as the letter grade is a crude tool, it's one that people do understand.
One of the startups at this past weekend's DC Startup Weekend EDU decided to take on this particular challenge, helping translate some of the complicated data from assessments into easy-to-understand information. And just as importantly (if not more so), making this information actionable. After all, it's all well-and-good to talk about "data driven education" if administrators and policy officials know what the various metrics and indicators mean and know how they want to penalize and reward teachers, students, and schools based on it. But "data driven" based on undecipherable metrics does no good in helping some of the key players do better -- namely, parents and student.
4EyesOnMe taps into what's becoming an increasingly important trend in helping make data accessible and actionable: visualizations and infographics. The idea is to take information from assessments and put it into a format so that teachers can more easily make a student's progress understandable to parents. It's also in a format too that students themselves can understand. The site plans on taking student data and turning it into personalized infographics for each family.
I am actually growing more and more wary of infographics, in a lot of ways. I think that they're less a tool for making data more understandable and more a way for terrible, awful, no-good, very bad marketers to encourage link-baiting (as in, a lot of the infographics about education tend to be created by ForProfitSpamSites.com). That being said, I do think that data visualization is an incredible powerful way to take a data-set and make it something far more meaningful than an Excel spreadsheet could ever be. And one of the things I like a lot about the 4EyesOnMe idea is that it doesn't just personalize the student data, it personalized the infographic, putting it into a template that appeals to a student's particular interests.
The team behind 4EyesOnMe plans on continuing to work on the project after this weekend. (For more details about how the team formed and progressed over the 54-hour event, have a look at team-leader Ainsley O'Connell's write-up of the experience.) The code has also been open-sourced and is up on GitHub so that others can help move this project forward.