Every Student Exceeds Act: Visualizing per-pupil expenditure to ensure equitable spending


Create a report that meets the new requirement for reporting per-pupil expenditure and make it useful for stakeholders.


Nov 8-9, 2018

Per-pupil expenditure is a new requirement that schools must report starting the 2018-2019, as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The goal is to provide transparent financial information—for parents, community members, administrators, policymakers, and researchers—to ensure that funding is equitable and effective.

Read more about the challenge here.


As part of the challenge, the Department of Education and Data Quality Campaign provided three scenarios, which we leveraged for personas and user stories.

For the purposes of the 2-day challenge, we decided to focus on the first 2 senarios with Julia (a mom) and district leaders.

First iteration — Initial data visualization explorations

Using Tableau, I prototyped many visualizations to explore which ones were most legible and useful.


Feedback and insights from subject matter experts

Attending the event were also subject matter experts. Based on their feedback, we prioritized information and refined the UI.

Policy maker feedback

Parental feedback

Second iteration — Designing the interface

The interactive visualization uses the overview, zoom & filter, details-on-demand design pattern. In the overview, users can compare states, districts, or schools. They can then zoom in on a specific school to view their report card.

On the school report card, one design principle that we wanted to keep in mind is to tell a story. Taking inspiration from data journalism, the site is structured is a question & answer format, prioritizing the perspective of the parent.

One data point alone doesn't tell a full story, so it was important to add context. When comparing against other schools, we offer at least one additional measure of comparison, such as school enrollment size. Finally, in order to prevent parents from making interpretations with incomplete data, we included a letter grade for school spending at the top, which conceals a more complex algorithm for benchmarking performance.

Reflections on working with policymakers in the design process