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A stab at a cleaner, more user-friendly look at city test score data

When the state and city education officials released the 2010-2011 ELA and Math test data on Monday, they didn’t make it easy for interested New Yorkers to make sense of the scores.

One spreadsheet, released by the city Department of Education, left off school names and corresponded results only by school code. It also excluded public charter schools entirely. The state’s spreadsheet included names, but listed every other public school in New York State as well.

There was also no easy way to compare schools to one another. The city included a comparison against previous years’ scores, but the file didn’t allow users to compare change over time among schools. The state’s data didn’t include any previous scores at all.

Not surprisingly, many of our readers emailed us to express their frustration over the scattered and unwieldy data. When I asked a DOE spokesman Matthew Mittenthal about it, he told me that grouping the data into school-by-school comparisons wasn’t a priority when publishing the information.

“We would never use test scores alone for accountability purposes, so we don’t actively encourage people to compare one school to another on that basis,” Mittenthal wrote in an email.

We spent the past couple of days playing with the spreadsheets so that it’s easier and more intuitive. First, we corresponded codes used by the DOE to actual school names (for example, 15K447 = The Math & Science Exploratory School). Then, we stripped non-essential data and added last year’s test results as a column header. Finally, we filtered the schools by performance so the best-scoring are at the top.

Here’s a first – and very preliminary – crack at sorting through the mountain of data from Monday’s release. This will be updated regularly over the next couple of days to reflect additional data-crunching, but what you’re looking at now – as of Wednesday afternoon – is a list of schools that have two years of ELA results. The current list excludes charter schools, but for each of the last two years (Note: new schools in 2010 and charter schools aren’t in this initial batch, but will be soon).

A caveat: This is a beta effort so please let us know how it can be improved and what trends you’re seeing in the comments.

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