Grading an Education Infographic

Welcome to Grade the Infographic, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. I have three criteria I’m looking for in my grading: source of data, accuracy of data and accuracy of visuals. While some design choices annoy me, I’m not a designer, couldn’t do any better, and won’t be commenting unless I think it’s skewing the perception of the information. I’m really only focused with what’s on the graphic, so I also don’t assess stats that maybe should have been included but weren’t.  If you’d like to submit an infographic for grading, go here. If you’d like to protest a grade for yourself or someone else, feel free to do so in the comments or on the feedback page.

When I first started doing any stats/data blogging, an unexpected thing happened: people started sending me their infographics.  Despite my repeated assertions that I actually hated infographics, companies seemed to troll the web attempting to find people to post their infographics on various topics.  It gets a little weird because they’re frequently not related to my topics, but apparently I’m not the only blogger who has had this problem.  Long story short, I actually got sent this infographic back in 2013. 

Click to enlarge.

Since one of my favorite readers is a teacher (hi Erin!) who also shares my displeasure with infographics, I thought I’d start off by grading this one. It’s pretty long so I chopped it up in to pieces.  Because I’m a petty despot and all, I actually start with the end. Grading the reference section first is a bit backwards, but it gives me an idea of how much work I’m going to have to do to figure out the accuracy of the rest of it.


Oooh, not off to a great start.  The maximum grade you can get from me if you don’t give me a source I can track is in the B range. Giving a website is good, but when it’s as big as the National Center for Education Statistics, it’s also nearly useless.


Okay, this is good! That’s a decent selection of countries. Not sure if there was a particular reason, but there doesn’t appear to be any cherry picking going on.


Hmmm….this got a little funky. I couldn’t actually locate this source data, though I did locate some from the World Bank that backed up the elementary school numbers. I’m guessing this is real data, but saddened they didn’t let me know where they got it! If you do the work, get the credit! Also, the 4 year gap confused me. Where are 2001 – 2004? It doesn’t look like it particularly matters for this trend, so I only subtracted 2 points for not indicating the gap or better spacing the years.


This part broke even.  I was hoping for a year (source again!) but did get some good context about what kind of test this was. That was really helpful, so it got an extra point. The data’s all accurate and it’s from 2011.


Oooh, now here’s a bit of a snafu. The graphic said “hours spent studying” which surprised me because that’s 3 hours/day for the US kids. When I found the source data (page 114) it turns out those are actually classroom hours. That made more sense. I docked three points because I don’t think that’s what most people mean by “time spent studying”. It’s not totally wrong, but not totally accurate either. Class hours are normally referred to as such. I felt there was a bit of wiggle room on the definition of “study” though, so I didn’t know it down the 5 points I was going to.


Oof. That’s not good. Where did these numbers come from? I went to the OECD report to check out the 2010 numbers, and they were WAY off.

Country Infographic 2010 number OECD 2010 number
United States 88.4% 77%
United Kingdom 82.9% 91%
Spain 64.7% 80%
Germany 86.5% 87%
Sweden 91.1% 75%
South Korea 91.1% 92%
Australia 84.8% No numbers

Now graduation rates have lots of different ways of being calculated (mostly due to differences in what counts as “secondary education”, so it’s plausible those numbers came from somewhere. This is the risk you run when you don’t include sources.


And there you have it.  Cite your sources!


More physics…Einstein and teaching

With all the Higgs Boson excitement, I have had  physics on the brain lately.  Thus when Instapundit linked to this article from NPR, regarding how Einstein would not have been qualified to teach high school physics, I was intrigued.

The article is a rant against (some) licensing standards.  Licensing standards are really just performance metrics, which does make them an interesting study in data and outcomes.  Teaching is a particularly tricky profession to measure outcomes in, as every attempt to standardize (SATs, MCAS, etc) is typically met with objections about what real learning is.

I was fascinated by the Einstein question though.  While I certainly like Einstein, I was wondering if I’d really have wanted him as a physics teacher.  When I took psych stats in grad school, I averaged 107% in the class (there was lots of extra credit), but I was probably the worst resource there.  I can’t explain basic stats worth anything to people, because it comes naturally.  That’s why I like critiquing news stories….it’s much easier to explain what’s wrong with something when you have an example in front of you.  Explaining a t-test from scratch though?  I’ll leave that to the professionals.

Aside from that, the study the NPR post points to is pretty interesting.  It compares licensed, unlicensed and alternatively credentialed teachers from NYC.  Interestingly, the most significant factor in teacher effectiveness tended to be years of experience (in the first few years) instead of credentialing.  All the differences however, were evaluated based on standardized testing scores, which may or may not be something you agree with as a metric.  Still, a fairly interesting and comprehensive look at the issue, if your interested in education metrics.

Update:  The purpose of education and outcome metrics are going to become increasingly important if this catches on (and I hope it does).