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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Beyond Standardized Tests: Student Survey Data in Matrix

We spend a lot of time in Matrix working on standardized test data. There is, after all, quite a lot of it, and almost all of our Matrix clients have standardized test data in our systems. Even so, I always enjoy getting a chance to work on data the districts are generating themselves. One of our clients periodically takes surveys of their students' experiences and attitudes, and they approached us about bringing this data into Matrix, so it would be available alongside the rest of their data.

There were different sets of questions for elementary, middle, and high school students at each survey administration, and though most of them were of the “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree” form, there were also questions asking about duration, frequency, or specific elements. We were able to teach Matrix how to distinguish the different answer scales and display the data as a grid or a chart, with all the filtering and drill down capabilities our Matrix clients are familiar with.

It's amazing how displaying data in a more engaging way can change the way you experience it. None of the information in these surveys was new to the client, but the first time they saw it in Matrix as a chart, it prompted a real discussion on policy between the administrators. That's a big goal of any data-driven interface: help users see where there are interesting questions to ask, then help them answer those questions and make decisions.

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