Sunday, August 26, 2012

Viz: examining Wake county school superintendent Tata’s State of the Schools Speech with word clouds

Tata’s State of the Schools Speech, Visualized

If you thought school politics was difficult to understand before, check out this word cloud we created from the superintendent’s State of the Schools speech.

Tata’s speech Thursday focused mostly on school performance, as you can see with the prominence of the word “schools” in the word cloud. He also addressed the need for a school construction bond next year and stressed that new standardized tests, called the Common Core, might hit Wake with a reality check.

Combined Speech Many Eyes

Nerd note: We made the clouds using Many Eyes, by inputting the entire text of Tata’s speech. We then eliminated for redundancies like “schools” and “school.” We also eliminated words that didn’t seem to have much meaning like “get” and “year.”

We had no idea what our word clouds would return when we started this project.

Tag Cloud of Two Word Phrases Many Eyes

This cloud shows the prominence of two-word phrases used during the speech.

One thing to note is that both Tata and his chief of Family and Community Engagement, Cris Mulder, said the speech would not only address gains but the challenges the school system faces.

Tata did address some of the system’s challenges. When speaking of graduation rates he told the crowd, “what is painfully obvious here is that the state has essentially caught up with us.”

However a word like “painfully” or “challenge” doesn’t show up with prominence in the word cloud, unlike “high” and “growth,” because Tata spent much time talking about school “gains.”

However, “NAEP” has a somewhat prominent place in the word cloud, because Tata stressed that North Carolina does not perform very well compared to other states.

NAEP is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a standardized test...