It was a Sunday, a day like any other Sunday. I went to look at the NCES Digest of Education Statistics to see if any more tables from the 2013 version had been released. To my delight, I found some interesting stuff; but most of the NCES Tables are designed to be printed as reports, and are in no shape to be pulled into the software I typically use, Tableau.
But this one on teacher salaries was in pretty good shape, even though I almost always focus on higher education data. A couple clicks, and I was ready to visualize. I did so and put it up on my other blog, Higher Education Data stories, here. One of the meta-reasons for doing so is to show how much more understanding of an issue you can impart with a picture as opposed to a table of data. I hope you agree.
I sent it off to some groups, and posted it to the NACAC e-list, an email group of college admissions professionals and independent and high school counselors. It’s an open list, and Valerie Strauss from the Washington Post asked if she could share it. It’s a blog and it’s public, so I happily agreed. It was up that afternoon, and you can read it here.
In addition to the hundreds of comments this has drawn on the WaPo site (which could be a post in themselves), I’ve received lots of emails and posts about the visualization. They fall into several groups:
- I’m trying to hurt teachers by showing how high salaries are
- I’m trying to help teachers by showing how low salaries are
- The data can’t be trusted because it’s from the Feds
- The data doesn’t account for costs of living
- The data doesn’t account for average service
- The data isn’t split by union/non-union states
- The data can’t be right because someone’s cousin makes way less than this
- The data can’t be right because someone’s cousin makes way more than this
- I shouldn’t have used red-green scales (and this person was right; I should know better).
Lessons learned, but good to repeat:
- You can only viz the data you have
- The limits of means as a measure of central tendency are not widely understood
- Everyone’s an expert
- I’m an idiot for stepping into this without understanding what a political landmine teacher pay is.
Lessons learned, internalized, and acted upon. Stick to higher education.
And for those of you still reading, I had no political agenda at all; I simply thought the data was interesting, and that it would make a good visualization.