Teaching and Visualizing School Segregation: Google Docs

As I’ve discussed in an earlier post, education and race is a topic that I discuss in my classes. I’m also a big fan of providing visualized data for my students when I cover the material. So, I was very happy to see Reed Jordan at the The Urban Institute’s great post (with maps) on segregation in America’s public school system. Maps and other visual material support my lectures and PowerPoints in making the case that we are still very much a segregated country. Specifically, that this segregation is despite the country’s increased diversity. However, this post is not going to focus on segregation. Rather, I want to share the way I present information to my students via tables and charts in PowerPoint as well as Google Docs/Drive. Google Docs is not just a web-based replacement for Office. Part of Google Drive, it allows you to make Fusion tables to map and chart data. Its spreadsheet (and presentation program) can be embedded into webpages and other HTML files for easy online sharing (such as in your CMS). You can, of course, also share the spreadsheet if you wish.

Why do I want to share this material? If you’re a social scientist, you likely want to present data to your students. However, the charts included in publisher provided PowerPoints are ugly and often out-of-date.  I’m hoping that sharing my spreadsheets will help you to embedded figures, tables and charts into presentations and other course materials.

Source: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_203.50.asp

As mentioned above, the segregation we see in American public schools is despite the country’s increased racial and ethnic diversity. For most kids in the United States, they are more likely to attend schools where other students look like them than otherwise. For instance, Orfield and Frankenberg’s report has notes that we are in an unprecedented era of diversity, but there has been a long retreat from integration. The question for me as an instructor is: how do I convincingly present evidence that contradicts students’ notions of societal progress – the idea that the present (and future) is better than that of the past.

I like to show my students several years of data (within their lifetimes) to suggest that the problem of segregation is long-standing and enduring. This is also when I remind my students that their parents were likely born in the 1960s (amidst the Civil Rights Movement). This means that the history of Jim Crow is not ancient history. In Figures 2 & 3, we see that there has not been a lot of change in the new millennium. 60 years after Brown v. Board, most White kids go to schools that are predominantly white, just as most African-American kids go to schools that are predominantly black, and Hispanic/Latino students go to schools with other Hispanic/Latino kids.

Embedded charts and figures from Google Docs are nice because they are somewhat interactive with mouse overs revealing numbers and other information. The option to export charts and figures as images is available as well. However, I like embedding the HTML. I also prefer inserting or creating charts and figures via Excel. This allows for easier updating and having the visualized data fit the theme of your website or PowerPoint (which I haven’t done here).

Source: http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/pubschuniv.asp

While differences remain, there is some good news. The number of high school dropouts has decreased, with the steepest decline being amongst Hispanic students. The mouse over effect is particularly useful in the line chart above and below.

Source: http://www.census.gov/hhes/school/data/cps/historical/index.html

The steep decline in dropouts parallels a record high of students aged 18- to 24-year-olds being enrolled in college. In fact, a greater percentage of Hispanic high school graduates were enrolled in college than Whites in 2012. However, differences remain. Including links to the data sources is important. When I teach my Sociology of Visual Culture class, I require students to get data from the U.S. Census bureau to use in their charts, figures, and tables.

Source: http://www.census.gov/hhes/school/data/cps/historical/index.html

 If this was a lecture, this is likely the point where I’d make a joke about information overload. I’ll wrap up by saying that I hope that my Google spreadsheet is useful (I hope to update it when I have more time). Also don’t forget, Reed Jordan’s post & maps on this issue. The maps are also embeddable.