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Design Challenge by U.S. Department of Education

🏆🏆 Our team won Best User Experience & People’s Choice Awards! 🏆🏆


The U.S Department of Education and the Data Quality Campaign joined together for the ESSA Report Card Design Challenge to help rethink how families access data about schools. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states and school districts to make more than 2,000 data points about their public school systems available to families in a concise, understandable and uniform format.  This 2-day challenge focused on building solutions to help states design family-friendly approaches to report cards that make school data more transparent and accessible.


Landing page: Given the number of data elements required for inclusion in the report cards, many states are considering the development of landing or “at-a-glance” pages to communicate key metrics of interest. The goal of this challenge point would be to develop designs that are visually appealing, easy to interpret and navigate, and that encourage deeper exploration of the data.

Team Project

Project Type: 30 Hours Design Challenge

Timeline: November 8–9, 2018
Team Frenchie: James Chi, Jessica Yuan, Alisha Gonsalves, Kunal Eapen
My Role:

User Interviews:


Content Strategy:

Visual & Prototyping:



During the first day of the challenge, there were officials from the U.S Department of Education, members of the National Parent Teachers Association, and officials from Montgomery County Public Schools. We conducted quick 30 minute interviews which members from each of these groups to help us answer the following questions:

  •     What specific issues do parents face when trying to understand the school data?


  •     What decisions do parents make using the school data?


  •     How are students involved in this decision-making process, if at all?

Along with the resources that we were provided with for the challenge, an interactive prototype by Tembo, Inc was included to give the participants an idea of the direction the Dept. of Education and the Data Quality Campaign wanted to go in. We acquired feedback on this prototype from our interviewees during Day One of the challenge.


Issues we found:

  • Parents don’t know what to prioritize when looking at a large number of data points.

  • Even if they do know what they are looking for, finding it proved time consuming and confusing.

  • Parents also have a hard time understanding the impact of what certain numbers or statements on the report cards mean. This is often because of the use of jargon.

  • The reports they use have no easy way to compare schools across metrics that are relevant to them. This is especially important for parents pick their living location based on the availability of quality schools. Parents also want to compare the performance of student sub-groups within the same school in order to gauge how well their own children are doing.

  • Often times it is the children who have to make decisions about their own education because they’re parents are either non-English speakers who don’t understand the language in the reports, uneducated or simply are not very involved. Unlike parents, students place significance in how a school looks and feels and not just the statistical performance of the school.


Define Users:

After a days worth of interviewing and analyzing, we identified the users our design would cater to.

  • Parents

    • move to a new area and decide on schools for their children

    • want to check on the school their kids go to

  • Students who have to decide their schools because

    • Parents are not very involved,

    • Parents are not well educated,

    • English is not their first language.

Ideas & Sketches

According to data we got from interviews, we decided to present the most relevant data points that parents and students care the most, such as academic, school environment, social activities, student service, and advanced classes.

We learned from interviews that users feel overwhelmed when they review complex data points. Guiding users to explore data points through a clear and narrative way is significant in our brainstorm and design process.

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We placed an emphasis on the student as a user as well. We found that students pay attention to the “look” and atmosphere of the school. Hence, we thought that high definition photos should be a part of the report.


We used plain language devoid of any jargon, with options to explore what certain concepts or scores mean.


We used a narrative structure to lead the user down a path that tells them a story about the school. A dashboard structure did not fair well with the parents during our feedback session.


The comparison tool gives the user the option of comparing the school they’re currently looking at to any other school in the district, county or state. Instead of just displaying the numbers from each school during comparison, we also included color-coded visualizations to more quickly deliver the insight when comparing across various metrics.



When a user clicks on “View More” on any one of the cards, they see a graph visualization of student performance. This visualization is customizable in order to view the performance of any group of students in any area in comparison to the state, county or district average.

Expert Feedback Session

On Day 2, we were given the opportunity to get feedback on our design from a small panel of experts three hours before the final presentation. The panel consisted of parents and officials from the US Department of Education. They looked at our partially done high-fidelity design and gave us their feedback.

  •   They appreciated the narrative structure of our report card as opposed to the bombardment of data that usually happens with dashboards.


  • From their own experience as not only experts but parents as well, they validated our decision to focus on children as well the parents by providing a look into the atmosphere of the school rather than just performance statistics.


  • They made a suggestion to indicate that all the data is shown on the card is downloadable as full reports.


  • Since it was a 2-day challenge we were not able to accommodate all the important data points into the student report card. Given the chance to work on the problem for a longer period of time.


  • My team and I would have dived deeper into the data points about public school systems and create more well-rounded designs which are easier to interpret and navigate, and that encourage users to explore data more deeply.

  • Tested the prototype with users and refined the designs based on feedback before finalizing the design.


Our team won Best User Experience & People’s Choice Award

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