Computing America’s Public School System
As kids start to return to classes after the holidays, we’re happy to announce that Wolfram|Alpha has the ability to compute some interesting information about their school districts. You can now use Wolfram|Alpha to analyze and compare data on student-teacher ratios, expenditures, revenues, and salaries in more than 18,000 public school districts in the United States.
Let’s start with an example on the West Coast: Seattle Public Schools is one of the larger districts in the country, with over 100 schools and more than 45,000 students. The student-teacher ratio is 18:1, and if you scroll down you’ll see that total expenditures are about $14,000 per student per year.
How does this compare with other districts? Let’s compare Seattle Public Schools with a school district on the East Coast. The districts are comparable in terms of total students, but there are significant differences in other categories. Expenditures per student in Newark are twice as high, and there are approximately 3.5 fewer students per teacher in Newark, for example.
You can also ask Wolfram|Alpha to generate summary information for school districts in a specific U.S. city, county, or state, or to analyze specific properties for all the districts in an area. For example, you can ask about “food service spending per student in Cook County schools”:
And of course, with a little creativity, you can use Wolfram|Alpha to uncover some interesting facts about the world. Once you know that total expenditures in the Los Angeles Unified School District are $10.24 billion per year, you can easily discover that this district’s annual spending is greater than the GDP of 105 countries.
Users should be aware that this data (provided by the U.S. Department of Education) covers “regular” local school districts as well as supervisory unions, charter agencies, and various types of service districts, and this is usually the reason for results that seem slightly odd. Supervisory unions—the New York City School District, for example—may have very high revenues and/or expenditures, but no students or schools associated directly with them. In these cases, the “Show local school districts” button in the basic information pod will reveal all related local school districts, and, thanks to the direct hyperlinks we recently added to Wolfram|Alpha output, you can easily click on the name of any single district to go directly to its summary page.
We’re looking to build on this core of data with more information about school districts, from demographics to educational outcomes, and also to add detailed data on individual schools to Wolfram|Alpha. What do you most want to know (and compute) about schools in the United States? Let us know.