Mass EduData Challenge Winners Use Advanced Analytics and Open Data to Deliver New Insights

Friday, July 25, 2014

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Media Contact:  
Brian Noyes, Communications Manager, MassTech
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Winning Teams Delivered Ways to Explore STEM Education Achievement by Female Students and Better Analyze Education Data using Census Information, and Created a Tool for Developers to Use Education Data in Applications

BOSTON – The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative recently announced the winners of the first ever Mass EduData Challenge. The pilot six-week data challenge aimed at acquiring unique insights from a comprehensive cache of Massachusetts education data, awarded prizes to three teams at the July 15th awards ceremony at hack/reduce in Cambridge. The three winning projects each addressed a different aspect of the central theme of driving better insight and understanding from historical data sets provided by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).  Winners included collaborative teams from local non-profit City Year and from global technology company Xerox, as well as individual data analysts from the region. 

“I appreciate the interest and energy all the participants and our partners brought to this event, and I congratulate the three winning teams,” said Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell D. Chester. “It is a pleasure to see people looking for new ways to make our data more accessible.”

The Massachusetts EduData Challenge is a first of its kind data challenge and is part of the Patrick Administration's commitment to changing the way government does business and increasing transparency.

“We are pleased to see these creative, diversified submissions and award recipients," said Antonio (Tony) Parham, Massachusetts' Government Innovation Officer (GIO).  “These EduData Challenge results provide a good launchpad for future open data activities and inform new data visualization approaches which can be used to provide insights to our education constituents.”

The event, part of the Commonwealth’s Massachusetts Big Data Initiative, was organized in partnership with DESE, the office of the Government Innovation Officer of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. Sponsors of this inaugural Challenge included hack/reduce, HubSpot, LearnLaunch and Socrata. 

“This successful challenge showed how the Commonwealth can support collaborative big data solutions, as government, industry, and non-profits were all represented,” stated Pat Larkin, Director of the Innovation Institute. “Opening public data sets, and leveraging them for better insight, are core goals of the Massachusetts Big Data Initiative and we certainly achieved those here.”

Open data is a catalyst for innovation; putting information in the hands of Massachusetts’ inventive citizens provides for endless possibilities and gives citizens of Massachusetts the power to create useful tools which address community needs. Governor Deval Patrick created the Massachusetts Open Data Initiative to make public data available to the citizens of the Commonwealth.

The goal of this inaugural education data challenge was to drive better insight and understanding from historical data sets provided by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).  Analysis of these data sets and potential relationships to external data will help to better inform the Commonwealth’s decisions around education policy. Future insights may include the illustration of the relationships between educational funding and student success, insight into statewide tests scores, or the distribution and predictability of certain educational outcomes.

The winning teams included the following three awardees:

Best Use of Data:  Analysis of Girls STEM Achievement

A team of data professionals from the national headquarters of Boston-based City Year combined EduData Challenge data with other available academic information.  The result was a website which features integrated visualization tools that enables policymakers and the public to explore and compare varying levels of STEM education achievement by female students across the state. The team’s goals were to improve access to the basic information, to highlight best cases and opportunities for improvement, and encourage comparisons and sharing of best practices among regions, districts, and schools.

Most Visually Compelling and Crowd Favorite: Massachusetts EduData & the U.S. Census

A team of data professionals from Xerox Research created an interactive online map tool to visualize and compare the EduData Challenge data sets to U.S. Census data. The application enables users to explore and compare individual Massachusetts school districts to all other districts across the state. Users can view the maps overlaid with comparisons such as SAT scores versus average household income.

            Collaborative Data Contribution: David Lago & Christopher Buck

This independent team, comprised of two local data analysts, aggregated all of the event’s educational data into a single, easy-to-use database. They also created an API (application programming interface) to make it easier for other participants and developers to create useful applications with the DESE-supplied data.

Additional information regarding the Challenge and the winning projects can be found online at


About the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative

The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech) is an innovative public agency working to enhance economic growth, accelerate technology use and adoption, and harness the value of research by engaging in meaningful collaborations across academia, industry, and government.  From improving our health care systems and expanding high-speed internet across the state to fostering emerging industry clusters, MassTech is supporting a vibrant economy across the Commonwealth. The Innovation Institute at MassTech was created in 2003 to improve conditions for growth in the innovation economy by enhancing industry competitiveness, promoting conditions which enable growth; and providing data and analysis to stakeholders in the Massachusetts innovation economy that promotes understanding and informs policy development.

About the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, one of the constituent agencies in the Governor’s Executive Office of Education, oversees the Commonwealth’s K-12 public schools and districts. Its mission is to is to strengthen the Commonwealth's public education system so that every student is prepared to succeed in postsecondary education, compete in the global economy, and understand the rights and responsibilities of American citizens, and in so doing, to close all proficiency gaps.

About the Office of the Government Innovation Officer of Massachusetts

"Continuous innovation for a more productive Commonwealth.”

Created by Executive Order 542 in March 2012, the Office of the Government Innovation Officer (OGIO) works to improve the experience with state government for residents, businesses and municipalities.  OGIO works to boost internal government efficiencies and to leverage technology to improve government services.

About the Massachusetts Big Data Initiative:

In response to industry insights gained through Secretary Bialecki and MassTech’s technology roundtable series, Governor Patrick announced the Massachusetts Big Data Initiative (Mass Big Data) at MIT in May of 2012. The Massachusetts Big Data Initiative is designed to leverage and expand the Commonwealth’s position as a global leader in the rapidly growing big data sector. Through the Massachusetts Big Data Initiative, the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative has initiated efforts aimed at expanding the region’s global leadership and fully exploiting the Mass Big Data sector’s economic potential over the next three to five years. The Massachusetts Big Data Initiative supports efforts to drive growth in the regional big data ecosystem through four strategic imperatives: raising awareness, enhancing the skilled workforce, fueling collaborative innovation, and advancing open access to public data.