With this data project, people can ask and answer their own questions about our school system

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on February 4, 2014

From The News Desk

Today DonorsChoose, a website for educators to crowdfund for classroom tools and projects, and Looker, a data analytics company, announced their Giving Index and Hacking Education project. DonorsChoose has served as a Kickstarter for teachers since the year 2000. With Looker's technology, it's opening up all the information it has collected to the public. DonorsChoose has facilitated more than $220 million in funds raised for educators, so the data is extensive.

People can go to and request an access to the Hacking Education feature to explore questions about philanthropic giving. For example, what grades receive the most money from crowdfunding? What percentage of low socioeconomic schools request funds for basic student supplies compared to enrichment activities? Residents in which cities give the most to education crowdfunding campaigns?

This kind of information is a boondoggle for the likes of education non-profits hoping to hone their fundraising tactics, researchers studying philanthropy and education, and policy makers examining correlations among grade levels, socioeconomic statuses, and classroom needs. Since teachers in half of America's public K-12 schools have run crowdfunding campaigns through DonorsChoose, it's a wide sampling.

It's also a compelling example of how data analytics can inform our understanding of our educational system. Data science company Looker runs DonorsChoose's database for internal data analytics, and agreed to co-build the Hacking Education feature for the public as pro bono work. Once a user is accepted to the platform, the interface is friendly, and users can ask questions about the education and philanthropy data.

Big data companies have been going after education for some time, tracking student performance in online classes. The data can be used for a variety of purposes, from personalizing the student's lessons such that the curriculum adapts to their skill level, to offering recommendations to educators on how to improve their classes. Looker and DonorsChoose's Hacking Education system is the next logical step: Opening data up to the public so people can ask (and answer) their own questions about our school system and its weaknesses and strengths.

For some of the more compelling insights about philanthropy and education, check out the Giving Index infographic below.

Giving Index Infographic

[Image via Thinkstock]