2010-2011 EQAO Cohort Data Visualization: Reading Assessment

In Ontario, students from Grades 3, 6, 9 and 10 participate in annual assessments of literacy and numeracy.  This information is used in a variety of ways by the public and the education sector to inform planning and decision-making.  In addition to managing the development, administration and analysis of these assessments, the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) also provides reports that summarize the achievement of students both provincially and locally.

One of the challenges of working with EQAO data is the sheer volume of data.  Although there is a desire to define complex systems like education with a single number, it is only accomplished at the expense of provincial variation and diversity. Despite this significant challenge to the communication of results, EQAO has worked very hard to make this data accessible both to the public and to education stakeholders.  EQAO’s detailed results and reporting approaches offer both high-level overviews and detailed breakdowns.

At the 40th Anniversary Fall Conference of the Association of Educational Researchers of Ontario, I had the opportunity to share a visualization of EQAO data that has been adapted from the field of genetics.  This visualization, called Circos, was designed to explore structural variations in genomes.  The advantage offered by this approach is that a large amount of data can be collapsed into a small space yet still allow for the visual exploration of this complex data.  This visualization provides a new and interesting approach to data presentation which can also include interactivity with Mike Bostock’s Data-Driven Document (D3) javascript library.  The following is an exploration of applying this approach to education data.

Left vs. Right

The circle in the following visualization represents the cohort of students who wrote EQAO’s Primary Reading Assessment in 2007-2008 and then wrote EQAO’s Junior Reading Assessment in 2010-2011.  While the entire circle represents the cohort, the left side of the circle represents student achievement on the Primary Assessment and the right side of the circle represents student achievement on the Junior Assessment.


Each half of the circle has also been divided according to the achievement levels of the assessment:

  • Blue = Level 4 achievement
  • Green = Level 3 achievement
  • Orange = Level 2 achievement
  • Red = Level 1 achievement
  • Black = “Not Enough Information for Level 1”

Each of these coloured levels of achievement are comprised of two parts: a segment which forms the outside boundary of the circle (tick marks provide a reference to the number of students the segment represents) and a ribbon which connects the Primary Assessment (left side of the circle) to the Junior Assessment (right side of the circle).


The number of students at each achievement level is represented by the thickness of the ribbons and gives the visual impression of a pathway.  Thick ribbons represent more students than thin ribbons. To facilitate comparisons, the ribbons have been sorted from thickest to thinnest within each of the achievement level segments.


The interaction that is offered by javascript provides the opportunity to explore each of the achievement pathways according to the achievement levels.  In the interactive version of this chart, the mouse-pointer can be used to help focus on different ribbons.  Using the visual metaphor of a pathway, hovering on ribbons or segments on the left side of the chart will let you explore where students “went” on the Junior Assessment.  In contrast, hovering over a ribbon or segment on the right side of the chart will let you see where students “came from” on the Primary Assessment.

While the descriptions can be overwhelming, it is much easier to understand by interacting with the visualization.  If you click on the image below, you will be taken to the interactive version of this chart which features the EQAO Reading Assessment cohort that wrote the Primary Reading Assessment in 2007-2008 and the Junior Reading Assessment in 2010-2011.

Note: If you are only able to see titles and no interactive image, try using a browser such as Firefox or Chrome.  I have experienced difficulty viewing this page on Internet Explorer versions 6 and 7.

Finally, special thanks to EQAO for the opportunity to use and share this data.

Update: Several people have indicated that they are having difficulty accessing the visualization but would like to see it.  I’ve created a short YouTube video to show the  interactivity:

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1 Response to 2010-2011 EQAO Cohort Data Visualization: Reading Assessment

  1. Pingback: 2010-2011 EQAO Cohort Data Visualization: Reading Assessment | transformative learning | Scoop.it

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