Data Study on New York City Public High Schools

Posted on Nov 5, 2016
The skills the author demoed here can be learned through taking Data Science with Machine Learning bootcamp with NYC Data Science Academy.


Choosing a high school is one of the first big decisions in life. With over 400 public high schools in New York City, the families of students can be overwhelmed by the long list of schools, each of which promises secondary education for students with curriculum ranging from biology to engineering to musical theater. The options seem endless. Using the public high school data sets released by NYC Department of Education, I made this shiny app to visualize the information from these data sets.

Data Sets

There are 5 data sets available from NYC OpenData portal: NYC school district map, 2016 Department of Education(DOE) high school directory, SAT results from 2010 and 2012, DOE high school survey results from 2011. Even though school survey and SAT are conducted every year, summaries of more recent SAT and high school surveys are not yet available on the website.

The app's user interface contains 3 tabs: interactive map, school info and school district comparison. The map tab (figure below) shows the map of New York City, overlaid with school district map and public high school locations. The markers representing schools are color-coded in 3 colors: blue for schools prioritize the corresponding school districts, green for schools open to all New York City students, red for special high schools, usually international high schools for new residents of NYC.  

The panel on the right displays 3 histograms; the top one is the distribution of average SAT scores for NYC high schools in 2010 and 2012, the middle one shows the distribution of 2011 high school survey rating, and the bottom one presents the numbers of students enrolled in NYC high schools in 2016.


Data Study on New York City Public High Schools

When a school on the map is selected via mouse-click. A pop-up displaying name and address of the selected school will show up at the school's location on map. The school's name, address, contact info along with SAT scores, survey rating and student number will also be showed on the information panel on the right. The histograms on the panel will be updated and the school's standing among NYC public schools can be visualized on the graphs(figure below).

Data Study on New York City Public High Schools

The school info tab(figure below) provides detailed information of individual schools. The drop-down menus at the top can be used to filter the list of schools based on borough and neighborhood along with the search box. Once a school is selected in the data table, details of the school, such as contact information, nearby transits and school programs will be displayed below.

Data Study on New York City Public High Schools

The School District Comparison tab(figure below) allows users to compare different school districts. The drop down menu contains NYC's 32 school districts, selecting them will filter the school list. NYC DOE labeled 9 public high schools as "Gifted and Talented" to meet the needs of gifted students, these 9 schools are open to all NYC students whilst being the most selective public high schools. These schools are also added to the selection list as "Gifted and Talented" to compare with district schools.


There are 3 measurements available to compare the selected school districts: 2012 SAT score, 2010 SAT score and 2011 school survey. If SAT scores are picked, 4 box plots will be displayed to compare the cumulative, reading, math and writing between the schools in the 2 chosen school district; if school survey is picked, the 4 box plots will compare the school districts in 4 aspects of the survey: safety and respect, communication, engagement and academic expectation.



I had this question after making the app: since 2 ways to measure a school's academic performance, SAT score and academic expectation aspect of school survey, are present in the data, which one should you trust more to gauge the school with? Why are some schools with average SAT scores having very good academic ratings in the survey?

Let's look at the plot below. In this plot of 2011 survey academic expectation rating vs 2012 SAT score, a linear trend line is added along with 2 parameters to evaluate the fit: the very small P-value of coefficients indicates that there is a positive relationship between survey rating and SAT score, the small adjusted R-squared value indicates the linear fit does not represent the full relationship between them. SAT score is an objective evaluation of schools while school survey is a subjective review representing how well a school's academic performance match the reviewer's  expectation.


Try the shiny app here and maybe you'll have your own discoveries!



About Author

Yisong Tao

Yisong Tao graduated from Columbia University with a PhD degree in Chemistry, after which he worked as a research associate at Albert Einstein College of Medicine for 6 years. He’s shown good judgement in developing projects, ability to...
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