IT Infrastructure Opinion

CommaSpaceErgo: Crowdsourcing Education’s Trends, Stats, and Facts

By Tom Segal — December 26, 2012 3 min read
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Merry Christmas! Happy Chanukah! Kwanzaa! Boxing Day! Winter Solstice! Whatever celebration brings you peace and happiness in this December month! For me, that would be the closing of the NFL regular season--to each his own!

Being a venture capitalist by trade, I hear oodles of pitches from eager young start-ups looking to combat issues ranging from illiteracy, to access to internet/content, to teacher training, to achievement gaps, and beyond! Each of these companies (if indeed they have any idea what they are doing) come prepared with statistics and figures to shape the market they seek to attack and add a bit of shock value to the problems that need addressing (did you know that there are 17 million Latino youths in the United States with limited to no access to an educational guidance system, yet the Latino population drives 50% of U.S. population growth?). While not necessarily being a reason to invest in a growing company, these stats are often the most captivating portion of the pitch, and usually the piece that is left most ingrained in my mind.

Nothing beats a good stat.

I’m also guessing that I am not alone in this regard. Whether student, or professor, or policy maker, or blogger, there are thousands of souls out in the education universe constantly looking for a good statistic to hang an argument on. Yet besides for something like the National Center for Education Statistics (which, while chock full of valuable information, tends to mix in plenty of bland with the good, and is not necessarily easily searchable), there are few sources to my knowledge that supply the numerical ammo necessary to support a compelling thesis.

I would like to change that.

In the age of Nate Silver, hypothetical commentary simply has no relevance. If you cannot support a theory with genuine, salt of the earth facts, then you ain’t got nothin at all. Through forums like edSurge, tech meetups, and David Wiley’s Ed Startup 101, the ed-tech community is coming together like never before. I would like to continue this harmonious relationship by collectively compiling the most important statistics out there in a vast repository of learning facts.

My proposal: in the coming weeks, I will be building a database hosted on my company’s website: www.rteducation.com - give us a look! This database will be searchable and broken down into categories ranging from STEM to early childhood to graduation rates to employment. Each piece of the education puzzle will be tackled, and my hope is that we will discover all sorts of synapses between these topics along the way.

The name of this information bank will be CommaSpaceErgo, as in: “In 2011, Iowa had the highest high school graduation rate of any state in the country [comma space ergo] federal policy makers should explore differentiators within its pre-school offerings compared to those of Nevada and New Mexico.” In order to properly vet each statistic, I will ask that you, the passionate education community, submit your favorite or most powerful numbers and figures to me for approval. These statistics must come complete with a source of some degree of authority (personal research is more than welcome, given proper support) before they are to be posted on the database. For now, proposals can be sent to CommaSpaceErgo@gmail.com. Once I have this database up and running, the submission process will undoubtedly be much smoother. So please bear with me for a bit.

These days, we seem to crowdsource most everything on the ol’ interweb. Why not crowdsource something of value to a vast community of professionals, which in turn has the power to touch billions of aspiring minds, young and old? Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself... but it’s the holiday season, so why not dream a little?

If anyone out there would like to help me set this repository up (technical support, stat procurement, or just some good old fashioned word of mouth), I would surely love the help! Please do not hesitate to reach out to me, as I would love to hear what you have to say.

Until then, happy New Years! (I’m pretty sure that’s a holiday most of us are on board with...)

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