508 chart

This chart is located at Dept. of Ed. projects public schools will be ‘majority-minority’ this fall.

I picked this chart because I thought the presentation was a bit different than I am used to (sort of a time series bar chart in histogram format) and it portrayed information in a clear, concise manner. This chart is designed to depict the shift in public schools from majority white to majority non-white since 1997, as well as the projected shift through 2022. I was able to understand the data immediately without having to read the accompanying description.

In my opinion, the data represented is best displayed in this format as this design has the ability to display a lot of information in one concise image. It provides a great visual impression of the demographic trends in the public schools. The data could be easily displayed in tabular form but the bars help the differences really stand out. Although there is a lot of information, I think the hard and fast facts are easy to pick out by the use of different colors on the bar. Additionally, using the dotted line to encompass the total percentages for each variable, majority vs. minority, draws your eye right to the important numbers.

Although I feel this visual is a great depiction of the data, I think this chart would not be easily read by someone not familiar with reading charts and graphs. This chart appears to be designed for persons having at least a basic understanding of data of statistics, which not all people do. Another draw back is that the actual total percentages for each minority group is not provided, neither in the accompanying text nor the chart.

To improve this chart, I would suggest adding actual percentages for each minority group, possibly by adding a notation under the chart. I think adding it to the chart itself may be too much data but I do think the data is important and would allow for comparison of trends within the minority groups. I think the readability may be increased by displaying the data in the traditional bar chart style.



Locate a recent chart or graph from the mass media or an academic source, and critique it. What’s good about it? What’s bad about it? Do you think it could be improved? If so, how?

3 comments on “Chart Critique

  • I also agree that this is a good chart, but would be difficult for some people who were not familiar with statistical concepts to understand. Like all presentation methods, the style you should use depends both on the characteristics of the data and the type of audience. If I were presenting to a less sophisticated audience, I think I’d use a few strategically chosen pie charts, say maybe three, for only a few years during this period – e.g., beginning of period, middle, end. It makes intuitive sense that the sum of the slices is the total number of students (or 100%), and the increasing minority side relative to the white side would be obvious.

  • Dear Sam,

    This is a great chart critique. The chart is not easy to read for everybody. Visually, just by looking at one will not understand the content. Although, I can see that they have tried to include lot of information in one single chart. I agree with you that readability of the data provided will drastically improve if presented with the help of Bar Graph. Adding a percentage for each minority group will also provide clearer picture of research. I think it’s a great idea to make a use of notation under the chart.

  • I agree this is a good chart. I like that they tried to include all the variables. I also agree they could have done a better job. For instance, keeping the line on the left straight would more clearly indicate the shift than having the right tail out. Actual percentages would have helped as well, as you mentioned in your post. That would have complicated their little snippet of information in the middle, but that could have been placed in the bar itself in my opinion.

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