In order to effectively change American education, it’s imperative to understand what schools, students and their teachers are lacking. DonorsChoose, an online nonprofit that has channeled more than $220 million to classroom projects, has been collecting data on the country’s educational needs and charitable donations for the past 13 years, gathering a treasure trove of information into giving in the U.S. education system. Now, for the first time, DonorsChoose, in partnership with Looker, a software company that focuses on data discovery and business intelligence, is releasing this unprecedented data collection to the public, free of charge, through their Hacking Education initiative, in order to allow citizens to generate their own insights into the state of public education.

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Starting today, anyone with a valid email address can request access to explore DonorsChoose’s more than 20 million records, which Looker has combined with public education data. This allows people to learn about what schools need and which causes donors are more apt to support. “Exploring and analyzing our data through Looker has helped us develop strategies to increase charitable donations to schools,” Charles Best, CEO of DonorsChoose said in a press release announcing the initiative. “By identifying giving trends, we can better restructure and target our fundraising.”

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So what factors do drive funding to schools in need? Here are some examples [PDF] from DonorsChoose’s 2013 Giving Index — a report that analyzes 340,000 donors, $60.2 million in donations and more than 130,000 school projects during the course of the year:

  • People are far more likely to donate funds to schools within 25 miles of their zipcodes.
  • Elementary education received the most funding, topping other grades by more than $3 million.
  • Literacy and language projects received 42 percent of funding, followed by math and science, which received 30 percent. Health and sports received the least amount of funding, with 3%.
  • 50 percent of projects requested basic school supplies and books.
  • STEM projects were most funded for older students (grades 9–12).

These types of insights — many and more of which can be found through DonorsChoose’s Hacking Education initiative — can chart the course for research, spending and fundraising to help teachers find the tools they need to provide students with the quality education they deserve.

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