Connections Academy School Performance Summaries

ClientConnections Academy, Connections Education


ContributionLayout Design, Information Visualization

ToolsMicrosoft Excel, Adobe Illustrator, Microsoft Word

Rachel was asked by the State Relations team to design a 1-page document (front and back) to visually and succinctly highlight the successes and improvements of the Connections Academy (CA) schools, particularly in comparison to their states overall. The 1-pager needed to be customizable for each CA school and would need to be updated each year when new numbers were published. The intended purpose was to distribute the 1-pagers to state and local legislators in order to advocate for the continued support of CA in that state.

the front page of the Arizona Connections Academy 2014-2015 Performance Summary the front page of the Michigan Connections Academy 2014-2015 Performance Summary the front page of the South Carolina Connections Academy 2014-2015 Performance Summary the back page of the Arizona Connections Academy 2014-2015 Performance Summary

Examples of the front of the 2014-2015 performance summaries for Arizona Connections Academy, Michigan Connections Academy and South Carolina Connections Academy and the back for Lousisiana Connections Academy.

The 1 pagers went through several iterations over the years, as new needs were identified.

The original request was to design a 1-page printed document for each school. The document front needed to visually communicate a selection of data points. These data points varied depending on the story State Relations wanted to tell. This meant the visualization solutions Rachel identified also needed to change to best communicate the information. The back needed to contain some text highlights and testimonials, as well as a ½ page section that could be customized on the fly by the State Relations team with specific policy recommendations.

In order to meet the above requirements, Rachel needed a creative solution that allowed for an assortment of visualizations, dynamic arrangements, could be opened on other employee’s machines, had a consistent appearance on all computers, and included an editable section. The solution Rachel identified was a combination of Adobe Illustrator and Microsoft Word. The entire layout, including all visualizations, was designed in Adobe Illustrator. The “Important To Know” section was left empty. Microsoft Excel was used to calculate visualization sizes. High res images of the front and back layouts were exported from Illustrator. These images were inserted into a pre-formatted Microsoft Word document as full page background images. The Word document had a designated editable section on the back page under the “Important to Know” header.

the front page of the Texas Connections Academy @ Houston 2012-2013 Performance Summary the front page of the South Carolina Connections Academy 2012-2013 Performance Summary the back page of the South Carolina Connections Academy 2012-2013 Performance Summary

Examples of the original 2012-2013 performance summary design for Texas Connections Academy @ Houston and South Caroline Connections Academy.

In 2014, accessibility became a major company initiative. Rachel redesigned the School Performance Summaries to be accessible for print distribution, which meant a revision to the color palette, the introduction of black outlines and changes in font size.

In late 2015, the State Relations team asked if the document could be redesigned to be accessible for digital distribution, as well as print, and if more of the document could be made editable and/or modular. The goal was to customize the performance summary to the legislators’ areas of interest. In the short term, we continued to use the Adobe Illustrator + Microsoft Word process. However, in order to establish a clear reading order necessary for digital accessibility and allow for greater editability, the majority of the text was laid out in Microsoft Word. The visualizations were created in Adobe Illustrator and output as individual images. The modular images were inserted into the Word document as inline images with ALT tags detailing the contents (for accessibility).

As a long term solution, we discussed recreating the School Performance Summaries using D3.js. This solution could easily meet accessibility needs, eliminate some of the page constraint issues, and potentially allow State Relations team members to edit all fields with new data or inputs, depending on the backend. A print style sheet could also be used to output a print version. We had only begun to explore this option before I chose to resign from CE.

CE provides virtual education solutions for students in K-12. CA is a division of CE.