Prize Offered for Data Insights That Help Increase High School Graduation Rates

25 Aug 2015 | Charlene Lake and Victor Nilson

Tagged: Aspire Mentoring Academy, Possibilities, Aspire,

Everyone benefits from a better-educated nation. How can we achieve it? If you’re a data expert, we’re challenging you: Experiment with public data sets and demonstrate insights that will help boost graduation rates.

Data for Diplomas” is a DevPost contest that kicks off today with $40,000 in prizes and the support of AT&T as part of AT&T Aspire and GradNation. Individuals and groups are encouraged to produce a data driven app or data visualization that is creative, original and will positively impact high school graduation rates.

With GradNation, we are working toward a goal of a 90 percent on-time high school graduation rate in the United States by 2020.

Some our AT&T data scientists, in collaboration with the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, have already explored the main public data set we’re providing. They believe the insight opportunities are vast.

AT&T and GradNation support innovation in education. Through AT&T Aspire, AT&T invests in new tools and solutions that support college and career readiness. With GradNation, led by America's Promise Alliance, we are working toward a goal of a 90 percent on-time high school graduation rate in the United States by 2020. In 2013, we hit a record high of 81.4 percent and we are on track to meet our goal – but we need help getting there.

The idea for this contest actually originated with AT&T employees who work with data. Data analytics has become a growing force for smarter business. It helps to improve decision-making, productivity and customer service. Our employees know that the power of better insights is not limited to business. So they came to us to figure out how we can use data to improve public service and philanthropy too. Thus, Data for Diplomas was born.

Now, we’re coming to you – the innovators, the analyzers, the education professionals. Using joined public data sets of high school graduation rate and US Census data, and other public sets if you choose, we challenge you to develop predictive and actionable models that describe key drivers towards graduation rate. We’d like you to produce a data visualization that demonstrates your gathered insights, and/or create a data-centric, functional software application that can help us increase the U.S. graduation rate. Full contest rules and registration are available at

The contest is open now until November 10, 2015. Winners will be announced in December.

A panel of nine distinguished judges will choose the award winners. The panel is expected to include:

  • Nicole Anderson – executive director of philanthropy, AT&T Services, Inc.
  • Mark Austin – vice president of data insights management, AT&T Mobility Services LLC
  • Robert Balfanz – director, Everyone Graduates Center, Johns Hopkins University
  • John Bridgeland – president and CEO, Civic Enterprises
  • John Gomperts – president and CEO, America’s Promise Alliance
  • Steven Hodas – practitioner in residence, Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE)
  • Charlene Lake – senior vice president for public affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer, AT&T Services, Inc.
  • Victor Nilson – senior vice president for Big Data, AT&T Services, Inc.
  • Kara Swisher – co-executive editor, Re/code

If you are a data scientist or developer, we encourage you to check out the contest on You can use the hashtag #Data4Diplomas to follow the latest contest news on Twitter. And make sure to follow AT&T’s @ConnectToGood.

About the Author

Charlene Lake and Victor Nilson


Charlene Lake, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer, is responsible for leading AT&T’s philanthropic and volunteerism endeavors, third-party advocacy program and public affairs functional support as well as coordinating signature initiatives that connect social needs with business objectives.


Victor Nilson, Senior Vice President of Big Data at AT&T, leads a centralized organization dedicated to advancing the use of data analytics to make informed business decisions, improve productivity and serve customers better.