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Geographic Information System (GIS)

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a technology platform for visualizing and analyzing data geographically.

A GIS offers a new way of looking at data by displaying information in tables as locations on a map. GIS users study maps to find answers to data related questions. The following information provides a more in depth look at how the California Department of Education (CDE) uses GIS.

GIS Essentials

A GIS links tabular data to location and allows the information stored in tables to be displayed and analyzed as geographic features on a map. By bringing together seemingly incompatible data sets from different sources into a common mapping environment, GIS users examine their data from a new geographic perspective and uncover patterns and relationships often hidden in spreadsheets and database tables. GIS query and spatial analysis tools help sort through complex data to find meaningful results for better-informed decision-making. Web GIS extends mapping functionality to a wider audience and provides an effective data sharing platform for presenting information to non-technical users in a map format that is engaging and intuitive.

GIS at the CDE

With this focus on collaboration, transparency, and data driven results, GIS technology aligns well with the CDE’s guiding principles and provides an effective way to advance both department-wide initiatives and support individual program goals. CDE staff use GIS to visualize and examine data elements from CDE’s existing data collections in a geographic context gain new insight, solve problems and inform education policy decisions.

GIS Projects

The following CDE projects and initiatives demonstrate are examples of collaborative, cross-divisional solutions that geographic data and spatial analysis to address stakeholder needs.

  • Statewide System of Support Map
    Maps school districts by LCFF support status to facilitate resource coordination.

  • District Boundary Map Stewardship
    Contains authoritative district boundaries for calculating federal student poverty rates and determine Title I funding allocations.

  • Emergency Response Mapping & Support
    Provides critical mapping support for emergency response operations by identifying school facilities under threat of evacuation.

  • Nutrition Program Site Eligibility Explorer
    Evaluates site eligibility for nutrition programs based on poverty levels using either census or local attendance area geography.

Geographic Data

Geographic data files store the spatial information that defines the placement of the features and boundaries displayed in a map. The CDE maintains a core set of geographic data files that provide the spatial framework for exploring and analyzing school and district level data. The CDE participates in a federal initiative focused on maintaining the spatial accuracy of the state’s education GIS data and works directly with local government officials to collect updates and implement changes. As the authoritative source for statewide, education-related geographic data, the CDE recommends using spatial data files available on this page for mapping data elements from the CDE's data collections.

Geographic Data Access

The CDE’s statewide geographic data files are available for public use and accessible through an interactive web mapping application or as downloadable, software compatible data files. The CDE will offer multiple formats and methods of access based on intended use.

Questions: Data Visualization and Reporting Office | CDEdatarequests@cde.ca.gov | 916-322-3245 
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, November 7, 2018
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