Department of Education Open Data

Did you know that websites you visit every day, such as, are powered by open data from government agencies? Large amounts of government data are available on sites like, but often organizations have difficulty finding the relevant datasets. Open data initiatives like MapED Open Data provide authoritative, ready-to-use data driving many private-sector applications on the web today.

MapED Open Data

Built by Blue Raster, the MapED Open Data site enables citizens to better discover, map, and download NCES and Census datasets in a user friendly way. GIS-users can download data in shapefiles and KMLs. Traditional download formats like excel spreadsheets are also supported. Additionally, developers can find datasets for their applications and access them with the Esri GeoServices REST Spec or GeoJSON.

The site features innovative data filtering and analytical mapping that is approachable by everyday users. Charting capabilities, histograms, and scatter plots can be embedded in other websites, applications, and tools.

The site currently features school, district, and state-level data, with additional datasets coming in the next few months. Visit the MapED Open Data site at

2015 Esri Partner Conference Award – Public Web Application

Blue Raster has been chosen to receive the Public Web Application Award for the 2015 Esri Partner Conference. The award is given to a company who demonstrates outstanding and innovative uses of the Esri platform, taking geographic visualization to a higher level. Candidates for the award are nominated by Esri staff, and the selected winner is honored at the 2015 Esri Partner Conference, March 7-10.

Blue Raster’s winning application, Global Forest Watch Fires (GFW Fires), is part of the World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch platform. Launched in July 2014, GFW Fires aims to promote access to information on forest and land fires in Southeast Asia. The fires, often set illegally to clear land for agriculture or used as a tool in conflict over land, produce a toxic haze that threatens human health, the economy, and the environment.

Efforts to stop the fires have been hampered by a lack of concrete evidence regarding who is responsible for starting them. Now, with GFW Fires, everyone from decision makers to local community members can pinpoint fires on company concessions- and use this information to take action. This application was built using Esri ArcGIS Server and Image Server Extension, and uses Digital Globe first look imagery along with the Twilio API for SMS, and includes webservices feeds from many sources including NASA, NOAA and others.

Visit GFW Fires, and learn more about the Global Forest Watch platform.

India Water Tool Offers Strategies for Water Risk

Companies in India are contending with a growing resource crisis: water shortage. With 54% of the country’s total area facing high to extremely high water stress, India is positioned to become one of the most water-stressed countries in the world.

A combination of water-intensive agriculture, increasing industrialization, and business-as-usual approaches to water management has put the water supply in danger. In a report published by the Water Resources Group, the national supply is predicted to fall 50% below demand by 2030. But companies, government agencies, and other water users have a new tool poised to make a meaningful difference, the India Water Tool 2.0 (IWT 2.0).

India Water Tool, Net Groundwater Availability Map

Today marked the launch of version 2 of this comprehensive, publicly available online tool. IWT 2.0 was created in partnership by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), companies, research organizations, and industry associations.

Joppe CramwinckelWe are proud to have led the development of the India Water Tool. Water is a shared resource with finite volumes, resulting in collective risk. Collaboration is key to developing scalable and impactful solutions and driving their locally-relevant implementation.
Joppe Cramwinckel, Director, Water, WBCSD

The tool is the most comprehensive freely available resource to help companies, government agencies, and other stakeholders identify their water risks and prioritize water-management sites.

Groundwater Data Charts

Groundwater level pre and post monsoon.

The web platform incorporates a series of interactive maps including groundwater level, rainfall, surface water availability,  projected water stress, and water quality. Users can upload or enter GPS-based locations and receive custom reports featuring charts and graphs quantifying water-risk metrics. Built using the ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS for Server, and ArcGIS JavaScript API, the tool allows companies to answer questions including:

  • How many of my sites are in high stress regions?
  • How many of my sites are in over-exploited or critical areas?
  • What is the net groundwater availability and projected demand for groundwater for my sites?
  • Are any sites in areas where the concentration of pollutants are above permissible limits?

India Water Tool 2.0

The tool also addresses the shared risks between agriculture, industry, and domestic users. For example, of the 632 groundwater quality districts captured in the tool, only 59 meet Indian-government water quality safety standards. This equates to more than 100 million people living in areas of poor water quality. Among the 4,000 wells showing statistically significant trends, 54% have declined in the past seven years, and 16% have dropped over 1 meter per year. The map also shows a widespread pattern of high risk in Northwest India, a region where agriculture is a cornerstone of the economy. Producing 50% of the national government’s rice supply and 85% of its wheat, the area depends heavily on groundwater for  these water intensive crops.

IWT 2.0 is the first step for understanding water-related challenges in India and planning for long-term water management. Check out and explore the India Water Tool 2.0 today.

New Release of REL Midwest EdMaps

Blue Raster is pleased to announce a new release of the REL Midwest’s EdMaps, an interactive web mapping application that helps education stakeholders think spatially about education issues affecting their communities.

Historic District-Level Ethnicity

Initially launched in January 2014, EdMaps enables users to visualize and analyze complex, geographically linked education data through easy-to-use story maps. The updated application features three additional maps, as well as a new custom maps tool and tutorial video. It also incorporates recently released public school, private school, and district-level school data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

The new story maps look at:

  1. School access to broadband Internet – Currently fewer than 40 percent of American public schools have high-speed Internet in their classrooms. President Obama stated in a ConnectED conference that, “In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, the least we can do is expect that our schools are properly wired.”
  2. Historic district-level ethnicity – Users can view the distribution of racial/ethnic groups across the Midwest region from 2000/01 – 2011/12.
  3. Priority and Focus schools - Visualize locations of low-performing schools designated as Priority or Focus schools.

Broadband Map

The data and story maps in the application address the Rel Midwest’s four main priority areas of college and career readiness, early childhood education, educator effectiveness, and low-performing schools. Blue Raster built the application using the JavaScript API, ArcGIS Desktop, and ArcGIS for Server. Future releases of the application will feature additional story maps including a look at Advanced Placement (AP) courses in the Midwest region using the Esri Map Journal Builder.

Check out the application today by visiting EdMaps.

Development Alert! Tool Raises Awareness of Infrastructure Projects and their Impacts

The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) announced today the launch of the newest tool from WRI’s Access initiative, Development Alert!. Built by Blue Raster, the free, mobile-friendly site provides the public with greater access to information about development projects affecting the environment and public health. The site plots approved and proposed large-scale development projects along with overlays of protected areas, fisheries, forest reserves and land cover so users can easily identify projects in or around environmentally sensitive areas.

Development Alert Homepage



In Jamaica, Development Alert! is helping promote transparency and public involvement in projects including the trans-shipment port in Goat Islands. The project is expected to flatten the Goat Islands to develop a $1.5 billion trans-shipment port.

Using the map of Jamaica in Development Alert!, members of the public can see that this project is not only located in a protected area but is also within a forest reserve and Special Fisheries Conservation Area.

See the Goat Islands Project in Action.


Carole Excell, Project Director, The Access Initiative“The dynamic new website Development Alert! Jamaica is the result of a close collaborative approach with Blue Raster. What has been accomplished is an innovative new advocacy tool for environmental defenders. It’s a first not only in Jamaica but in the entire Caribbean. We could not have asked for better partners in this project and hope to bring this website to other countries around the world.”

Carole Excell, Project Director of The Access Initiative at WRI


The site is developed on WordPress for easy content management by JET, and is integrated with ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Server via the JavaScript API for mapping capabilities. Learn more and visit Development Alert!.

Future Ready Map Video for White House Connect-ED Event

More than 1,200 School Superintendents Take the Future Ready District Pledge

Blue Raster is proud to have produced the Future Ready video for the White House ConnectED conference on Wednesday in partnership with All4Ed. The standing-room-only East Room was abuzz with more than 120 superintendents “signing the pledge”. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama addressed the invited guests. Enjoy a brief highlight of the event via YouTube as well as the map video below.

Behind-the-scenes look at producing the video:
A behind-the-scenes look at the video production.

A behind-the-scenes look at the video production.

The final video map:

City of Boston Zoning Viewer for Urban Planning

View planning and zoning information for properties across the City of Boston with the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s (BRA) new Boston Zoning Viewer. With the help of Blue Raster, this interactive web-mapping application was redesigned and updated with new data to assist city staff and the public in locating and determining zoning information for Boston land parcels.

Zoning Viewer Map Sample

Recognizing the need to build a tool that works across multiple platforms, Blue Raster worked to optimize the application (for the first time) on mobile devices in addition to desktops. The mapping tool was successfully migrated from Flex to JavaScript and uses the latest version of ArcGIS for Server.

Boston Zoning Goes Mobile

ArcGIS Image Extension serves imagery, and with the Zoning Viewer, both the public and city staff can access parcel information including address and owner, as well as many other contextual layers including zoning districts, smart growth, transit corridor and urban renewal.

Zoning Viewer Detailed Sample

For the first time, the new Zoning Viewer is available on tablets and phones. Users can select a parcel from the map, or locate a particular parcel by typing an address into the navigation search bar. The application also supports geo-searches with line-and-polygon buffer-selection tools.

Carolyn Bennett
This application greatly simplifies our ability to get at critical zoning information combined with other GIS data. “Carolyn Bennett,
Boston Redevelopment Authority GIS Manager


Staff and the public now have current information at their finger tips to make more informed planning decisions. Visit and explore the Boston Redevelopment Authority Zoning Viewer tool today.

APTA Maps American Public Transportation with ArcGIS

Blue Raster has always been a big fan of public transportation. Our office is strategically located across the street from the CourtHouse Metro stop. When the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) asked us to build a national map of public transportation for their members, we were excited to participate in their mission of ensuring public transportation accessibility to communities across the country.


APTA set out to create an interactive map to provide their members with an advocacy and outreach tool to educate public and elected officials about the vital role of public transportation. With ArcGIS Online Accelerate solutions, Blue Raster built an interactive Industry Footprint map that leverages APTA’s ArcGIS Online subscription as their mapping and analysis tool. The map includes:

  • APTA members
  • public rail lines and stops
  • bus stops buffered to 0.25 mi
  • 2010 Census urbanized areas
  • 113th Congressional districts

By using the map, users can view transit information localized to their community, as well as to the regional and national level.

Several of the layers include custom information useful to APTA Members. This puts quick facts into the hands of APTA members, for example, the number of passenger miles traveled within a legislator’s district. Blue Raster integrated Sunlight Foundation’s Congress API v3 for complete and accurate congressional details.

APTA Maps work on tablets

Blue Raster queries a secure APTA member web service and geocodes addresses using Esri’s ArcGIS Online World Geocoder. The tool leverages the ArcGIS Online Portal API and server-side python tools to seamlessly integrate member geographic data.

The transit information is built from the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data exchange. This specification defines a common format for public transportation schedules and associated geographic information. The GTFS data exchange is a site of “feeds” for public transit agencies to publish their data, and for developers to write applications that consume the data in an interoperable way. The result is a national layer of public transit in the Industry Footprint map.  Learn more about GTFS by visiting the Yay Transit! website that breaks down a GTFS feed for the ArcGIS user.

Contact us today to learn how your organization can benefit from our ArcGIS Online Accelerate solutions.


Mapping Education and Demographic Trends with MapED

The Census Mapping program at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) – U.S. Department of Education has just released MapED, a new online mapping platform developed by Blue Raster and partner, Sanametrix, to visualize education and census data across the country.

MapED Homepage

The platform unites NCES and CENSUS datasets with GIS mapping capabilities. The general public can investigate education and demographic trends on local, regional, and national scales. The improved workflow makes it possible for anyone to discover, map, and analyze the data with ease, as users walk through selecting a program or topic area and explore and visualize the data on customizable maps.

Initially, the platform contains school, district, and or state-level data from:

  • American Community Survey (ACS)
  • Common Core of Data (CCD)
  • Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data System (IPEDS)
  • National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
  • the Private School Universe Survey (PSS)
  • More data and programs are planned in the future.

Tai Phan, School District Demographic System Survey Area and Census Mapping Lead at NCESMapED is a valuable resource. The data has always been available but the ability to narrow down hundreds of Census demographic indicators over multiple years, starting out with a topic of interest; and then visualize it on a national map down to the district or school level is a new and powerful way to make it accessible to a much wider audience.
Tai Phan, Census Mapping Lead at NCES

MapED also features a series of  Story Maps that will be released in the coming months. The initial release features Story Maps exploring school bullying on the basis of race, sex, and disability as well as public school student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) from 2003 to 2013. Future releases will include additional story maps including school enrollment by race comparisons using ACS data.

Map Ed Storymap on Bullying

MapED is developed using the ArcGIS API for JavaScript and ArcGIS Server and uses .NET web services to automate the addition of new data each year. Esri JavaScript templates and ArcGIS Online both support the development of story maps.

To learn more about the project and view the application, visit NCES MapED.


ED Moves ArcGIS Servers to Amazon’s GovCloud

After two years of planning and preparation, on September 15, 2014 the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) successfully completed migration of its on-premises datacenter to the Amazon Web Services GovCloud region. As an Amazon Consulting Partner, Blue Raster led the effort to consolidate IES’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) ArcGIS servers from a hybrid on-premise/private cloud-hosted environment to their AWS GovCloud account.

AWS GovCloud

The GIS servers are built using Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) with Esri ArcGIS Server and SQL Server. These servers power the newly released MapED website, as well as the NCES’s School District Demographic System mapping application, a national survey effort that includes a GIS feature editing application to collect school attendance areas.

Designed specifically to meet the needs of U.S. government agencies, the AWS GovCloud (US) framework allows agencies, contractors, and customers to migrate sensitive workloads into the cloud while adhering to U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) as well as the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMPSM) requirements.

Contact us today to learn more about migrating ArcGIS server workflows to Amazon Web Services.