Educational Attainment in North Carolina Public Schools: Use of statistical modeling, data mining techniques, and machine learning algorithms to explore 2014-2017 North Carolina Public School datasets.

Published: 14-11-2018| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/6cm9wyd5g5.1
Scott Herford


The purpose of data mining analysis is always to find patterns of the data using certain kind of techiques such as classification or regression. It is not always feasible to apply classification algorithms directly to dataset. Before doing any work on the data, the data has to be pre-processed and this process normally involves feature selection and dimensionality reduction. We tried to use clustering as a way to reduce the dimension of the data and create new features. Based on our project, after using clustering prior to classification, the performance has not improved much. The reason why it has not improved could be the features we selected to perform clustering are not well suited for it. Because of the nature of the data, classification tasks are going to provide more information to work with in terms of improving knowledge and overall performance metrics. From the dimensionality reduction perspective: It is different from Principle Component Analysis which guarantees finding the best linear transformation that reduces the number of dimensions with a minimum loss of information. Using clusters as a technique of reducing the data dimension will lose a lot of information since clustering techniques are based a metric of 'distance'. At high dimensions euclidean distance loses pretty much all meaning. Therefore using clustering as a "Reducing" dimensionality by mapping data points to cluster numbers is not always good since you may lose almost all the information. From the creating new features perspective: Clustering analysis creates labels based on the patterns of the data, it brings uncertainties into the data. By using clustering prior to classification, the decision on the number of clusters will highly affect the performance of the clustering, then affect the performance of classification. If the part of features we use clustering techniques on is very suited for it, it might increase the overall performance on classification. For example, if the features we use k-means on are numerical and the dimension is small, the overall classification performance may be better. We did not lock in the clustering outputs using a random_state in the effort to see if they were stable. Our assumption was that if the results vary highly from run to run which they definitely did, maybe the data just does not cluster well with the methods selected at all. Basically, the ramification we saw was that our results are not much better than random when applying clustering to the data preprocessing. Finally, it is important to ensure a feedback loop is in place to continuously collect the same data in the same format from which the models were created. This feedback loop can be used to measure the model real world effectiveness and also to continue to revise the models from time to time as things change.