Customer Spotlight: Buttonwillow Union School District

Posted by Sarah SingerO

June 17, 2020


Buttonwillow Union School District builds a data sharing culture to propel student growth.

Buttonwillow Union School District has a motto: One Town. One School. One Community. As a PreK through 8th grade school, their 21 teachers serve 380 students who are 98% Hispanic, 60-68% English Learner, and 92% are socioeconomically disadvantaged. When Stuart Packard became the Superintendent at Buttonwillow in 2011, it was the worst performing school district in Kern County. He was challenged by the school board to change the image and culture of Buttonwillow by raising test scores and teacher effectiveness. The good news? The community and the staff were ready for implementation of new strategies and principles of change.

Together with Hiedi Witcher, who joined as the Assistant Superintendent and Principal in 2015, they have achieved something remarkable. The latest test scores put them in the top 2% growth in math, and top 6% growth in language arts in the state of California. They attribute this success, in part, to their commitment to data development and collaboration. 

Building A Culture of Data Sharing: The Kern Pledge

Buttonwillow Union School District is one of 47 districts to take The Kern Pledge. Created by educational leaders in Kern County, the pledge is adhering to the belief that “improving student outcomes at scale requires innovative and sustained collaboration across institutions to achieve significant and lasting change.” It’s through the Kern project that Buttonwillow became one of nine pilot districts to access the Kern Integrated Data System (KIDS), a Hoonuit data and analytics platform specific to Kern Country Schools. KIDS is a powerful student data warehouse that provides educators access to large data sets and a myriad of real-time reports that can be disaggregated to:

  • Inform current instructional practices
  • Implement targeted instructional strategies
  • Provide warning signals where student interventions might be needed
  • Highlight bright spots that might be investigated and replicated
  • Activate professional development needs for teachers, administrators and other instructional support staff across Kern County.

As one of the signatories of the Kern Education Pledge, Buttonwillow regularly measures their progress as students matriculate through the educational pathway, in pursuit of the following goals:

  • Kerns Starts: Kindergarten Readiness
  • Kern Reads: 3rd Grade Literacy & 5th Grade Math Proficiency
  • Kern Counts: 8th Grade Literacy & Math Proficiency
  • Kern Learns: College & Career Readiness
  • Kern Earns: Postsecondary Enrollment & Completion 

Before using Hoonuit, the various data programs they employed made it difficult to pull their information together and measure against their goals. Hoonuit makes it easy to centralize data like test scores, attendance and more, and compare those data sets in one location. Beyond the centralizing of data, Packard and Witcher appreciate how Hoonuit is able to turn numbers and data into a visual story. For example, instead of a sheet of data points showcasing the drop of attendance during certain months, they can easily output a graph for a digestible and actionable report that supports and verifies their decisions. 

Small Schools, Big Goals 

Witcher and Packard’s goal is to give their teachers access to the tools of Hoonuit as well, so they can better understand and track their students’ needs and achievements. They’ve developed a core group of data leaders from every grade level in the school to help with this effort. When asked what their advice would be for other small districts embarking on a data sharing program, Packard recommends that you first need a culture of sharing. He urges teachers to stop seeing students as “your student” or “my student” and instead see every child in the school as “our students.” 

Leadership During Unexpected Challenges 

This team of “teachers leading teachers” at Buttonwillow has already shown to be invaluable to the student body. Within eight days of moving to at-home schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic, every student in kindergarten through 8th grade had their own chrome book, and the team coordinated hot spots for every family that needed it. Packard shared the story of one parent who noted that without the hotspot she had been given by Buttonwillow, she would have had to drop out of classes at the local junior college. Buttonwillow Union School District may be small, but both Packard and Witcher are proud to have led the way in the use of technology. They have never believed that they shouldn’t be as advanced as any other school because of their size. 

Hoonuit is proud to be a part of the Buttonwillow Union School District story, and we’re looking forward to seeing their continual growth and success. 

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