Customer Spotlight: Howard County Public School System

Posted by Matthew RieseO

July 22, 2020


Find out how one school district uses Hoonuit to increase educator access to data.

Located between Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Howard County Public School System serves a diverse student body with an above state average graduation rate. Their mission is to create academic success and social-emotional well-being for each student in an inclusive and nurturing environment that closes opportunity gaps.

When Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) undertook a large-scale rollout of Hoonuit, district leadership sought to complement the district’s new student information system (SIS) with robust data reporting capabilities. They wanted a solution that would enable users to view data longitudinally, access data easily, and bring together disparate datasets in one central resource. We spoke to Brandy Iskin, HCPSS’s Data Warehouse Coordinator, about the challenges and successes the district has seen thus far, including an update on how their experience with school closures during COVID-19 has affected their data goals and dashboard needs. 

The Challenge of Data Quality

From a business standpoint, Iskin saw their challenge as one of being data rich, but information poor. Their data was decentralized and composed of paper and different systems. There was a lack of consistency, standardization and documentation. A large portion of the work was dedicated to getting the data correctly into the data warehouse. The data needed to be properly mapped from the new SIS and from the legacy SIS. This presented a unique facet in HCPSS’s Hoonuit rollout.  

According to Iskin, the district’s initial thought was to replicate state reports as dashboards. However, the data warehouse team realized this was not an efficacious use of Hoonuit’s many functionalities and near-live reporting capabilities. “State reports are a snapshot of data at one point in time and those reports already exist,” Iskin explains. “We needed to take advantage of Hoonuit’s capabilities to show near real-time data in order to be a valuable tool to the district.” The team partnered with Planning & Accountability and leadership to determine and guide the first set of dashboards. The vision for the dashboards included: 

  • Centralize district, school & student related data​: There needed to be a whole system solution bringing disparate data systems into one central resource.
  • Provide user friendly & secure data​: The data should be easily accessed, as well as providing access to the data itself.
  • Replace antiquated application & processes​: It was time to sunset older systems like Oracle and increase efficiencies in reporting and analysis processes. 
  • Flexibility: Whether it was adding data sources such as staff and data transportation or creating custom content the reporting needed to meet changing circumstances. 

Achieving a Successful Launch

The results? HCPSS successfully rolled out Hoonuit across the district. “We worked hard to ensure data was correct in order for users to feel confident about the tool,” Iskin explains. Iskin’s team sought input from leadership in different departments within the district to make sure that Hoonuit would accurately display the data those staff members were interested in seeing, be it disciplinary, attendance, or assessment results. By the end of the implementation users could:

  • Centralize district, school & student related data​
  • Provide user friendly & secure data interface​
  • Replace antiquated application & processes​
  • Ensure consistency & data quality​
  • Enjoy data informed conversations

Previously, spreadsheets and pivot tables were produced for users to see student-level information, but they were cumbersome and inefficient to create. To remedy this, the district developed intuitive, easy-to-use dashboards and data walls that eliminated the need for those spreadsheet reports. Hoonuit equipped the district with data that is aggregated, longitudinally, and allows them to drill down for more information. The platform increases efficiencies. Reports that used to take hours, days, or weeks to put together are readily available and easily digestible​.

To date, the district has garnered positive feedback from leadership. “People are excited to have an intuitive tool that enables them to get data in one place,” says Iskin. Iskin’s team has also made it easy for Hoonuit users to access training resources: “Hoonuit training videos were created in-house that are available on our learning management system so that users can learn Hoonuit’s functionality, which is something users really appreciate,” she says. “We’ve also gone out to different schools and leadership meetings in partnership with the Data Literacy and Research teams to present not only how to use the tool, but also how to interpret the data in a meaningful way.”

Adapting to Distance Learning  

When COVID-19 unexpectedly closed schools Iskin saw the need to put together a distance learning model and implement it. The district’s first initiative was to distribute Chromebooks and hotspots to students. Data was loaded into the data warehouse including, technology requests and information about the technology such as date checked out, model and serial number. A dashboard was created in Hoonuit to visualize this data, because of the flexibility of the Hoonuit platform the dashboard went on to support the IT team, as well as the leadership and school staff in order to ensure that students were getting the technology needed in a timely manner. These metrics continued to evolve into a one-stop shop for users.

As the schools remained closed, Iskin’s team began to roll-out additional dashboards to monitor engagement, participation, and quarter four marks by building. The dashboards included the data for the applications that those students were now being asked to engage in: Canvas, DreamBox, Lexia Core, and Google Meet. The goal was to provide School Support Teams with tools in order to make sure students and families were getting the support they needed and staying engaged.  

Inspiring New Standard Content in Hoonuit

The work by Iskin’s team at Howard County Public School System served as the inspiration for new standard content in the Hoonuit data and analytics platform. To make the upcoming year as informative and actionable as possible, Hoonuit is providing dashboards focused on digital learning analytics.

These new Digital Learning Analytics dashboards are located in the Essentials solution suite and provide a clear view into three key areas: 

1)    Which students have access to learning in a remote environment? 

2)    Which students are actively engaging in digital learning? Who is not engaging and why? 

3)    What are the direct, actionable relationships between student success and engaging in digital learning tools? 

There are a broad range of end-users has quickly emerged for these insights, including principals, curriculum and instructional designers, district administrators, and teachers. Each can take advantage of a range of filters ranging from grade, ethnicity, and gender to SPED and LMS course names to isolate sub-groups for sharper insights. 

As for what’s next at Howard County Public School System? Iskin’s team continues to build new dashboards that align with the district’s goals and add additional data to the data warehouse as needed. The Hoonuit team is proud to be their partner and we look forward to working with them throughout their data journey.

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