Customer Story: Osseo Area Schools

Posted by Matthew RieseO

September 18, 2020


Osseo Area Schools is embarking on a new data journey centered around a creative culture and innovation. In his role as Executive Director of Technology, Anthony Padrnos is responsible for driving instructional and systems change at Osseo Area Schools. Mr. Padrnos explains the role Hoonuit is playing in their unique data journey, his philosophy for using data correctly, and how data can drive personalized learning.

Osseo Area Schools is Driving a Culture Shift with Data

Osseo Area Schools is the fifth largest school district in the state of Minnesota, serving more than 21,000 students at 30 different school sites across several Minneapolis suburbs. It’s a diverse school district the mix between Caucasians and students of color is nearly even and the socioeconomic status of the families it serves is broad. Osseo believes its size and diversity is an advantage, allowing them to offer more academic and extracurricular opportunities to its students. They strive to provide greater access to technology and more staff to support individual learning needs.

Two years ago, Anthony Padrnos joined Osseo Area Schools as Executive Director of Technology. His previous experiences included a three-year stint as Director of Technology at Richfield Public Schools and seven years as a math instructor at Hopkins Public Schools. In addition to his experiences as an educator, Padrnos brought a deep-rooted passion for data with him to Osseo. 

“As a teacher in the classroom, I thought about ways to take math and get all my students, no matter what their interests, in a lens of thinking analytically. How do I use mathematical reasoning and mathematical thinking and apply it?” said Padrnos. “I started using data in my classrooms to look at how students were performing, identify what was impacting their daily experience, and improve my instruction to help them perform and achieve at higher levels. Now I’m in a role to drive the use of data in a productive manner across our organization, from the executive leadership level down to the classroom level.”

Padrnos’ goal of creating an innovative data culture meshed perfectly with other changes happening at Osseo Area Schools. One of the strategic priorities within their technology division was to modernize its systems. “Whether it’s a data solution, student information system, or technology that’s in the classroom, we challenged ourselves to incorporate solutions that are modern and produce opportunities for individuals to innovate within the educational space,” explained Padrnos.

Data Shouldn’t be Punitive

Over his career arc, Padrnos developed a philosophy with data at its core. “It is my belief that everyone has the ability to learn at high levels. It doesn’t matter your background, where you come from, or who you are when you show up into our system. Our role as educators is to maximize learning potential. We need to create collaborative cultures and hold ourselves accountable for data-driven, research-based instructional practices. Data is key to this. It is the evidence to how well our system is performing.” 

However, Padrnos believes that many education agencies have created a culture that uses data incorrectly. “I think we have run into some challenges in education. One of the greatest things to come out of No Child Left Behind was it marked the first-time school districts across our country had to look at their data. They had to dissect their data and understand how to serve each child in the system. Unfortunately, it took hold in a punitive manner. We’ve created a culture in our state, and across the country, where data is used to reprimand people. In my view, it should be used as the evidence of how we’re doing and a tool to think creatively and innovatively. At Osseo, we’re using data to build our realities and drive innovation and strategic change within our teaching and learning environments,” he said.

From IQ and IBM to Hoonuit

For many years, Osseo Area Schools was part of TIES. A consortium made up of over 40 school districts that came together in the 1960s to improve STEM literacy and readiness. TIES built a product called IQ that allowed teachers to pull data. Over time, Osseo supplemented IQ with IBM Cognos  an off-the-shelf business intelligence tool. These products served Osseo well for many years, but became antiquated as the district’s needs changed over time, new thinking emerged, and customization capabilities became more important. 

When Padrnos arrived, Osseo started to evaluate the best ways to modernize its tools. “We needed to make them more meaningful and user friendly so they could help us drive where we’re going as an organization. We engaged in a large process and brought in a lot of data solutions to try and understand which one could best meet our needs. We could see the commitment within Hoonuit to truly partner and build something that’s going to help us drive innovation in our organization,” said Padrnos.

“We could see the commitment within Hoonuit to truly partner and build something that’s going to help us drive innovation in our organization. We’re beginning to fully embrace the platform and integrate it into every aspect of what we’re doing.”

 — Anthony Padrnos, Executive Director of Technology, Osseo Area Schools

A Culture Shift to “Path, Place, and Pace”

Hoonuit’s data and analytics platform will play a large role in the culture shift underway at Osseo Area Schools. Padrnos is quick to note that classrooms have changed very little in the last hundred years. The school systems we send our children to today operate in much the same manner as those our grandparents attended. As a result, he believes there are systemic cultural and structural changes that need to be addressed. “As education leaders, we know things need to change. Society is looking for a different workforce, we need to build very unique, individualized skill sets. We recognize that. So how do we think about innovative change and build innovation cultures within our education systems? Data is a driving point to this,” he says. 

“We really dug in and asked why are we doing this? And, how do we want to move forward and really start to build a group culture and set the stage for an innovative practice within our organization? What do we want to see happen in the classroom?” said Padrnos. 

As a result of that effort, there are now three words that he and his team use to describe their vision for instruction at Osseo Area Schools: path, place, and pace. Their objective is to create a culture where students can learn on the path that interests them, in the place that is most relevant and meaningful to them, and at a pace that matches their abilities. More specifically, Padrnos wants to build content and curriculum that meets each individual’s interests (path). Provide the flexibility of remote schooling — or the option to sit in a different space of the school (place). And, perhaps most importantly, he recognizes that every student learns at a different speed (pace). 

“In the modern workforce, you’re given a task or project, or you are asked to go innovate and it might take you two weeks, you might need three weeks. Sometimes it might take you less. Students are expected to move at the same pace. At the end of third grade, everybody should be ready for fourth grade and so on. To learn continually, I may need to go slow sometimes in order to get what I need. Sometimes I may need to go faster. So that’s helping to build our culture. We’re thinking about what learning environments look like and how students can walk out of Osseo Area schools with the ability to collaborate, critically think, create, communicate and be creative … the soft skills that we don’t always highlight right now or even measure,” said Padrnos.

The Role of Teachers

Teachers will play a vital role in determining the data elements needed to magnify soft skills. In turn, Padrnos and his team will determine the best ways to measure and identify where students are at today and work with educators to inform future practices. 

Padrnos believe the role of teachers is more important than ever — and evolving. He projects their responsibilities will become more akin to that of an instructional coach or doctor. “When you get a physical or an assessment done, the doctor looks at your height, weight, and your history. They’re collecting data on you as an individual to form the best treatment plan to support your health. The same thing is happening in education. To maximize achievement, we need to look at each individual student and collect their data in meaningful ways. Where is a student at with grades? How are they doing with SEL? What does attendance look like? What does behavior look like? What are the outside factors that are impacting this child holistically when they show up in my classroom? This is how we can effectively meet students where they’re at and move them to the next level to be successful.” 

Hoonuit’s Data Analytics platform is system agnostic and built to support disparate data sources. As a result, it provides deep cross-domain analysis and a complete view of every student in Osseo’s system — allowing their educators to make the most informed decisions. “Most teachers are not prepared to be data scientists and analyze data. Hoonuit allow us to organize that data in a meaningful and visual way that’s easy to use. Our organization can ask the right questions to drive change and significantly impact student success,” said Padrnos.

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