Infinite Insights Recap: How Kern County SOS is Reimagining Teaching and Learning

Posted by Courtney StevensO


Hoonuit’s Infinite Insights virtual event series offers education leaders a space to share their data successes,  collaborate, and ideate. This blog series summarizes the insights gleaned from each session. Watch a recording of the event here. 

On Wednesday, July 29th three of our education partners discussed plans for and the uncertainty of teaching and learning, assessment strategies, and how data will play a role in instruction this school year.

We were fortunate to have had Heather Richter, Administrator Continuous Improvement Support at Kern County Superintendent of Schools join us as one of our panelists.

  • Kern County SOS consists of 47 independent public-school districts
  • More than 27 years of experience in education as both a teacher and administrator
  • Focused on continuous improvement processes in the development, implementation, and monitoring of local control and accountability plans to improve student outcomes

How Kern County SOS is Reimagining Teaching and Learning

As school districts across the country begin a new school year in unchartered waters, Heather Richter from Kern County Superintendent of Schools shared a planning document with Infinite Insights attendees that helps educators get creative with teaching and learning. Titled Objective for the Reimagining Teaching and Learning Academy 2020-21, the guide helps educators develop teaching and learning plans across the various learning models (distance, in-person, etc.) districts will be relying on this year.

“This is a terrific resource and we are so happy that Kern County SOS is sharing it broadly,” said Sarah Singer, Director of Customer Success at Hoonuit. “It addresses instructional strategies and priorities for three possible return to school scenarios, so you can use it specific to your local context. Of course, online or distance learning will be an important element in each of the three planning scenarios.”

“Our role as a County office is not to tell districts what to do. It’s really just to help their thinking. We created this document to help with planning for the next couple of years, and the next year specifically. It helps identify those big buckets of work that you need to dive deeply into,” said Richter.

The guide covers multiple topics ranging from Curriculum Instruction and Assessments to Social Emotional Learning and even support for Parents and Students as Kern County SOS recognizes they are navigating a new world in academics. It also helps identify the “owner” for key actions that every district and school will need to account for: such as who is responsible for implementing specific action? When is the target completion date for that action? Who is going to be monitoring the implementation of that action and how are they going to measure success? “We’re utilizing this to get brains going because there is just so much on administrators’ plates to think about. We thought let’s step back and think about each priority area. You’ll notice that each of the categories includes equity. What equity considerations do we need to think about? Not just for our students, but for our teachers as we start to prepare and go forward,” said Richter.

Kern County SOS leadership also believes that current challenges could lead to future gains. “This is an opportunity to rethink learning. Even when we go back to face to face, we still need to have some kind of component of distance learning. We can’t go backwards. Let’s use this as an opportunity to engage technology within our classrooms. How are you going to make sure that this boom and technology stays within your system for your kids?” asked Richter.  

If you would like access to the Objective for the Reimagining Teaching and Learning Academy 2020-21 from Kern County SOS, please reach out to your Hoonuit data advisor.

Mapping Data to Provide Equitable Supports

Hoonuit’s interactive geospatial tools help educators understand the geographic context of their student, district, and school data to make the most informed decisions. Richter and her team at Kern County SOS took advantage of Hoonuit’s mapping capabilities to identify where socioeconomically disadvantaged students are living within high population areas. 

“We took our buses and made them remote Wi-Fi. We concentrated those buses in areas where we had high populations of socioeconomically disadvantaged students,” Richter explained. “By mapping the data, we were able to see, for example, which apartment complexes needed internet access. We put the buses there at certain times and let students know they could come to sit outside of the bus and access their schoolwork. We were able to be able to tag our foster youth students and better serve them.” 

Kern County SOS’s use of mapping did not end with internet access. “We did our hot lunches that way as well,” said Richter. “It helped us figure out where to put those stations publicly and get the most students. Mapping has been really helpful in targeting those students that we know need extra support.”

Courtney Stevens, Hoonuit’s Vice President of Education Research, reminded Infinite Insights attendees that any Hoonuit client with the Essentials solution suite has the ability to filter student data and map it. “You can jump in and grab your most recent assessment scores in a certain area or identify students that are struggling with attendance. You can take any data element and group those kids together through a filter and map them,” said Stevens. “This allows you to see concentrations of data elements for kids, as you are thinking about popping out community resources to target students in need.”

Providing Grace and Space

As a leader at Kern County SOS, Richter is emphasizing the need for extra patience at a time when every stakeholder in the education system is facing pandemic-related upheaval. 

“Our theme has been ‘grace and space.’ So give everybody grace, as this is a whole new world for us and some space to learn. Our big takeaway is that it’s difficult to manage all these systems. As leaders, it’s important that we are on the forefront and can be vulnerable,” she said. 

To that end, Richter described how Kern County SOS is asking its administrators to get uncomfortable as a way to support and empathize with their teachers. “We asked our administrators here at the County office to get into Canvas and create a class and figure out how you link things. Your teachers need to know that, but you need to be uncomfortable as well. This is what it feels like to be a teacher. Things are not going to go well all the time. And if we’re not showing that we’re willing to be vulnerable, how do we expect our teachers to do the same thing? So we’ve got to be learners alongside with our teachers moving forward. So that’s been our big ‘aha.’ We’re getting into the weeds and helping to provide grace and space.” 

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