Infinite Insights Recap: How Howard County Measured Engagement with New Data Sets

Posted by Sarah SingerO


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, June 24th four of our education partners shared how they are using data to solve key challenges throughout COVID-19 school closures and how their education agencies are planning for the 2020-21 school year. Our panelists covered a range of issues ranging from new assessment strategies and building new dashboards to mapping district services and analyzing digital learning data sets.  

We were fortunate to have had Brandy Iskin, Coordinator of Data Warehouse and Reporting at Howard County Public School System join us as one of our panelists.  

Howard County Public School System profile:

  • 77 schools include 42 elementary, 20 middle, 12 high schools, and three education centers 
  • Serves 60,000 students in the Baltimore-Washington corridor 
  • Ranks among the top districts based on performance on state assessments 
  • Diverse school district includes 23% Asian students and 24% African American students 

How Howard County Public Schools is bringing in new data sets to measure engagement 

Like many Hoonuit clients, Howard County Public Schools (HCPSS) in Maryland also built new dashboards during school closures. Doing so required that they bring in data sets from new outside sources such as Canvas, Dreambox, and Lexia Core into the Hoonuit data and analytics platform.  

“As we put together our distance learning model and implemented it, the data warehouse team got together and our main question is what can we do to help? How can we support leadership, staff, and students?” said Brandi Iskin, Coordinator of Data Warehouse and Reporting at HCPSS. The district’s first initiative was to get Chromebooks in the hands of students, so Iskin’s team built a dashboard visualizing a breakdown of students and families that requested devices, internet, and also students and families that did not respond to the district’s outreach.  

Each time HCPSS’s needs evolved, new metrics were built in Hoonuit. “As we began to distribute devices on location, and then via FedEx, we wanted to display how many devices were being issued. And then how many devices that were requested but had not yet been issued. So we added a dashboard that supported the IT team for distribution. It also supported leadership and school staff so that they could make sure that students were getting what they needed in a timely manner,” explained Iskin.  

Additional metrics continued to be added, such as “check in” and “check out” data. For example, as 12th graders graduated at the end of the school year, HCPSS needed a way to see that their devices were being returned or checked in. HPCSS leveraged Hoonuit’s filtering capabilities so they could drill down to the student level and track which devices were provided and the serial numbers. If a device was shipped via FedEx, they included the link that went right to the FedEx site, providing a one stop shop for them to get their technology information.  

As HCPSS entered their “phase two” of distance learning they focused on learning which students were logging in. Dashboards were built that brought in data from their learning management systems. “We were looking at our single sign-on, into the Howard County active directory so that as students were getting devices, we could see if they are logging on,” Iskin explained. “They were asked to do certain tasks at home. Were they getting on? And then the most important thing for our engagement dashboards was to find the students who were not logging on, or as you drilled in and you saw who was having active engagement, what type or how often where they engaged. Was it just the first week and then we never saw them again? The school support teams were using this as part of their process to keep an eye on and work with families to make sure that they were getting the support they needed and getting contacted if they were not actively engaged.”  

HCPSS’s distance learning model had two primary components: learning activities and virtual class check-ins. Iskin and her team built new engagement dashboards specific to the different applications that elementary students and middle and high school students were asked to engage with. “Our elementary school students were tasked with using DreamBox, Lexia Core, and Google Meet. We were able to show how many times a student was on per day and per week, and then how many minutes they were on. It told you if the student was getting into that application. It wasn’t indicative of what they were doing in that application. It was just to make sure that they were engaging and also to make sure if they weren’t engaging, we were making sure we were reaching out to those students and families,” said Iskin. 

HCPSS landed on a strategy for fourth quarter grading where students would receive a pass or an incomplete. Their users were used to having a grade monitor dashboard. So the technology team built a specific dashboard that looked and acted exactly like their grades monitor dashboard just for Q4 showing pass and incompletes. 

“These dashboards have been a success. They’ve been adopted by our users on a daily and weekly basis as a one stop shop, allowing them to get a lot of different data in different ways. They need to see it aggregated at its student level, as well as department or school level. And it was data we needed to ensure students were staying on the staff’s radar and getting the technology and support they needed,” said Iskin.  

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