Customer Spotlight: Mesa Public Schools

Posted by Erin Surprise on Apr 4, 2019 8:01:12 AM

Mesa, Arizona, on a map

 

Mesa Public Schools has partnered with Hoonuit to drive meaningful improvements to student outcomes across the district.


As the largest school district in the state of Arizona, Mesa Public Schools (MPS) has the opportunity to make a difference in tens of thousands of young people’s lives. And while Mesa’s staggering size — the district serves more than 63,000 students in over 80 schools — gives the district the power to help shape the futures of entire communities, it also presents a variety of challenges.


Most notably, with its educators spread out over 200 square miles, the district needs a streamlined approach to data. “Some of our biggest challenges are related to our size,” explains MPS Director of Research Robert Carlisle.


As such, the district has developed a large-scale, data-centric approach to tracking performance and improving student outcomes. Since partnering with Hoonuit more than six years ago, MPS has leveraged a number of the platform’s innovative features to drive impressive progress toward its district-wide goals.


Encouraging District-Wide Buy-In


According to Carlisle, Mesa was spurred into seeking out a platform like Hoonuit when the district’s previous data solution announced it was going off the market. Fortunately, that unexpected bump in the road turned out to be an opportunity for the district to reevaluate what it really wanted and needed from a data solution.


“When we found Hoonuit, we realized that it was by far the most robust of the solutions we were considering in terms of its ability to pull data from multiple sources,” he says. “Although we weren’t specifically seeking out dashboards, those were attractive to us, too.”


In fact, Hoonuit’s dashboards have come to play a key role in Mesa’s day-to-day operations, as everyone from intervention specialists and support staff to teachers and principals have individualized views offering personalized dashboard reports with differing levels of access to student data. “I’ve noticed that teachers, in particular, really benefit from the platform,” Carlisle explains. “They’ll use it at the beginning of a school year to see where their students are starting from and begin to predict what their needs may be.”


Additionally, special education teachers and counselors use Hoonuit to help determine when students may be eligible for IEPs, and principals use the data housed in the platform when they apply for grants or other supplemental funding awards.


The platform’s versatility — and its demonstrated utility — has helped generate widespread buy-in across the district. “Some people who are less comfortable with technology and computers have felt more hesitant to use Hoonuit, but as soon as I demonstrate to them how it can solve specific problems and make their lives easier, they get on board,” Carlisle says.


Innovative Solutions to Pervasive Problems


While Hoonuit has transformed Mesa’s day-to-day approach to data, it has also helped the district make significant strides toward achieving some of its bigger picture, longer-term goals. For instance, one of Carlisle’s primary responsibilities as Director of Research is to administer district-wide climate surveys. One of these annual surveys is sent out to every student in third through twelfth grade and asks questions ranging from “Do you like your teacher?” to “Do you feel safe at school?”


With Hoonuit, the survey’s results are automatically organized and appear as clear, actionable metrics on a dashboard to which teachers, principals, and administrators all have access. Carlisle notes that these student opinion survey results are never considered in teacher evaluations — rather, they’re intended to be a resource for teachers to use to facilitate their own personal growth and development as educators if they so choose.


Further, MPS has seen great success decreasing the disparity between the rates at which its white and nonwhite students enroll in advanced coursework. According to Carlisle, Mesa had previously been using an outside vendor to help make advanced class enrollment more equitable, but it wasn’t seeing much progress. “We felt that we could do the same thing internally with Hoonuit,” he says.


Since turning to Hoonuit to organize its efforts to tackle this imbalance, Mesa has been able to substantially decrease the gap between minority and majority student populations enrolled in its Advanced Placement courses. Similarly, MPS has been able to leverage Hoonuit to conduct more precise, more thorough student tracking, which, when paired with the district’s PBIS, has resulted in a marked decline in disciplinary incidents across the district.


Moving forward, Carlisle says that he hopes to “look more closely at how educators are using their dashboards and make sure that the technology aligns with how people actually use it, so that it becomes even easier to use.” If the district’s progress thus far is any indication, this will put educators in Mesa in an even better position to ensure that every student in the district is given the greatest possible chance to succeed.

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