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Success Stories

Fostering Growth Mindset at a 2023 Blue Ribbon School: How Maunawili Closed the Achievement Gap

Sam DeFlitch
Sam DeFlitch
Fostering Growth Mindset at a 2023 Blue Ribbon School: How Maunawili Closed the Achievement Gap



Learn how Maunawili Elementary, a 2023 National Blue Ribbon School in Kailua, Hawaii, closed the achievement gap and improved students’ sense of belonging by 17 points. 


  • Maunawili had used several social-emotional learning programs and surveys, but none included key grade-level or school-level data. 
  • Additionally, these programs couldn’t provide the school with any post-survey steps, making data-based decision making difficult.
  • School staff and educators needed actionable data to amplify student voice and support their RTI.



  • Maunawili’s 6th graders grew 17 points in sense of belonging, ranking 23 points above HIDOE’s average.
  • The school received the prestigious Blue Ribbon Award from the US Department of Education, an elite designation for the top 1% of schools nationwide. This award is based on academic performance and the ability to close the achievement gap.



“Social-emotional learning isn’t a single program. It’s not one person going into a classroom and teaching a single lesson,” says Aaron Tomasu, School Counselor at Maunawili. “It’s a mindset that involves everyone in the community: staff, teachers, parents, front office staff, custodians—this is how we truly build our culture.”

In order to strengthen that culture, leaders at Maunawili Elementary School knew they needed a comprehensive approach to SEL, behavior, and academics. The school, which serves 338 students in kindergarten through sixth grade, had previously used a range of SEL programs and lessons—but none provided actionable data. With no way to measure progress, school staff found themselves jumping from program to program. 

“These programs didn’t provide enough grade-level or school-level data to make decisions—just individual student data,” says Li-Ji Cao, RTI Coordinator at Maunawili. “And they didn’t provide any next steps coming out of the surveys.”

Maunawili already had a long-term, established focus on SEL and growth mindset. But they needed a way to collect actionable student voice data, measure student progress, and use data in their RTI as a universal screener.



Visible Data is Actionable Data

Since partnering with Panorama for Student Success, SEL, and Surveys, Maunawili has seen enormous benefits across student academic achievement and sense of belonging. Supported by Panorama’s comprehensive platform, Maunawili now has access to school-wide, grade-level, and individual student overviews—data they can see and take action on.

“We use this data for our RTI system as a universal screener,” says Cao. “Students can get RTI for behavior, academics, SEL, and attendance—but who are the students we see as needing Tier 2 or Tier 3 RTI? With Panorama, we can see individual student data and provide interventions before these students fall through the cracks.”

Identifying students who need support and closing the achievement gap are key goals for Maunawili. As part of this effort, the school identified data sharing as a critical component of informed decision making. 

“We share Panorama data and results with teachers three times per year. We encourage teachers to look at classroom data to raise awareness of individual student needs. This makes data more meaningful and actionable,” says Cao.

Connecting the Dots: Attendance, Behavior, and Course Performance 

Each student has a progress monitoring sheet with Panorama data from fall, winter, and spring. Here, Maunawili educators can monitor progress across behavior, SEL, and academic performance—and, therefore, readiness for academic learning. Teachers can use Panorama data to make connections between academic performance, SEL, attendance, and behavior, ensuring students get the appropriate supports at the right time. 

Demo Data Panorama Student Success

Panorama Student Success (demo data displayed)


For example, the Panorama dashboard includes a daily attendance report. Tomasu notes that this has streamlined his ability to provide support for students who struggle with attendance. He can easily see which students are absent, and if students hit a threshold, he’s able to quickly send out attendance letters. It’s just one component of Panorama that empowers educators to support students across all aspects of their journey.

“If a student is not ready for academic learning, they may be having some SEL trouble, or issues with behavior or attendance—and we’re using our RTI system to catch those students. We want to get their minds ready for learning, because if there is instability in other areas, it’s hard for students to learn,” says Cao. “We use Panorama to identify those students, and provide them with support so they are ready for learning and feel good about themselves—and that’s growth mindset.”



An Increase of 17 Points in Sense of Belonging 

Maunawili's emphasis on SEL skills and data-informed decision making has led to remarkable outcomes, including significant increases in sense of belonging. From Spring 2023 to Fall 2023, Maunawili’s 6th graders alone grew 17 points in sense of belonging—ranking them 23 points above HIDOE’s average.

This focus on SEL skills has also correlated with strong academic gains and a significant closing of the achievement gap. In fact, Maunawili’s academic success has been so impressive they received the prestigious Blue Ribbon Award from the US Department of Education. This is an elite designation for the top 1% of schools nationwide. 

Cao notes that data-informed decision making—and growth mindset—has made a huge difference in closing the achievement gap at Maunawili. The school has a rich history of integrating growth mindset into all their practices and norms, and Panorama’s platform has strengthened their ability to support and measure student achievement in this key life skill.

“Ten years ago, we started to build a culture of growth mindset at our school,” says Kauʻi Tanaka, Principal at Maunawili. “And that has impacted how we work together—when we meet as groups, when we meet in data teams. It all starts with the growth mindset that teachers and staff have cultivated—and our legacy has informed what we’ve built and how we do business now.”

Video courtesy of KITV

Promoting Academic Excellence 

Maunawili's emphasis on growth mindset and data-based decision making has also had a notable impact on students' academic success. In 2023, students at the school performed significantly above state average on state assessments across language arts, math, and science. 

Copy of Academic Excellence at Maunawili (1)


Additionally, 95% of third graders at Maunawili were reading near, at, or above grade level in 2023—compared with 78% statewide. 

The school's holistic approach—across SEL, behavior, attendance and course performance—has been instrumental in moving the needle on academic excellence. Cao notes that Maunawili's teachers are at the heart of this success: they frequently integrate SEL and growth mindset into classroom lessons, and are committed to using Panorama to make data-informed decisions to support the whole child. 

That link between holistic student success and comprehensive data is central to Maunawili's culture. "We use the term whole child, and it's one thing to strive to support the whole student," says Tomasu. "It's another thing to use actionable data to support whole child success."

A Focus on Student Voice 

A key component of that success is a focus on student voice. With Panorama, students can express their needs, concerns, and interests; and because of the culture of data-sharing Maunawili has created, students can feel confident that their voices are heard and acted on. These efforts strengthen students’ growth mindset and sense of belonging. 

Student School Survey View - Aug 2023

Panorama Student Survey (demo data displayed)


One impactful program that has come from Panorama’s student voice data is Maunawili’s Pathways. Tanaka notes that, in middle school, students begin to explore passions and potential career interests. Once they reach high school, they have more focused learning around specific Pathways. But Tanaka realized they needed to have students ready for these types of conversations before they reached middle school and high school.

So students took surveys around what they were interested in. Then teachers took that data and created a dozen Pathways based on students’ expressed interests. These Pathways include Student Council, Bee Bucks, Honor Society, Media, and Engineering. They are areas where students can explore something that might become a passion—and this came directly from elevating student voice. 

“We have implemented so many ways to see the whole child, to create a student-centric mindset, and to support growth mindset,” says Tanaka. We hear the students and listen to what they are saying, and we find ways to shape their experience based on what they need. Our teachers are willing to hear what students need, be open to that, and make changes—and that’s amazing. The teachers put in an incredible amount of planning and effort, so achievements in data are from the teachers’ hard work.”

Creating State-Wide Systems of Success

Molly Takagi, Social-Emotional Learning Specialist at the Hawaii Department of Education, also notes the extraordinary efforts Maunawili’s educators have made—especially as they’ve increased growth mindset and led to strong academic achievement. She highlights the remarkable ways that teachers, staff, and school leaders have implemented Panorama and used the platform as a tool to support student success. 

“The Panorama tools have helped schools create and build on existing systems," says Takagi. "It’s a great platform that makes educators' lives simpler—it's easier to create intervention plans and progress monitor specific groups. From our office, we see it being a really powerful tool.”


Watch the Webinar: Powering Student Success at Maunawili Elementary School

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