2020 IMPACT REPORT

Keeping Students and Families Engaged, From Anywhere

2020 was a challenging year for students, educators, administrators, and families alike, but Kinvolved is proud to have been in a position to provide essential software and services in a time of need.

Message From Our Co-Founders

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic set off a seismic wave that created rapid and dramatic change in K–12 districts across the United States. It affected all people regardless of age, income, gender, nationality, and level of education, and its repercussions in K–12 education caused 1/4 of students nationwide to disappear from school.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, 15,000 students were absent online and failed to do any schoolwork in the first month of the pandemic, and more than 40,000 were reportedly not in daily contact with the district. In the School District of Philadelphia, 39% of students were not logging in daily. In the New York City Department of Education, at least 23% of high school students were absent, and teachers on the front lines reported that the real number was actually higher. Absenteeism only increased during summer school, when the NYC DOE reported that 36% of students in the NYC DOE hadn’t logged on even once within the first week of summer school.

In autumn, after months of strategizing, many districts still struggled to engage their families and students. After the first week of instruction, Detroit reported that 22% of their students weren’t attending class online. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti commented on the number and said, “active and consistent attendance . . . is our greatest threat, outside of student achievement.” This wasn’t just a challenge in big urban districts, either—the state of Connecticut reported significantly lower attendance in the fall of 2020 compared to the fall of 2019.

As the pandemic continues to influence our daily lives in 2021, it stresses the importance of what we’ve dedicated our work to for the past eight years: student attendance, a critical measure of engagement, is mission-critical for academic success, and strong family relationships are paramount to student attendance and engagement. The pandemic has simply highlighted the ripple effect—when schools aren’t able to engage their families and students, attendance will decrease, and as a result student achievement will decline.

While COVID-19 creates regular challenges for students, educators, administrators, families, and community partners alike, we’re proud to be in a position to provide essential support in a time of need, and we’re optimistic about the future. Our 2020 impact report explores the data and stories of our partner schools, as well as the reasons for our positive outlook. We hope you’ll share our optimism after you’ve read the report.

To Our Students’ Success,

Miriam Altman

Alexandra Meis

2020 Highlights

400000

STAKEHOLDERS SERVED

54.12

STUDENTS SERVED RECEIVING FREE OR REDUCED PRICE LUNCH

13.42

STUDENTS SERVED LEARNING ENGLISH

300,000

STUDENTS SERVED LIVING IN TEMPORARY HOUSING

?

STUDENTS SERVED ARE NON-WHITE

15.48

STUDENTS SERVED WITH DISABILITIES

The COVID-19 Pandemic Amplified America’s Longstanding Absenteeism Crisis

Kinvolved has spent nearly a decade working to prevent and reduce absenteeism and solve the attendance crisis in the United States. This crisis is longstanding and deeply rooted; pre-pandemic, approximately 8 million, or 15% of U.S. children were missing three weeks or more of school per year, but in 2020, chronic absenteeism jumped up to 40% in some communities.

Research shows that student attendance is a leading indicator of academic success, and family engagement is shown to decrease absenteeism. Because of this, our holistic approach follows a logical, research-based sequence: improve family engagement to improve attendance so that every student is set up for academic success.

While the equation is practical, many school systems haven’t invested appropriate resources into family engagement and attendance management. As a result, when COVID-19 hit, many schools were unprepared to communicate with all families regardless of language, device, internet access, and location, and they didn’t have robust attendance management systems in place to diligently and accurately keep track of their students regardless of learning scenario (in-person, remote, or hybrid).

8,000,000
U.S. children were missing three weeks or more of school per year.

The outcomes have been horrifying. What used to be eight million chronically absent students skyrocketed as districts lost touch with millions more. As many as a third of students are chronically absent now, marking more U.S. students chronically absent in 2020–21 than any other time in recorded history. 

33
of students are chronically absent

Further, the response has largely been apathetic; instead of seeing improvements to attendance management, many systems have eliminated requirements to report attendance and/or publish inflated attendance numbers that differ from what schools report on the ground. Both approaches reconcile shortcomings by measuring engagement as attendance, but how can we count something like a single LMS login—or similarly low standard of measurement—as attendance with good conscience?

The bottom line is that measuring engagement is not representative of attendance, and the harsh truth remains that if we don’t get our students re-engaged in school immediately, we will witness an entire generation of chronically absent students who will lose their opportunities for personal success and prosperity. This will have a significant impact on our society and country at large in the coming decades.

It’s rare that our annual Impact Report toes the line of an op-ed tone, but we find ourselves in a unique situation. After eight years building positive relationships with districts across the country, eight years deeply entrenched in this work, eight years raising awareness and providing viable solutions, we can confidently say that this is the five-alarm fire and time is of the essence.

Consider this our call to action. Do not be silent, and do not ignore the absenteeism crisis any longer. Advocate that your district take charge making attendance THE top priority, and demand appropriate resources to do it quickly. Our students’ futures—and therefore the future of our country—are at stake.

If you’d like support, we can help. The following demonstrates how our products and services have aided schools and districts to maintain and improve their family engagement and attendance work despite all of the curveballs COVID-19 threw their way in 2020.

The Positive Impact of KiNVO Software

KiNVO—the leading K–12 attendance and communications software—serves as a critical lifeline for schools across the country during COVID-19.

Addressing absenteeism remotely
Districts rely on KiNVO for a number of mission-critical tasks such as:
  • Communicating with students and families learning English
  • Coordinating meals for students receiving free and reduced meals
  • Monitoring students’ mental health while social distancing
  • Providing important updates with tracked deliverability
  • Contacting hard-to-reach parents
  • Surveying family needs
  • Tracking remote attendance/engagement
  • Supporting students with remote learning
  • Enabling custom attendance tracking
  • Automating virtual and hybrid attendance digests
  • Launching digital attendance postcards
  • Cleaning parent contact data 
  • Building custom communication groups
  • Facilitating secure communications oversight

These use cases had life changing impacts. Here are just a few:

— Karen Bailey, Principal, P.S. 153

Engage 100% of Families Remotely

Karen Bailey, the Principal at P.S. 153 in Harlem, NYC, said: “Two days prior to distance learning, we successfully engaged in two-way communications with 470 out of 500 families. During the first week of distance learning, we got that list down to just one family [that we couldn’t contact].

We learned the family we couldn’t reach was in temporary housing, and the parent was in dire straits. So, they packed up and moved in with a family member. As they were moving, the parent’s phone was shut off due to financial difficulties, so they were out of touch for multiple days. All of a sudden, her phone turned on due to government support and the first thing that popped up on her screen were the KiNVO messages with our check-ins and updates. She immediately responded to confirm they were safe and explain what happened. The student has been attending class and submitting school work every day since then.”

With that, P.S. 153 has open lines of communication with 100% of their students and families during remote learning—something many schools around the country struggled to do during school closures.

Distribute Meals Seamlessly

When the Wayne County Board of Education needed to close due to health concerns, the district team had less than 24 hours to figure out how to serve meals to students who needed them outside of their normal buildings. Using KiNVO, the Wayne County Board of Education sent out translated messages to the family contacts of students who qualified for the meals and successfully served over 4,350 breakfasts and 4,550 lunches the first day buildings were closed. This was a substantial accomplishment for a 5,000-student district in rural Georgia.

KiNVO’s custom group segmentation empowered them to send targeted messages to the families who needed the message, and KiNVO’s two-way translated text messaging ensured that all families had access to the information regardless of their language, internet access, device, or location.

Remind Students to Show Up for Class in Any Scenario

Many educators around the country experienced low attendance rates as students didn’t have the means to participate in online learning, forgot to join during their designated class time, or just neglected to log on. KiNVO helped administrators and educators overcome this challenge with custom groups, scheduled messages, and automated attendance updates. 

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This morning, 21 kids were absent. After KiNVOing (which took three minutes), 14 students showed up.

— Principal Kimberly Leimer
Central Falls, RI

Principal Kimberly Leimer in Central Falls, RI, was one of those individuals and found KiNVO to be the most effective way to get students to show up to class; she enthusiastically shared, “This morning, 21 kids were absent. After KiNVOing (which took three minutes), 14 students showed up.”

This type of impact was seen across Kinvolved’s partner schools. In Columbia Heights Educational Campus (CHEC), Desepe DeVargas, a visual arts teacher, set up recurring messages to remind students and families about class. She said, “Students were adjusting and missing class the first couple weeks, so I set up recurring messages to go out to students just before my classes.” The automated reminders improved attendance—kids who might have forgotten they had class suddenly received a reminder to log on and followed instructions.

After class, DeVargas would send a message to the parents of the students saying it was great to see them in class, and another message to the parents of students who didn’t show up—or showed up only to quickly drop off—saying that she missed their student in class. “I had parents respond and say they thought their student attended, so it definitely helps keep them informed and hold their child accountable.” 

These types of reminders and automations made it much easier for KiNVO users to improve and maintain attendance rates regardless of the learning scenario.

Break Language Barriers Via Two-Way, Texting-Based Translations

One of the biggest struggles that schools and districts faced during the pandemic was relaying vital information in a timely and accessible manner. Communications applications that require a parent login prevent families without smart devices and/or lower technological literacy from accessing the information. Additionally, messages that are only deployed in English are inaccessible to non–English speaking families, and one-way messages prevent any kind of productive discourse or platform for families to ask important questions and gain the clarity they deserve.

Since most adults in the U.S. now have a cellular phone, KiNVO sends messages as regular SMS text messages and instantly translates them into more than 80 languages. This feature makes school and district communications much more accessible than most K–12 communications applications.

In Paducah Public Schools in Kentucky, educators leveraged this feature constantly and found KiNVO to be the most effective way to keep students, families, and educators on the same page. When asked how KiNVO worked, Chelsea Saladino, a business and marketing teacher at Paducah Tilghman High School said, “Three minutes ago, I sent out a mass message to everybody, and it went to every parent of students in my classes and all of my students,” she said. “It comes across as a text message, and I was giving a general announcement about turning things in, like labeling your work. I’ve already gotten 13 responses.

Many schools in other regions experienced the same results.

We've definitely been able to be in contact with many more parents than we normally would. . . . We have a 60% Spanish-speaking population, and the automatic, two-way translation provides an avenue to communicate in a much easier format for our parents.

— Diana Whalen
Principal
North Brunswick Township Public Schools

Our teachers raved about the fact that parents that they were never able to get in touch with, who would never respond to emails or phone calls, [were responding to messages.] That was one of the highlights of our year.

— Diana Whalen
Principal
North Brunswick Township Public Schools

The automatic translation makes it so easy for our [families] that would never be able to respond . . . it's just as easy for them as our English speakers, so that's a big help.

— Debbie Taylor
Teacher
Coffee County Schools

Get to the Root Causes of Absenteeism Instantly

As the health crisis swept our nation, it became increasingly important to not only know that a student was absent, but truly understand why they were absent. Being absent during COVID-19 because of a dentist appointment required a much different school response than being absent because the student was experiencing a fever. As a New Jersey school nurse explained:

blue-quotes

As the nurse, I keep in closer contact with the parents of kids who are absent. KiNVO has made it so easy to be in touch with parents; they respond almost immediately to texts which helps me find out why a child is absent and then refer to health care as needed. KiNVO has changed my practice at school by saving me so much time NOT having to make phone calls—sometimes I would have to make five phone calls to different people to be able to contact someone, but KiNVO changed that!

Building Relationships — Even Remotely

blue-quotes

As the nurse, I keep in closer contact with the parents of kids who are absent. KiNVO has made it so easy to be in touch with parents; they respond almost immediately to texts which helps me find out why a child is absent and then refer to health care as needed. KiNVO has changed my practice at school by saving me so much time NOT having to make phone calls—sometimes I would have to make five phone calls to different people to be able to contact someone, but KiNVO changed that!

For additional stories on how schools and districts around the country have used KiNVO to succeed during COVID-19 in 2020, take a look at the following case studies:

Washington DC Case Study

View the case study

PPSD Case Study

Providence Case Study

Needed Innovation

As we supported districts during the pandemic, we continued to push the envelope in developing practical, research-based solutions to provide schools with even more tools to battle absenteeism.

In this vein, we took on the following initiatives:

Digital Attendance Postcards

Launched a partnership with Harvard’s Proving Ground

In an effort to test efficacy of attendance interventions, we partnered with Proving Ground to co-create Digital Attendance Postcards that help districts send official attendance updates to families in a way that is faster, cheaper, and safer than sending physical postcards.

Attendance Tracking

Developed custom attendance tracking for the NYC DOE

When they launched a new attendance policy in the fall of 2020 with specific codes to represent their hybrid learning model, we quickly rolled out a new tracking and reporting toolset within KiNVO, uniquely for NYC DOE schools, to save our partners hours of time every day.

Randomized Control Trial

Launched a collaborative study with the Lab @ DC, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education (DME), and public schools in DC.

Together, we’re testing whether KiNVO helps schools positively engage families and improve student attendance. The findings will shape the district’s strategies for increasing student attendance and investing in education technology. This is Kinvolved’s first randomized control trial, and we’re excited to see the results. 

Data Security

Increased KiNVO’s data security and compliance.

We signed the Project Unicorn Pledge, showcasing our commitment to safe, secure interoperability. KiNVO underwent a review by New York State to ensure it meets new 2D Law security and privacy requirements for the state’s districts. These steps are critical as unchecked edtech tools may put student data at risk, particularly during increased usage of digital tools.

Professional Learning

One of the areas where many of our partner districts immediately sought support was in building capacity for digital family engagement and attendance management. With schools shifting to virtual learning—in many instances with only days notice—educators and administrators alike needed quick and practical solutions to keep students engaged.
Addressing absenteeism remotely
To respond to the call at large, we created a library of free resources and conducted over 20 free professional learning sessions to help educators, leaders, and administrators overcome their most pressing challenges including:
  • Updating unknown or inaccurate contact information
  • Conducting digital home visits
  • Effectively managing attendance in all learning scenarios
  • Communicating with families about frequently updated plans
  • Engaging students remotely

To respond to the call at the local level, we worked with our partners to create tailored and flexible professional learning packages and services that helped each school/district meet their unique needs and goals. Below are two examples of how districts leveraged our services to meet their goals, which often needed to align with changing local attendance policy and protocol.

Providence Public School District Reopening Plan

Providence Public School District (PPSD) has been a Kinvolved partner for four years. What started off as a seven-school pilot has grown into a district-wide implementation where KiNVO is used by all administrators, support staff, and educators to effectively manage attendance and engagement and to communicate with families.

When COVID-19 hit the PPSD community, KiNVO became the central lifeline between schools, students, and families. The systems the district already had in place with the KiNVO software were robust yet flexible enough to adapt to the rapidly changing environment. As PPSD schools closed doors for the spring 2020 semester, KiNVO empowered them to continue on with business as usual, continuing to track, report, and manage attendance, and remain digitally engaged with students and families, regardless of device, internet access, and home language.

As PPSD planned for reopening, the district worked with Kinvolved to provide practical steps for everyone in the district to effectively manage attendance and communicate with families while navigating multiple—and changing—learning scenarios. Below are two examples of district outlines that were provided to PPSD educators and leaders.

Re-entry Academies

District and school leaders will use KiNVO to communicate the special curriculum developed for the first five days of school to help students transition back to in-person learning.

Attendance Management

District leaders will use KiNVO’s attendance features to monitor PPSD attendance by tier, chronic absenteeism, and daily attendance rates.

District leaders will create clear guidelines for attendance and incentives in partnership with Kinvolved. It is important that while positive behavior is reinforced, we do not incentivize students to attend school if they are sick or show symptoms of illness. 

 

School leaders will use various KiNVO attendance features:

  • Daily attendance notification via text message, email, or autocall to communicate daily attendance 
  • Daily attendance notification via text message, email, or autocall to communication period-level absenteeism and tardiness 
  • Year-to-date attendance rates and trends 
  • Attendance letters (“nudges”) via text message or email 
  • Two-way communications to convey positive improvement in attendance 
  • Attendance reports to analyze data once per month, if not more frequently

With effective processes and protocols like this in place, PPSD has managed to navigate the school closures and transitions from remote learning to in-person learning smoother than many others around the country.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) was one of the many districts that came to Kinvolved for support during COVID-19 as a new partner. Prior to the pandemic, M-DCPS was primarily focused on providing targeted support to specific school communities using Title IV funding. However, COVID-19 highlighted the need to engage all families and prompted the district to shift to a district-wide family engagement strategy.

Sara Walkup, the Director of Community Outreach at M-DCPS, stated that COVID-19 was like a wakeup call for their district and brought them Kinvolved to help answer:

  1. How are we engaging our families?
  2. What are we doing to bring families into the fold and authentically build relationships with them to support their students’ academic success?
blue-quotes

We started working with Kinvolved on our district-wide family engagement strategy at the outset of COVID-19. The team has provided expertise, critical capacity, and a high quality deliverables on a short timeline.

— Sara Walkup
Director of Family Engagement
Miami-Dade County Public schools

As the first part of our work with M-DCPS, we provided professional learning sessions and surveying services to provide immediate support for educators and provide the district with relevant data to help answer important questions like:

  • How does family engagement fit into academic success?
  • How do M-DCPS schools view families?
  • How do M-DCPS schools partner with families?
  • What are the biggest challenges for educators to engage families?

With this foundational information, we worked with M-DCPS to create an action plan including:

  1. Differentiated district-wide professional development including on-demand options and live sessions
  2. District-wide family engagement campaigns for consistent messaging across all stakeholders
  3. School-based planning support
  4. Family engagement video and resource library

The family engagement headway that M-DCPS has made during 2020 is certain to set their students up for academic success in the future.

Raising National Awareness of the Attendance Crisis

In addition to supporting our partners on the front lines, we also supported journalists who were highlighting the important stories of attendance and engagement during COVID-19. Our work and expertise was featured in:

Aiming to Overcome the Pandemic and the Attendance Crisis

Our work is not done—nor are we remotely close. As we stated at the beginning of the report, the stakes and challenges caused by absenteeism in our country are now higher than any other time in recorded history.

But with all of this comes a silver lining, and a sliver of hope that we plan to pursue full-force in 2021.

Historically, change is slow-moving in K–12 education, but, the COVID-19 pandemic forced dramatic transformation in a matter of weeks; what would have typically been a multi-month or multi-year process was condensed into a series of overnight deployments.

As frustrating as the change has been, and as horrifying as the national attendance data has been, we believe that the pandemic provided a much needed spotlight on the attendance crisis at hand. With that comes the opportunity to make strategic and holistic changes that wouldn’t have been on the drawing board for consideration before.

Our plan in 2021 is to pursue this opportunity as diligently as possible—to work with as many districts as we can to implement practical, research-based attendance and family engagement practices that help prevent absenteeism in all scenarios—whether in person, remote, or hybrid. We will continue to create new product innovations to support districts during COVID-19 and beyond based on a tight feedback loop with our partners, deepen our expertise in specific regions with regard to understanding and influencing attendance and engagement policies, and grow to additional districts to expand our impact and ensure all students are set up for success.

Impact Reports

Kinvolved™ Impact Reports explore how our holistic approach to family engagement affects chronic absenteeism, mindset shifts, and student outcomes. Revisit our older Impact Reports here:

2017-2018 Impact Report
2017 -2018 Impact Report
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2017-2018 Impact Report
2017 -2018 Impact Report
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2016-2017 Impact Report
2016 -2017 Impact Report
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2015-2017 Impact Report
2015 -2016 Impact Report
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Learn More

Interested in talking with a Kinvolved representative to learn more about how we can support your school system’s work? Simply fill out the form below and we’ll get in touch soon!