Kinvolved Closes $1.5M Seed Round to Expand Its Efforts to Engage Families and Communities in Eradicating Chronic Absenteeism

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November 1, 2018 – New York, NY: Amidst a wave of new research underlining the connections between school attendance and student success, Kinvolved, the leader in software and services proven to reduce chronic absenteeism and boost daily attendance, today announced it has secured $1.54M in funding through a Seed II investment round.

Kinvolved raised funds from notable organizations and angel investors, and their investments will help Kinvolved build on its success supporting school districts in their efforts to get all children to school each day.

The Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation (DRK)—a global venture philanthropy firm supporting early-stage, high-impact social enterprises—led the fundraising round, and its managing director, Stephanie Khurana, sits on Kinvolved’s board of directors.

“DRK invests in high impact social enterprises that solve real-life problems in targeted, innovative ways,” says Khurana. “The Kinvolved team has demonstrated a commitment to eradicating chronic absenteeism through a systems level approach and meaningful engagement to support students. We’re excited to support their efforts to expand into new communities.”

Also included in the round is the Twilio.org Impact Fund, which invests in social enterprises that use innovative communications strategies and demonstrate the potential to scale. The organization recently announced it had met its goal of powering one billion messages for good five years early, and referenced its impact investment in Kinvolved as part of its efforts to help reach one billion people each year.

Erin Reilly, VP of Social Impact and GM of Twilio.org, shares that, “when it comes to education, it can be hard to bridge communication gaps among school staff, students, and families; these missed connections can sometimes have dire consequences for kids. By leveraging communications technologies, Kinvolved offers simple, intuitive tools that break down barriers. We are excited to welcome Kinvolved into the Impact Fund family.”

Other investors include:

  • New York Ventures, the venture capital investment arm of Empire State Development, which will also serve as a board observer.
  • Excell Technology Ventures, a venture capital fund that invests in seed and early-stage technology startups in New York State. Excell also holds a seat on Kinvolved’s board of directors.
  • GingerBread Capital, a venture capital fund founded by Linnea Roberts that invests in women founders and entrepreneurs, and helps women-led business access the resources they need to scale successful enterprises.
  • u2i, a software development firm that builds tight, passionate, agile software development teams to help startups and growing businesses achieve success. u2i has been Kinvolved’s technology partner since 2015.

“These investments represent an alignment between these organizations’ missions and Kinvolved’s commitment to achieving educational equity by engaging educators, families, and communities in the effort to get every child to every class, every day,” says Miriam Altman, co-founder and CEO of Kinvolved.

Kinvolved will use the funds to support sales growth, deepen product research and development, and expand its client services offerings. The organization’s 2016–17 Impact Report quantified the effects of the organization’s software and services on school systems:

Data from its 2017–2018 impact study show impressive first-year gains, and Kinvolved will release those findings in its forthcoming impact report.

“We develop software and services that strengthen the bonds between and among students’ support systems, and that raise awareness of attendance issues before they become unmanageable,” says Kinvolved co-founder and Chief Product Officer Alexandra Meis. “Those are the most powerful levers we can pull to improve student achievement and offer all students an equitable chance at a high-quality education.”

About Kinvolved

Kinvolved is a social enterprise on a mission to increase student achievement by minimizing absenteeism. Our holistic approach combines technology tools and human interventions to change the deeply ingrained behaviors and external factors affecting student attendance and chronic absence, including poverty, racism, and socio-economic exclusion. Learn more at www.kinvolved.com.

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Media Contact:

Jillian Lubow, Strategic Communications

jill@kinvolved.com

How much funding does your district leave on the table?

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No matter how hard school districts strive to better serve the children in their communities, the reality is that if students don’t show up to school, none of it matters.

On top of that, districts lose funding when students are absent, making it even harder for teachers and leaders to achieve their goals.

Just like the communities we partner with, Kinvolved is committed to helping more kids make it to school each day—and the initial results from our 2017–2018 impact study tell us there’s reason to be excited:

Districts using KiNVO to track attendance and engage families average a 2% increase in average daily attendance (ADA) in their first year—and that translates to a serious budget boost.

We want to help districts find more funds to educate, engage, and inspire their students, so we looked at state funding formulas across the country and built customized calculators you can use to find out how improving attendance can also improve your district’s bottom line.

Using the calculator is easy:

  • Go to https://kinvolved.com/attendance-calculator/
  • Select your state from the dropdown
  • Enter your district’s ADA (if your state doesn’t have a specialized ADA formula, we may ask for your per-student funding amount, too)

We’ll automatically estimate your funding increase. Then if you’re interested in turning that estimate into a real-life return, get in touch.

Your motivation to take attendance every day

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This blog post is part of our “Guide to Family Communications” series, based on the stories we collected while assembling our 2016–2017 Impact Report.

Daily attendance tracking allows teachers to spot early warning signs, plan interventions, and monitor improvements. Teachers and leaders benefit from learning how to make a habit of taking attendance each day, reviewing the data regularly, and learning to let the data inform conversations with students, teachers, and families.

Educator perspectives on how Kinvolved helps

The Kinvolved team partners with school systems to strategize ways to boost utilization rates and make attendance data more accurate.

Ms. S. worked with her Kinvolved coach to send weekly emails to her teachers that include attendance rates, the effect of KiNVO usage on attendance, students who are improving their attendance, and teachers who take attendance in 100% of their classes each week.

As the result of a Kinvolved coaching session, Ms. B. now sends out monthly attendance newsletters: “I spotlight teachers with high utilization, and once other teachers see it, they think ‘Ok, I want to use it too.’”

Putting it into practice

  • Teachers: Participate in Kinvolved professional learning sessions to increase your comfort with KiNVO, learn its full feature set, use the software with fidelity, and increase your usage.
  • Leaders: Work with the Kinvolved team to learn and understand the barriers that prevent teachers from taking attendance daily, then receive tailored suggestions about how to boost teacher utilization.

Engagement for educators on the go

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This blog post is part of our “Guide to Family Partnerships” series, based on the stories we collected while assembling our 2016–2017 Impact Report.

When parents try to reach a teacher or administrator over the phone, they’ll likely reach a phone ringing at an empty desk or have to leave a message that won’t be received until after dismissal. The resulting games of phone tag cause frustration and can undermine important relationships.

“If you call my desk, you’d never reach me,” says Harlem dean Mr. W., who is constantly away from his office and walking around the building providing student support.

Educator perspectives on how Kinvolved helps

KiNVO makes it easier for parents to reach school staff during their hectic days. For Mr. W., this close connection strengthens relationships: “Through text, I’ll get it and be able to text back. You’re not waiting until the end of the day to get what you need.”

Educators can also reach parents in real time, without being intrusive, via KiNVO’s text messaging feature, ensuring parents get the information they need no matter where they are. Mr. G., a guidance counselor in the Bronx, described being able to get in touch with a mother as soon as he realized her child was cutting class. When the parent saw the text, she called Mr. G. “from her cell phone, while standing on a street corner”—and solving the problem did not have to wait “until she got home and saw a missed call.”

With KiNVO, Ms. S. at a Brooklyn high school appreciates that she can ping parents when a tardy student shows up. “As soon as they come in, I take out my phone and send a quick message: ‘Just walking in.’ It takes ten seconds and it’s something I wasn’t able to do before.”

Putting it into practice

  • At the end of each day, sort by unread messages your Kinbox—your KiNVO message inbox—to be sure you reply to anything that may have slipped through the cracks.
    • Pro tip: To save time, sign up for daily notifications of unread messages.
  • Create in KiNVO a template bank of your commonly used messages, then simply customize your notes with the student’s name before sending.
  • Perform and narrate your KiNVO activities, such as swiping to take attendance or texting a positive message to parents, in front of your class. This will help you develop a routine while also building student investment in what you’re doing.

Kinvolved Hailed as a “Changemaker” among B Corporations

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Kinvolved Hailed as a “Changemaker” among B Corporations

Today, Kinvolved was awarded a place on the Best for the World: Changemakers list, which acknowledges positive impact and behavior change among Certified B Corporations across all categories on the B Impact Assessment. This comes on the heels of winning two other Best for the World awards.

All honorees are featured on bthechange.com. Thank you all for acknowledging our contributions—we’re proud to be among these amazing Changemakers!

How to reach students’ greatest influencers

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This blog post is part of our “Guide to Family Communications” series, based on the stories we collected while assembling our 2016–2017 Impact Report.

Phone calls and letters get sent to a single designated contact that, even if up-to-date, might not be the most effective influencer to provide the support a student needs.

Educator perspectives on how Kinvolved helps

Because KiNVO allows multiple contacts per student, teachers can loop in multiple relatives and guardians who may have substantial influence over the child.

Ms. N., a Brooklyn high school teacher, worked with one student’s grandmother to add more family members to her contact list. “If that student is out, it’s clear she’s cutting class—now, any available family member can help deal with it,” she explains. The expanded circle brought drastic results: “I sent two text messages, and suddenly she was getting to school before the first-period bell!”

For Ms. S., a high school teacher in Harlem, when she learned that a parent who was supposed to be receiving automated phone calls was deaf, she switched to text messaging and added another contact to the student’s account. Just by adding another family member, “the child’s attendance went from 38% to 68% in four weeks.”

Putting it into practice

  • Add as many contacts as you need per student, then customize which contacts receive which messages in which format.
    • Pro tip: Be sure to customize the language settings for each individual.
  • As you get to know your students, ask where they spend their evenings and mornings so you learn which family members are closest when students are doing homework assignments or waking up.

How to strengthen teacher-parent bonds by removing communication barriers

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This blog post is part of our Guide to Family Communications series, based on the stories we collected while assembling our 2016–2017 Impact Report.

It’s tough for working parents to stay in the loop about their child’s progress that day—or to even know whether their child shows up to school each day. Compounding the problem, evening work and activity schedules often conflict with parent-teacher conferences and other school events.

Even if school staff are able to reach parents and guardians, language barriers often mean that traditional forms of communication—like phone calls, in-person meetings, and letters home—may be inaccessible to families that don’t speak English.

Educator perspectives on how Kinvolved helps

KiNVO’s automatic two-way language translation, pre-scheduling functions, and mass-sending capabilities open communications channels with families who have traditionally been left out of the conversation, all without adding time or stress to teachers’ busy days.

Brooklyn Community Schools director Ms. C. shares, “some parents at work can’t talk on their cell phones but texting works for them.” Her colleague Ms. H. agrees, finding KiNVO messaging more effective than phone calls when scheduling home visits: “Some parents don’t have cell phone plans with enough minutes to talk, but are able to text.”

Harlem elementary school teacher Ms. D. texts parents to keep them in the loop on behavior and homework—information she used to send home in student backpacks. “It’s great for those parents who are so busy they don’t have the time to go home and look through the folder,” she says.

Communicating with families, regardless of their chosen language, helps strengthen the bonds between educators and families, raise awareness of attendance issues before they become unmanageable, and can even lead to improved performance. Through KiNVO, users select the appropriate language(s) for each contact associated with a student, so every message is delivered in a readable language. When a parent writes back in their chosen language, the KiNVO automatically translates that back into English.

According to Ms. G., a high school teacher in the Bronx, the ability to send messages to parents and guardians in their language of choice led to “massive improvement” in student attendance—students who attended school one or two days a month were showing up multiple times per week.

“The ease of sending messages in languages other than English has been amazing,” says Bronx middle school teacher Ms. S. “I am able to write one message and reach all parents instead of using Google Translate and sending multiple renditions of a message.”

Putting it into practice

  • Send messages at a consistent time each evening so parents know when to expect them.
    • Pro tip: Use KiNVO’s scheduling feature to pre-plan and automate message delivery.
  • Set language preferences for every contact in a student’s account.
    • Pro tip: Clearly communicate to parents that the system will automatically translate the messages they send into English.

Tapping into the power of positivity

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This blog post is part of our Guide to Family Partnerships, based on the stories we collected while assembling our 2016–2017 Impact Report.

Research on positive/negative interactions reveals that educators who lead with the positive and continually send encouraging messages—rather than first reaching out about a problem or only initiating contact when something is wrong—have the best chance at building strong relationships.

When schools only reach out to discuss problems, it’s easy for parents and students to feel frustrated, powerless, and disengaged; positive messages provide a welcome bright spot that helps build trust and engagement in schools.

Educator perspectives on how Kinvolved helps

Mr. K. recalls that one student’s mother was surprised to receive through KiNVO a text from him that commended her student’s effort: “She told me that, in the past, when she received a phone call from class, it was never positive.”

For Ms. C., a Community Schools Director in Brooklyn, her team instructs teachers to be “very strategic around what we’re communicating with parents,” which is easy to track and evaluate through KiNVO’s reporting tools. She explains: “There is always something positive you can share with a parent. Send as many positive messages upfront as you can. When you do have to send a negative message, parents and students will better receive it because they’re used to you saying something kind and genuine—they understand you’re communicating because you need their support addressing an issue.”

Putting it into practice

  • Apply the “Magic Relationship Ratio”—initiating five positive interactions for every negative interaction—to build and sustain a strong relationship.
    • KiNVO pro tip:Use KiNVO’s Parent Communication report to compare how many Positive versus Needs Improvement messages you send—grade-level and content teams can set specific communications goals and check their progress each week.
  • Be conscious about the tone and timing of your messages, and keep your content simple and pleasant. Remember that texts can be easily misinterpreted, so if you have to discuss a sensitive matter, use text messages to coordinate a phone call at a mutually convenient time.
    • KiNVO pro tip: Start and end on a positive note, sandwiches in the middle any issues that need to be addressed.
  • Designate time periods where you send only positive messages. This helps establish an encouraging environment, build family and student buy-in, and create a two-way communications channel for collaborating and problem-solving.
    • KiNVO Pro-tip: Schedule positive-only periods at the beginning of the year and after long breaks.

Working with Washington, DC to make every day count

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This Spring we held a Community Summit in Washington, D.C., in partnership with Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education. The Every Day Counts! Summit gathered educators, city leaders, students, and families to learn about the resources, the research, and the best practices for improving student attendance citywide.

Check out our video recap of this incredible event:

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