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.
Happy students throwing mortar boards up

How we’re increasing our impact in the year ahead

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A message from Kinvolved’s founders:

With an investment from Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, and with pilots launching in new states, Kinvolved is well-positioned to have tremendous impact in 2018.

In 2012 we founded Kinvolved with a singular vision: to increase student achievement by improving attendance and eliminating chronic absenteeism. Our holistic approach leveraged technology tools and human interventions to change deep-rooted behaviors and neutralize the external factors that lead to student disengagement—including poverty, racism, and socio-economic exclusion.

Why? Because chronic absence is a problem begging for a solution.

New federal legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), has prompted more than

37

Student attendance is the leading indicator of high school graduation: less than

20

By the time they
reach third grade,
only

17

of children who were chronically absent in earlier grades will read on grade level, compared with 64% of their peers who regularly attended class.

Chronic absence is also an issue of equity. Half the nation’s chronically absent students are concentrated in just 4% of the nation’s school districts, disproportionately affecting communities with the highest rates of unemployment, violence, inadequate housing, and intergenerational poverty. These are devastating numbers.

To find a path out of poverty and toward lifelong success, kids need to show up for school; our job is to show up for kids.

KiNVO, our attendance management software, launched in 2013 as a pilot with a small group of NYC public schools. We have since expanded our reach to 130+ NYC schools—serving more than 200,000 students, families, educators, and administrators—and we’ve launched a partnerships in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and communities in Kentucky, New Jersey, Connecticut, and South Dakota. In 2017, we also introduced Teacher and Leader Coaching, and Community Summits.

With hundreds of thousands of users, we’ve been able to gauge our impact:

  • Our partner schools see a 13x boost in attendance compared with other schools.
  • Kinvolved schools see stronger declines in chronic absence over the average school.

These results reinforce our commitment to the work, and we are excited to announce a new partner that will help us realize our vision: The Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation (DRK) has invested in Kinvolved as part of its social impact work, and Stephanie Khurana, a DRK Managing Director, has joined Kinvolved’s board of directors as a strategic partner.

Stephanie brings to Kinolved’s board her expertise as a deeply involved investor and advisor to other organizations, many of which work to make an impact on education in high-risk communities.   

Kinvolved’s founders have demonstrated impressive traction with a solution that is simple enough for communities to implement, and which tackles chronic absenteeism in its early stages—a critical component to increasing graduation rates, employability, and other key societal benefits.

- Stephanie KhuranaManaging Director, DRK

There are countless ways for our nation, states, and communities to think about education reform—the first step is to ensure children are present and prepared to receive the education they deserve. With the help of district, neighborhood, government, and funding partners, we are catalyzing communities to get more kids to school.

Thank you for your continued support.

West Harlem Attendance Summit Recap

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On Friday, December 8th, Kinvolved and the West Harlem Development Corporation co-hosted the West Harlem Attendance Summit. The summit brought together educators, school-based teams, community members, nonprofit partners, and parent advocates to discuss how to use community partnerships to help elevate attendance in Harlem. In considering how to elevate attendance and deepen family involvement in Harlem schools, summit participants identified key research, new resources, and new tools; engaged with community partners to exchange shared challenges and solutions; and arrived at common language and goals for the Harlem community.

The event kicked off with a breakfast and networking session, followed by opening remarks by Dr. Kofi A. Boateng, the Executive Director of the West Harlem Development Corporation.

Following Dr. Boateng’s remarks, Kinvolved’s Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Miriam Altman, gave an opening presentation and led a Q&A in preparation for a case study on KiNVO use at PS 36 Margaret Douglas.

Ginelle Wynter, Site Manager for Healthy and Ready to Learn at PS 36, offered a glimpse into her school community, reviewing attendance data, sharing best practices, and engaging the broader audience in a dialogue around meaningful parent engagement practices.

Attendees then broke into small groups for intensive facilitated discussions, and then came back together as a large group to share reflections and goals for the community going forward.

Summit attendees left with a renewed commitment to better engage parents in the education process. Attendees agreed that the small group discussions were an effective, meaningful way to share experiences and best practices.

One attendee remarked, “Working in education, you think, ‘What else can I do?’ Every time I attend these Summits, it gives me hope I can do something big to make change. It’s an exciting feeling, and it’s through Kinvolved that I’ve been able to get into this work.”

Kinvolved will continue to offer additional summits and related events, in an effort to galvanize a movement of people who will elevate attendance by involving families in education. New York City is a special place to Kinvolved. It is our hometown, but we have also launched this model to other urban centers across the country. We invite you to join our movement.

View our full Harlem Attendance Summit photo library here.

To learn more about Kinvolved’s movement to elevate attendance by including families in education, or how to bring KiNVO to your school, contact us at hello@kinvolved.com.

#KinvolvedSummits #HarlemAttendanceSummit

ESSA compliance and reducing chronic absenteeism

By | Tips and Resources

Recently we talked about The Every Student Succeeds Act, known as ESSA, the first iteration of our U.S. national education law that specifically mentions chronic absenteeism. Former iterations of the law (ESEA, No Child Left Behind) only included stipulations for truancy, and schools only reported on average daily attendance (the total days of student attendance divided by the total days of instruction). Chronic absenteeism differs from truancy in that it tracks both excused and unexcused absences, and accounts for missed class periods. It also uncovers absence trends that are often unrepresented in average daily attendance numbers.

ESSA’s specific inclusion of chronic absenteeism is significant; currently, 36 states and the District of Columbia have submitted plans to implement ESSA that now include chronic absence as a measure on which they will report and to which they will hold schools accountable. ESSA requires all states to report the data, even if it isn’t used for accountability.

But how do these states plan to measure and fight this pervasive issue? What steps should they take to begin to significantly reduce chronic absenteeism?

Chronic absenteeism affects about 6.5 million students across the country. A recent report from Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center shows that 30% or more students are chronically absent at almost 10,000 public schools across the U.S. These staggeringly high numbers indicate larger, systemic issues within our education system and in low-income communities (in which chronic absenteeism is especially high). If we are going to begin to address this problem, we must start by tracking thorough, meaningful data on missed class time.

In a new report from FutureEd, a ThinkTank at Georgetown University, authors Phyllis Jordan and Raegan Miller say that states should start by setting standard definitions of what counts as an absence. For example, how many periods count as a full day?

Setting standard definitions for what counts as an absence is part of keeping students and their parents informed about how much school they’re missing. Absences add up quickly; missing just 2 days a month means a child misses 10% of the school year (at which point, the student is considered chronically absent in most states). Our annual  Impact Assessment (for release in Jan. 2018) revealed that many students were not aware of just how much school they were actually missing–nor were their parents. Families appreciated that KiNVO–our app for enabling easy parent/teacher communication and tracking accessible attendance data–keeps them informed about student attendance patterns.

The next step will be to set reasonable goals for schools and districts, which many states have not yet done. Setting goals for widespread issues that vary district to district–and student to student, for that matter–can be quite difficult. It’s important to be ambitious, but realistic, and specific, but inclusive. For example, No Child Left Behind’s standard proficiency metric did not account for students’ backgrounds going into standardized tests, and thus received significant backlash for doing more harm than good in many cases. A state must determine which percentage of chronically absent students is too high for a school, and then determine a way to measure improvement.

Some states did include a measure of improvement in their goals for chronic absenteeism, which they plan to assess in relation to grades and test scores (as attendance and achievement are typically linked). Assessing attendance data through this lens is a very good place to start.

After setting standard definitions and goals, FutureEd emphasizes the importance of assigning the appropriate weight to chronic absenteeism in state accountability formulas, and creating inclusive but fair chronic absenteeism models that discourage schools or districts from gaming the attendance system.

Last but certainly not least, we must support teachers and administrators in planning interventions within their schools. Teachers and administrators are fighting on the front lines to ensure that all of their students are in class as much as possible. Equipping teachers with the tools to more easily communicate with families and plan meaningful interventions is a crucial part of process. Kinvolved supports teachers and administrators by providing them with tools to facilitate data-driven discussions and interventions; helps them streamline daily routines to increase bandwidth; and strengthens engagement by enabling new connections and conversations between educators, students, and families.

In the coming months, we will continue to explore ESSA policy, state accountability plans, and how Kinvolved can continue to grow and evolve to support districts implementing plans to combat chronic absenteeism.