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KiNVO app messaging

Saving Time and Solving Problems: Initial Findings From Our Annual Impact Interviews

By | Thoughts

Each year, Kinvolved’s team conducts an annual impact study. Focused on the specific impact of the KiNVO product, we performed nearly 50 one-on-one interviews with teachers, administrators, and student and family support staff using KiNVO in New York City schools. We’re excited to share a sneak peek of some themes and stories emerging from our conversations.

 

Putting the Spotlight On Attendance

Teachers are using KiNVO by Kinvolved to make attendance recording more transparent and purposeful, putting it at the forefront of student and parent minds. At the Academy for Environmental Leadership, math teacher Amy Brenner takes attendance in real-time using a SmartBoard in the front of class. Seeing Ms. Brenner open KiNVO on the board, she reported watching students pull their friends into the classroom from the hallway, saying, “Come on! Class is starting!”

 

At John Adams High School, one English teacher said she uses KiNVO to “put attendance in the spotlight.” “I wouldn’t necessarily make an announcement that I was taking attendance,” she explains. “But, by saying, ‘I just finished KiNVOing,’ [students] know, ‘my class partner who is absent and his or her parent just got a text message right now.’”

John Adams teacher KiNVO

After incorporating KiNVO messages into her daily routine, John Adams English Teacher, Divine Leonardo sees heightened investment in attendance. She recalls a few parents who became “really on top of their child’s attendance” once they started getting texts everyday. Many students were also more consistent about showing up. “Once they realized that their parents were being made aware of [attendance] period by period, they made more of an effort to be in class,” she says. According to Ms. Leonardo, KiNVO also helped to alleviate some of the struggles she faced when trying to contact parents, such as language barriers and unavailability based on work schedules.

 

Lower Barriers to Positive Communication

According to our educators, KiNVO makes it incredibly easy to prioritize positive communication—a simple measure that goes miles in building relationships. In the face of long to-do lists and seemingly endless demands, many teachers struggle to make time to celebrate the positive. Yet research shows that positive reinforcement is an effective strategy to improve behavior, and that parent involvement has a positive impact on attendance. Further, positive communication is a way to increase family engagement and personalization—a strategy proven to reduce absenteeism.

 

At Bronx Leadership Academy II, Assistant Principal Jeremy Rynders uses KiNVO to help his staff focus on the “power of the positive message.” Mr. Rynders, recently co-hosted our  Summit on Family Engagement to Elevate Attendance. He explains that the time it takes to call home usually “means those phone calls get reserved for negative things.” But KiNVO lowers the barrier to reaching out. With a single customized message, a teacher can relay positive notes to dozens of families. Since this outreach would not occur otherwise, Mr. Rynders says, “This was a revolutionary shift [in] working with parents as allies.”

Assistant Principal Jeremy Rynders on communicating with KiNVO

Kate Sedlack, a dance teacher at New Explorers High School, describes this familiar tension: “We spend lot of time focusing on not-so-great things kids are doing. Great kids in great moments get looked over.” This year Ms. Sedlack set a personal goal to increase positive communication, which KiNVO helped her to achieve. “[To a positive KiNVO message], one mother replied, ‘Wow this made my day!’” she remembers.

 

At Urban Assembly School of Music and Art, music teacher Deborah Albert also uses KiNVO to make positive connections more efficiently.  “I love to send positive texts,” she says. “That’s something we all like to do, but sometimes the negative gets in the way.” And the quick gesture pays off. She explains that her students come in and say, “‘Thank you for telling my mom about my accomplishment,” which strengthens her bond with them and their families.

 

Saving Teachers Time

Teachers are thrilled with how messaging through KiNVO amplifies the impact of their limited free minutes, allowing them to reach more families in less time. A math teacher at New Explorers High School said that KiNVO multiplies the number of families she can reach during designated parent outreach blocks. “We can make some phone calls, but not 150 calls,” Ms. Brown says. “It’s quicker to type a single group, or even individual messages, than to wait for each parents’ phone to ring.”

 

During inevitably busy days, John Bowne High School’s Kelly Summa, appreciates having contact information right in her pocket. Ms. Summa, a physical education teacher, says KiNVO offers “outreach at the touch of a button, as opposed to hours on a computer jotting [phone] numbers down.”

One touch outreach with KiNVO

The ability to quickly reach out also allows teachers to be more flexible and proactive. One John Adams teacher notes that if she were to schedule a test a few days from now, she would not have previously been able to inform all families in time. With KiNVO, she can send a text that elicits responses from, “I will make sure they study” to “what topic is it on so I can work with my child?”

 

Tarek Alamarie, an Assistant Principal at John Adams, explains that simplifying his staff’s schedules is a big selling point of KiNVO. For parent communication, “it does 80% of the job for you,” says Mr. Alamarie, who recently shared his experience on a Kinvolved Attendance Summit panel. The traditional approach to documenting attendance outreach was cumbersome, involving time-consuming phone calls and files. Now, his teachers enjoy a “faster way to document outreach [that] doesn’t take too much time away from your regular school day.”

 

At P.S. 036 Margaret Douglas, one first grade teacher appreciates how KiNVO puts precious minutes back in her day. Before KiNVO, calling parents about attendance issues involved “a lot of paperwork and a lot of time that I did not have.” Not only does messaging through KiNVO let her reach parents “right there and then,” it automatically provides a record of her communication efforts. Helen Jason, who leads a kindergarten special education classroom at the same school, agrees that she prefers the speed of messaging. Rather than “spending hours calling just a small amount of parents,” a text is “to the point.” The resulting written record ensures that she and parents are on the same page about what was discussed.

 

Solving Problems Before They Snowball

In-the-moment notifications help educators spot and stifle problems before they escalate. One teacher noticed that a student was coming to school, but not showing up to class. “[After texting her mom] we were able to have that conversation right in the moment, instead of waiting until after school and trying to figure out the cause of the absence,” explains a math teacher at Brooklyn Academy of Global Finance. “It solved the problem before it became bigger.”

 

For the John Adams English teacher, tracking a student’s lateness helped her realize the need for a schedule change. Without KiNVO, she says, “I probably wouldn’t have paid attention to this, because I wouldn’t have known she was on a different track.” To be able to gauge attendance patterns over time helps her “paint the picture” for students, revealing trends she, and her students, might not otherwise notice.

 

Multiple teachers shared tales of KiNVO spotting students who were trying their hand at creative fiction—with clever but untrue reasons for absences. Since families are notified immediately, teachers and parents can work together to get to the bottom of the reason for an absence.

 

One Bronx guidance counselor commends KiNVO for helping reveal one such tall tale. After the dismissal bell, he texts parents of students who were absent that day. One mother called back “within 60 seconds,” expressing her confusion. Her daughter had told her she was attending a school-sanctioned event that apparently did not exist. “The technology circuit worked there,” he says. “She called me from her cell phone on the corner. We didn’t have to wait until she got home and saw a missed call.”

 

From streamlining educators’ daily routines to motivating students to attend class each day, our team loves hearing how KiNVO is making a difference in classrooms. As our team looks forward to the 2017-2018 school year, we are eager to see how KiNVO continues to help teachers, administrators and support staff put the spotlight on attendance, lower barriers to positive communication, save teachers time, and solve problems before they snowball. Are you a KiNVO user who wants to share your story? Send us an email to connect!

 

Jessica Riegel is an Impact and Research Fellow at Kinvolved this summer. She is pursuing her MPA in Public & Nonprofit Management & Policy at NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. She previously taught first grade in New Orleans, LA and Newark, NJ.

 

Why should the education sector support women-owned businesses?

Why should the education sector support women-owned businesses?

By | Thoughts

Why should the education sector support women-owned businesses?

Did you know that Kinvolved is a Women Business Enterprise (W/MBE), certified by both New York State and New York City? Did you also know that these certifications make it easier for schools and districts to work with Kinvolved, a business solving chronic absence, one of the most critical problems in education?

In the spring of 2012, Alexandra Meis, and I laid the early foundation for Kinvolved, a social enterprise that has launched a movement to elevate student attendance. As graduate students studying at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, we entered into and won the Fels Institute Policy Challenge at the University of Pennsylvania, with the blueprint for Kinvolved.

Alex, formerly a parent advocate at Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center, and I, a former history educator at the Park West Educational Campus, had witnessed the causes and effects of student absence at close range.

Based on our career experiences and an intensive survey of field and academic research, we identified two challenges, high absenteeism, and low rates of family involvement in school. More than 7.5M American, K-12 students miss a month, or about 10 percent of school days each year. In under resourced communities, up to 50 percent of youth miss school at this rate, categorizing them as chronically absent. By high school, students who are chronically absent have a less than 20 percent chance of earning a diploma.

But how could schools and districts, particularly serving an increasing volume of students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch, for whom English is a learned language (ELLs), and who qualified for Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), tackle this problem?

We founded Kinvolved to help answer this question. Kinvolved’s primary product, our mobile and web app, KiNVO, enables K-12 school and district teams to access informative attendance data and to engage families through real-time, two-way, translated, text messaging. Our customized professional development and local Community Attendance Summits support the integration of KiNVO into broader school, district, and community strategies.

Kinvolved launched with a pilot in one Harlem elementary school in 2012. In 2016-2017, we nearly tripled Kinvolved’s revenues and user base, compared with the 2015-2016 school year. And, we know our solution is working. Our most recent impact report proves that partner schools increased attendance by a rate 13 times that of the average school.

While 2016-2017 was our most successful year, yet, we have had to overcome several hurdles that could have crippled our small business. People often ask us about our biggest challenges. Now, five years into the business, I can draw out some common themes: initially slow customer acquisition, a desire to constantly improve the product to keep and grow business, and all the while, difficulty accessing startup funding.

So, why should schools, districts, and nonprofits, with a variety of companies with which to contract in the marketplace, seek to do business with M/WBEs like Kinvolved? The challenges that we’ve experienced and overcome in the last five years have become part of the company’s DNA. The solutions that we have developed to these challenges make us a more appealing partner to our clients than traditional businesses.

  1. Many of the grants that schools, districts, and nonprofits earn require a specific allocation toward women-owned businesses.

In 2016, Kinvolved underwent a rigorous application process to earn both New York State and New York City Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) Certification. This opened up opportunities for Kinvolved to earn new revenues, earmarked for M/WBEs. It also opened up opportunities for our clients to find new sources of money to pay for our products and services.

For example, the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers provides an additional $1.1B in funding each year to schools, districts, and nonprofits supporting high need populations nationwide. The NYS awards require that 30 percent of funds be spent on contracts with M/WBEs. In conversations with prospective and current clients, many have been excited to learn that Kinvolved is now a Certified WBE, because there are so few businesses with this certification in our industry.

As another example, many schools, districts, and nonprofits in NYC earn grants for their good work from local politicians’ offices, such as Council Members, Assembly Members, and Borough Presidents. Many of these grants require a certain percentage of funding to be allocated to Certified M/WBEs, in line with Governor Cuomo’s goal for New York State to be the leader in M/WBE contracts in the nation.

This spring, for the first time since becoming WBE Certified, we earned such a contract with a school in the Bronx, which had won a grant from its local Assemblyman. This school had been seeking a budget to fund Kinvolved’s services for two years. With this grant, the school and it’s partner, the United Federation of Teachers, was finally able to launch a partnership with Kinvolved to improve their student attendance and family involvement.

 

2. Fundraising is tough! Women-owned companies need your business.

 

According to Fortune, “Venture capitalists invested $58.2 billion in companies with all-male founders in 2016. Meanwhile, women received just $1.46 billion in VC money last year.”

 Venture capitalist investment by gender

There is a plethora of factors that contribute to this gender disparity in venture funding. Factors range from the inherent bias of a heavily white, male investor base toward founders who reflect them, to women’s propensity to self-fund, rather than seek investment. In our experience, however, the latter is an effect of the former factor.

Because raising venture funding is less attainable for female founders, the businesses that they run more heavily rely upon revenues earlier on in companies’ life cycles than male-led companies.

3. Women will build a business that is more in tune with clients’ needs.

 

Businesses require capital to operate. Businesses also respond to the most immediate demands of their primary source of said capital. Typically, the main sources of capital for businesses are: investors and customers. As women-and-minority led businesses are less likely to raise significant investment funding than male-led ventures, they tend to then rely more heavily upon revenues from customers. Because women-and-minority-led companies are more reliant on revenues, they are under greater pressure to offer products and services that truly solve their clients’ pain points and to create stronger relationships with clients.

Kinvolved has raised relatively little investment capital, just over $1M since we launched five years ago. We have bootstrapped the company so that we can be primarily focused on delivering a product that solves core pain points, such as student absenteeism and constantly changing parent phone numbers, and delivering results for our customers, schools, nonprofits, and school districts.

Kinvolved has earned more in revenues over the last three years than we’ve taken in investment over the last five years. As a result, we are primarily focused on meeting the demands of our clients, rather than our investors. Based on the value of our product and the strong relationships that we have developed with our customers, we’ve not only experienced revenue growth, but also a 93% renewal rate, year over year.

Education as an industry is driven by mission, purpose, and social justice. It is also one that relies heavily on public tax dollars to make purchases. School and district purchasers should be both savvy and mission-driven consumers. By contracting with M/WBEs, education purchasers can be more assured that the companies behind the products that they purchase are solving real pain points for end users and beneficiaries, loyal to their customers, and accessible via grant funding.

To learn how to leverage Kinvolved’s New York State and New York City Women Business Enterprise status in contracting attendance and family engagement solutions, contact hello@kinvolved.com.

 

Miriam Altman is CEO and Co-Founder of Kinvolved. She is co-leader of the Attendance Subcommittee for South Bronx Rising Together, and a former NYC DOE high school educator.

The Importance of Quality Professional Development for Educators in EdTech By Xantal Tejada

The Importance of Quality Professional Development for Educators in EdTech

By | Thoughts

Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language? This is an important, but challenging skill set. However, many multilingual speakers agree that, once one learns a new language, others tend to be incrementally less challenging to acquire thereafter.

 

We are all learners with different skills, backgrounds, and experiences, this is something that we must take into consideration upon offering professional development to educators. In fact, the advances in technology are so significant that learning new technology might be like learning a foreign language. For those who already know one or more technologies, acquiring another new one can be simpler than for those who are new to technology learning.

 

As such, it has been established and broadly accepted that the one-size-fits-all professional development model is not the most efficient. As Roberts (2017) states, the sooner we unlock the full potential of the tools, the sooner we can unlock the full potential of the teachers to use them, and ultimately redefine the role education plays in student development.”

 

We believe that when introducing education technology into a school community, it is important to offer various ways of supporting teachers and administrators with how to use said technology. Further, as Quattrocchi (2014) reminds us, “tech-enhanced professional development is only as good as the model it supports.”

 

It is vital to offer a continuous and supportive professional development for educators, as technology alone does not create change. Our KiNVO Engagement Specialist offers professional development both virtually and on site. We aim to ensure that our teachers and administrators feel comfortable and confident when using KiNVO in their daily practice. Here are four ways that our team at Kinvolved supports our users:

 

  1. We make monthly phone calls to administrators to discuss the challenges and benefits to KiNVO, and ensure the school is progressing toward its goals in using the software.
  2. We send administrator monthly utilization emails, which offer quick insights as to how the staff at school is using KiNVO
  3. We host Summits for various user communities, which encourage in-person collaboration a a place to share best practices in an authentic way.
  4. We offer dozens of videos and articles to support our community, which supplement direct virtual support through our personal help desk.

 

Technology is as effective as the way we use it. Thus, we continue to work hard in improving our practices and usability in support of our clients. We work collaboratively to reach their goals for our students and families.

Interested inProfessional Development for your team?

 

KiNVO has proven to be effective in elevating attendance, and if used well, it can be transformative for our educators, students, and our nation’s future.  The best way forward is as a community, join the movement with Kinvolved.

 

Xantal Tejada is Kinvolved’s Engagement Specialist. She is from Guatemala, and moved to the United States to attend University of San Francisco. After graduating with honors, Xantal moved to the East Coast and is now thrilled to be part of the Kinvolved team.

 

Kinvolved rebranding

Rebranding Kinvolved

By | Thoughts

You may have seen the new Kinvolved identity on our website, app and other Kinvolved materials.

kinvolved-gb
We want to officially introduce the new brand identity design, and also to describe the process we followed to arrive at the end result.logo-concept

The Brief

We started our rebranding process because we wanted to to tell a better visual story of our brand and our mission. We performed an audit of the logo and branding to determine what was effective and what we could improve upon in our brand representation. We assessed our “brand values,” and we determined that our brand embodies presence, engagement, community and simplicity.

We wanted to create an identity that fit these brand values, and we frequently referred back to these values during the design process. We began with the issue on which we are making the strongest impact: student attendance. Our app helps teachers engage with families to make sure students attend school on time every day. 

The Mark

We started with our brand values and the functionality of the product. The goal was to convey family engagement as a method to drive increased student attendance. We liked the idea of incorporating the check mark into the new mark, as we felt it represented not only attendance, but also our brand values of simplicity, ease of use, and positivity. 

kinvolved-mark-b kinvolved-mark-g

The interaction between families and school staff is constant and vital, so we incorporated the rings around the checkmark to represent each of the four prongs of the brand values. We also put thought into the positioning of the rings, and opted to have the rings settle under the checkmark to convey the idea of support. We determined that this gave the overall logo a good visual balance, with slight emphasis on the name, rather than the logo.

Wordmark

To draw attention to the play on words in our name, we chose to highlight the word “kin” to avoid the most common mispronunciation of the name, “K-Involved,” rather than “KIN-volved.”

Kinvolved Word Mark

We connected the rest of the name with “kin” to represent the idea of engagement and closer working relationship between schools and “kin” to drive students’ success.

Motion

To further illustrate the the perpetual cycle of communication, we set the rings in motion. This satisfied another of our goals: to ensure that the brand identity would work in different media and circumstances, from printed materials to web and video.

animated-logo

Color

We looked for colors that were fresh, fun and vibrant, but also friendly.  We chose a blue, as it is associated with calmness, success, security and trust. It is also a traditional color used for typeface. The blue is used with the teal hue, which is also vibrant and represents freshness and renewal, as our product is a new solution to tackle an existing issue. Red is typically associated with energy, excitement and action, but also danger; so we worked on a shade that summons the positive associations, while reducing the more dangerous associations.

Kinvolved Palette

We welcome your feedback. Please contact me at runy@kinvolved.com.

Kinvolved rebranding

 

Runy Pswarayi is a Designer at Kinvolved. Runy has freelanced as a designer and photographer for various non-profits in the US and Africa. He holds a BSc. Honors in Economics from the University of Zimbabwe and an MSc. in Information Systems from Strayer University.

Let’s Get Kids Back to Class

By | Thoughts

Earlier this month, the White House announced its first-ever initiative to fight chronic absenteeism, Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism.

Then Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, stated, “It’s common-sense—students have to be in their classrooms to learn, yet too many of our children, and most often our most vulnerable children, are missing almost a month or more of school every year.”

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Attendance is foundational to student success. If kids aren’t in their seats, they aren’t learning.

I’ve known this to be true since I began teaching in a NYC public high school in 2008. Before entering the classroom, I had underestimated both the severity of absenteeism and the complacent response to this issue by many teachers whom I respected.

When I voiced my concerns about absenteeism, many colleagues told me, “you can’t force these students to come back to school.”

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We must do more to change our mindset around this issue. We cannot be complacent about the fact that 5 to 7.5MM students miss a month of school each year in districts and schools throughout our country.

By raising public awareness of this issue, and by supporting schools to more deeply engage families, we can change the status quo and bring kids back to their classrooms.

At Kinvolved, we are proud to be at the forefront of this important national challenge, and we’re thrilled to see our political system making attendance improvement a priority.

Miriam Altman is Co-Founder and Chief Business Officer of Kinvolved. While an NYC public high school history teacher, Miriam worked to develop strategies to improve student attendance rates and leverage family involvement in school. She holds an MPA in Policy and Management from the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University. She also holds an MA, Ed. in Secondary Social Studies Education from Lehman College and a BA with Honors in an Independent Concentration, News Media and Societal Change, from Brown University.

© 2019 Kinvolved™. All Rights Reserved, Kinvolved Inc.

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