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Kinvolved Technology

Building Kinvolved’s Technology with Empathy

By ThoughtsNo Comments

September marks not only the beginning of the school year, but also a time when we share new features with our Kinvolved community.

We’ve listened to every sentiment that you’ve shared–both words of delight and suggestions for improvement.

A 2015 survey of over 100 Kinvolved teachers in NYC showed that use of Kinvolved’s app had a significant positive impact on family engagement, both in terms of quality of communication and frequency of communication. Specifically:

  • 88% of teachers agreed that Kinvolved improved their communication with parents
  • 69% stated that using Kinvolved increased the frequency of parent communication
  • 66% noted that parents were easier to reach using Kinvolved’s text function

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Teachers also reported that they’re seeking:   

  • A better way to track communication efforts within Kinvolved’s app
  • Translated messages to break down language barriers that persist in high needs communities
  • More granular details about attendance data and messaging related to attendance

Kinvolved has listened, and new features include:

  • Pre-translated message templates
  • Improved attendance data page with views of subgroups of students based on attendance trends, and ability to send messages to each subgroup
  • More robust communication tracking system that conveys pulse checks regarding positive and negative messaging

We’re eager to hear what you think of these new features, and what additional features you’d like to see.

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We’re all in this together, with the shared belief that technology tools can be part of a systemic change for our children. We’re starting by messaging families, but we know that each day, with each message, we make a significant impact in the lives of teachers, students, and parents across the nation.

How can we do this better? Email me directly with your feedback or ideas at Alexandra@Kinvolved.com.

Alex is a co-founder of Kinvovled, and serves as Chief Product Officer. Previously, Alex worked in the South Bronx, advocating for and educating families of children with special needs. Alex is a 2012 Education Pioneers Fellow, where she worked with Teach For America and Leadership for Educational Equity developing scalable eLearning platforms. She holds an MPA in Health Policy and Analysis from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service, and a BA in Psychology and minor in Anthropology and Sociology from Lafayette College.

Parent outreach: The hot new trend in boosting student performance! (Part 2 of 3)

By Tips and Resources

Tips for Successful Partnerships with Families, Part II

This is the second part of a three-part series of best practices, written by Michele Narov, Lead Teacher in Newark Public Schools.

Kinvolved’s communication app helps teachers reach parents and other members of students’ support networks to foster relationships. How can teachers make sure these relationships are positive and that the communication app is used to reach full impact?

 Tip #6: Gather all the information before you call.

If you are calling a parent about something that happened when you were not present, or some sort of behavior, consult with your students, and make sure you have all the information beforehand. This is pretty much a no-brainer, but during my first year of teaching I called a parent about a student who was squinting at the board only to learn this child brought glasses to school every day but was leaving them in his backpack. His parent was still happy I called to inform her that her son wasn’t wearing glasses, but a few more probing questions with my student would have given me a better picture of the problem.

Similarly, if I need to call about an ongoing issue between two students, I make sure to gather the full picture of events based on specific accounts from both students so it doesn’t turn into a conversation based on hearsay.

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 Tip #7: Come up with a plan.

A few weeks ago, I had to call the parent of a student in my class who was constantly daydreaming and off task during the beginning of class and introductions to new material, despite constant personal reminders.

Before I called, I spoke with my student and together she and I came up with a plan to move her seat closer to the front of the room, and make sure she filled in her notes at the beginning of class. When I called her mom, I was able to say this is what is happening, and here is how I’m handling it, with a list of expected results her daughter and I had decided on together. Communicating your plan to deal with the issue can help make sure your conversation is productive.

Make sure to ask parents for feedback. Sometimes, if you don’t pose the question, “What are your thoughts on this?” parents won’t volunteer their opinions, or may assume you are not consulting them. They are experts on their children, and often their feedback on your plan to address a behavior can be most vital.

Don’t feel pressure to get back to them about their feedback during the course of the call. It’s okay to say that you would like to consider their comments and get back to them.

Tip #8: Monitor success and report back

Monitor the students’ behavior after your parent phone call. Note specifically what is changing for the student and how they are behaving. Report back to the parent about how their student is doing, even with a quick message or text. This feedback can be a very valuable follow up and encourage the student to continue working hard, especially for younger students who are learning the difference between positive and negative classroom behaviors.

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Tip #9: Ask for feedback on your communication methods

You shouldn’t overwhelm your parents with requests for feedback, but checking in during the middle of the year with a survey on your communication style isn’t much of a demand on their time and can be very useful. Also, during parent teacher conferences, it never hurts to ask parents if there are any updates they would like to receive that they are not receiving already.

Research shows that just because parents can’t always be present in the classroom doesn’t mean they don’t want to be involved. In my classroom, I have found that systematically reaching out to parents has affected my students’ performance data nearly as much as my academic interventions have. How are you making parent communication a priority in your classroom or school program?

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Contributor: Michele Narov was Kinvolved’s Summer Business Development Associate. She was responsible for developing and fostering partnerships with schools, after school programs, and community organizations dedicated to improving student success. Michele is a Teach For America corps member, and serves as a third grade math and science teacher at Camden Street Elementary School in Newark, NJ.

So much data, so little time: Let’s start with the basics.

By Tips and Resources

Blog contribution by Miranda Meyerson, Kinvolved Community Manager

We have an overload of, and perhaps an acute obsession with the data at our disposal. There are a myriad of data points related to education. Educators are likely to experience choice paralysis since there are so many facets of their students’ education that they can analyze. I could spend three days dissecting data from one day’s worth of teaching when I was a history teacher.


We know that teachers’ time is stretched thin, and they cannot do it all. Let’s start with the lowest hanging fruit, the data point that’s easiest to understand: student attendance.  Attendance data is more predictive of graduation than test scores or grades. That is data we have at our disposal every single day.

We at Kinvolved are making attendance data easy to track, understand, and act upon.  Mayor Bloomberg’s Truancy Task Force encouraged schools to use attendance data as an early warning sign of underlying issues. Reviewing attendance data is the smart thing to do. Once a student misses 18 or more days she is “chronically absent”. It indicates that something is wrong, and that child needs some TLC before they fall too far behind.

Kinvolved’s attendance system tells teachers and administrators which students are most at risk, according to their attendance data. We make the data straight forward and easy to understand. Our users and partners can see the most important data points related to attendance immediately . This allows educators and parents to take immediate action and track the results.

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Make an effort to connect with those students whose data indicates they may be in trouble. Keep them coming to school even if that connection has nothing to do with academics. With a chronically absent student, teachers’ priorities should be to connect with and engage students to attend class.

Interventions, such as mentoring, work. They are worth the time investment. It may take years to help a student improve five to six grade levels in reading and math, but minutes to send a text to unsuspecting parents or schedule a meeting with a mentor or counselor to help improve attendance of a chronically absent student. The care an adult shows a student when addressing their attendance matters. Students, despite what they may admit, want their teachers’ approval, and they will show up when a mentor or teachers takes action to make sure they are in school. That improvement in attendance alone can help drive up graduation rates, despite low test scores or low skill levels.

We urge you to use your data wisely, and reach out to those students whose attendance data suggests that they need help. Once kids are in class, the academic progress will follow.


Miranda Meyerson joins Kinvolved as our Community Manager. Miranda is a former educator with 12 years of experience in the classroom. She recently supported Kaplan TechStars, and also works with other education technology companies in New York City. Email Miranda at miranda@kinvolved.com. She loves meeting new educators interested in improving classroom attendance! 

Truancy Creep: How Kinvolved’s Community Manager is Helping Schools Increase Attendance

By Tips and Resources

By Miranda Meyerson, Community Manager, Kinvolved

students-377789_1280While listening to NPR a few weeks ago, a story came on that was written and produced by high school students at WNYC Radio Rookies. The fact that the story was produced by students was remarkable, and being a teacher I couldn’t help but turn it up.

This episode was aptly titled Nine People, One Bedroom. The very apparent theme was that for one reason or another, the articulate and intelligent teenaged boy featured in the story kept missing school. His attendance at school became his last priority.

This begs the questions: Why? And where are this boy’s parents? His mother said that she did not see herself as his champion in school. Rather, her job was to make sure he was housed and fed and loved. And sometimes, he needed to help her also provide these basic needs for his younger siblings. In retrospect, she says she should have emphasized school. But, his mother was undoubtedly loving, and she was doing what she felt was right.

The dilemma presents itself:  if we assume most parents are doing what they think is best for their children, but some parents don’t understand the value of attendance, or feel there families have more immediate needs than to be educated, what can we do?

We at Kinvolved want to help educate parents and keep them informed. Our mission is to, through direct, real-time communication with families, address some of the fair, but counterproductive, actions of parents. We hope to make parents our partners in ensuring daily student attendance to school.

We are not solving poverty, childcare challenges, or overcrowding. But we are bridging a gap in knowledge through action.

This semester at Kinvolved, we are helping to bridge the school–family gap in three ways:

  1. Meet the parents: We are attending PTA meetings and other events that invite parents to school to let them know about Kinvolved. When parents know they should be expecting texts and emails from their children’s teachers, they can know they are invited to be “in the loop.” They can speak up when they are not receiving sufficient information.
  2. Share basic information: We are lessening teachers’ workloads by sending them informative texts to simply cut and paste, then send to families.
  3. Strategize necessary interventions: Our Community Manager at Kinvolved is providing school with implementable strategies to decrease absenteeism and increase punctuality.

Miranda Meyerson joins Kinvolved as our Community Manager. Miranda is a former educator with 12 years of experience in the classroom. She recently supported Kaplan TechStars, and also works with other education technology companies in New York City.

Lessons from Kinvolved HQ: Perspectives from a third grade teacher

By Tips and Resources

Packing up my third grade classroom at the end of June, I had only a limited perspective of the education reform movement and the education technology world — that of an educator and Teach For America corps member. Now that my summer at Kinvolved is coming to a close, I feel as though I have gained a more textured view, and a little bit more perspective.

There are three key takeaways that for me, as a new teacher, were revelations about how I could fit this month-long trip into the world of EduTech into my classroom.

1. No two schools are alike.

As an educator, I spend a significant bulk of my time within the four walls of my school. Excepting the occasional professional development session or meeting, I don’t visit other school sites during the school year. At Kinvolved this summer, we visited many different kinds of schools. And, at the helm of each of these sites, was a different principal, a different administration, with a different staff, and a different student body.

Though these schools commonly served diverse students from urban, low-income communities, in alignment with Kinvolved’s mission, these schools ranged in every other possible way. They catered to different age groups. They are specialized in different subjects. No school buildings, even, are alike enough to be indistinguishable from one another.

But still, when people talk about education technology, or about the education movement, they lump these schools together as one entity.

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In school reform and education technology, I think this means that these services need to be tested for malleability. Anyone, with any needs, should be able to gain from social and technology services. In my own classroom, I am beginning to recognize that there’s not one “way to teach.” Different teachers, and different schools, create different points of access for students.

2. Technology should be accessible to all teachers — not just the tech geeks, or even the moderately savvy.

When my school’s technology coordinator stepped out last year, I took over a few of her responsibilities. A lot of the time, this meant I was referred to other teachers who needed help installing a program or reading an unreadable file. Just because a teacher isn’t the most tech savvy doesn’t mean he or she shouldn’t be able to easily access to a tool.

This summer, we attended a panel where one panelist mentioned he didn’t like trainings for teachers who didn’t know how to turn on their iPads. One of the things I appreciate about Kinvolved is, they will teach you to do something as simple as how to turn on your iPad if you need them to. I think all tech companies (and many of them do) should have this attitude about their customers. We’re providing a tool, and a service, but we can’t do anything to create change if teachers can’t use our product.

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Now, when I seek out tools for my classroom that’s the first thing I’m looking for: tools that prioritize teachers and students, and not applications that seem designed for a business and not a classroom.

3. Education innovation is happening.

In my first year as a teacher, it was surprisingly easy to feel disconnected from the education reform movement. My students sometimes seem to be completely disconnected from the media’s abstractions about national youth, which can make it feel easily to be disillusioned by the influx of initiatives and unsure about my role in the movement.

Working with Kinvolved this summer, I attended meetings and panel events, and learned about the work of lots of committed organizations, all the while working with a team of very passionate people. I met principals who, like mine, were committed to their kids and to the educational mantras they had posted around their offices. I learned about organizations like Good Shepherd Services, and The Children’s Aid Society. I got to explore education communities outside of my own school in a way I hadn’t fully been able to since before I started teaching.

Their commitment really informed my sense of the education reform community, and reinvigorated my faith in the eventual success of its mission. And the re-exposure to that sort of commitment and vigilance is something I will carry into the fall.

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Contributor: Michele Narov is Kinvolved’s Summer Business Development Associate. She is responsible for developing and fostering partnerships with schools, after school programs, and community organizations dedicated to improving student success. Michele is a Teach For America corps member, and serves as a third grade math and science teacher at Camden Street Elementary School in Newark, NJ.

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