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

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.

 

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