While looking for a way to improve communication between teachers and families of students, schools have recently adopted an app to solve the problem of chronic absenteeism. “Kinvolved”, a mobile app created by a former NYC public school teacher and a South Bronx parent advocate, allows teachers to send automatic group text messages to parents to inform them when their sons or daughters have failed to show up for class, need assistance with their homework, or to share good news about students acing a quiz.
Parents often struggle to keep up with what their children are doing in school, how they’re performing, and what they’re struggling with. Teachers are often frustrated when they can’t get in touch with parents. Traditional methods of parent-teacher communication such as sending notes home and making phone calls after school hours don’t work like they used to. It is a serious problem in our schools today and Kinvolved harnesses popular technology in attempt to solve it.
Kinvolved creates a platform for meaningful communication and academic accountability for everyone involved. Through the engagement of school and communities, Kinvolved improves student outcomes through regular attendance and parental involvement in schoolwork. To date there are more than 100 schools utilizing the app and more are downloading every week. Increasing numbers of city public schools are using the app because of its success at improving attendance and family engagement in the lowest performing and highest need schools. Believe it or not, up to 50% of students at some schools are chronically absent.
Recently, Miriam Altman spoke to the Examiner about her experience founding Kinvolved. Miriam is a former NYC public high school teacher and now Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Kinvolved. In collaboration with co-founder, Alexandra Meis, Miriam has led the company to win awards from Teach For America, the Robin Hood Foundation, Milken/Penn Graduate School of Education, New York University, and several more. Miriam was named in Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2015 and is an awardee of the Jo Ivey Boufford Award for Innovation in Public Service. As an alumna of the university, she is a proud mentor of social innovators through the Brown University Social Innovation Initiative. Miriam received her MA. Ed from Lehman College and an MPA from NYU Wagner. Here is what she had to say about the implementation of the app:
Meagan Meehan (M.M): How and when were you inspired to start your company?
Miriam Altman (M.A.): As a former high school teacher in NYC public schools, I noticed that attendance was the main inhibitor to my students’ success, and that strong communication with families was the best way to get kids to class on time, every day. But I didn’t have the tools to communicate consistently and efficiently with families of all 120 students I taught on a given day. Previously a parent advocate at a South Bronx hospital, Alexandra Meis (Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer), noticed the lack of information parents had access to in regards to their children’s special education rights. It was evident that when they were empowered with information, parents grew much more involved in their children’s educations. Alex and I met and co-founded Kinvolved in 2012 when we were graduate students at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service. We won an initial grant to pilot our model at a Harlem elementary school, and now work with more than 100 schools, community-based organizations, and nonprofits serving preK-12th grade students in urban, high-poverty communities.
M.M.: Why did you choose the name Kinvolved?
M.A.: Our company’s mission is to elevate student attendance rates by bringing life to student attendance data. Our mission is critical, as attendance is the most important leading indicator of graduation rates. We ignite collaboration among school staff and with families through communication and access to live information, the most critical levers to achieving this mission. The name Kinvolved explains our goal of increasing attendance by getting the “KIN” “involved” in students’ educations through our app. In the communities in which we work, it’s not just parents who need to be involved; it’s grandparents, cousins, coaches, and mentors who work as a whole community to help students succeed. We help ensure they all know whether or not students are showing up to class and how they are doing in school.
M.M.: How exactly does your app work?
M.A.: Teachers and administrators use the app to record attendance using a simple interface, then send instant SMS and email alerts (which can be translated if preferred by parents/guardians) to up to 10 “kin” per student, notifying them if students are absent from or late to class. Teachers also use the app to communicate information to individual parents and send class-wide updates. Administrators use it to share school-wide reminders about upcoming PTA meetings. Teachers and administrators use the app to view attendance data by student, class, or school/program to identify trends that inform interventions. Parents and guardians need not have access to a smart phone or log into the app. They can simply receive the SMS and emails in the palm of their hands, and reply directly to the teacher who sent the alert.
M.M.: Thus far, what has been the most rewarding part of working for this organization?
M.A.: We’re very proud to be at the forefront of changing the status quo in our sector. When we started the company, skeptics told us that that impoverished parents just didn’t care about their kids’ education. And many investors questioned whether focusing on attendance improvement was a feature rather than a full-fledged product. It’s been incredibly rewarding to see the company move from an idea in 2012 to a revenue-generating company that in 2016 touches the lives of 50,000 people each day. We’re proud of the stories about the impact Kinvolved has had on students, families, and teachers, who report that our app is effectively improving attendance and changing educators’ attitudes toward families – and vice versa.
M.M.: Where do you hope the company will be ten years from now?
M.A.: We aim to work with more than 25 million students and their families in the United States and to expand internationally. Already, we’ve had tremendous international interest from organizations and schools in countries like India, Nigeria, Australia, and Brazil. We are eager to see how our local model can transform into a viable global model that can revolutionize international education.
M.M.: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?
M.A.: We are actively signing on new schools, districts, and community-based organizations to use Kinvolved’s app. We have launched a pilot program for new clients who are interested in trying out Kinvolved this spring and fall. Email email@example.com for more information.
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To learn more about Kinvolved, visit the official website, Facebook and LinkedIn or follow them on Twitter via @kinvolved