Boosting attendance in virtual classrooms
Prior to COVID-19, Kinvolved focused primarily on helping school districts adhere to accountability standards for absenteeism and family engagement detailed in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
But in the wake of COVID-19, school closures and the sudden transition to remote learning made attendance an even bigger challenge. “As soon as that physical space closed and students stopped entering the building every day, districts realized, ‘Oh, our contact data is not up to date, and we don’t have accurate phone numbers or email addresses for certain families which means we’ve lost contact with them,’ ” explains McLaughlin.
The problem is more critical than most think. In Los Angeles alone, approximately 15,000 high school students were absent online, and more than 40,000 were not in daily contact with the school during school closures.
While many schools across the country were blindsided by missing contact information and an inability to reach their students and families, KiNVO schools were prepared. In addition to managing attendance and facilitating equitable communications, KiNVO analyzes the contact data within school districts’ student information systems to verify that the phone numbers on file are mobile numbers that can receive SMS, using Twilio’s Lookup API.
Karen Bailey, the Principal at P.S. 153 in Harlem, NYC, said “Two days prior to distance learning, we successfully engaged in two-way communications with 470 out of 500 families. During the first week of distance learning, we got that list down to just one family [that we couldn’t contact]. After a few more days, we had open lines of communication with 100% of our families.”
The story behind that final family embodies the value of Kinvolved’s work.
Bailey explained, “We learned the family was in temporary housing, and the parents were in dire straits so they packed up and moved in with a family member. As they were moving, the parent’s phone was shut off due to financial difficulties, so they were out of touch for multiple days. All of a sudden, her phone turned on due to government support and the first thing that popped up on her screen were all of the KiNVO messages with our check-ins and updates. She immediately responded to confirm they were safe and to explain what happened. The student has been attending class and submitting school work every day since then.”
As the coronavirus closures place new demands on districts, Kinvolved is rapidly developing new capabilities to help schools facilitate distance learning. “One feature that we rolled out sooner than we anticipated is the ability to send a PDF via SMS or email. With this, student workflow—such as sharing documents and sending and receiving homework—is actually taking place through KiNVO in order to support the distance learning experience,” says McLaughlin.
Districts have also used KiNVO’s messaging to overcome a variety of coronavirus related challenges beyond improving classroom attendance. Explains McLaughlin, “We’ve seen it used for things like communicating bus schedules during closures, because some districts are using buses to distribute and pick up homework, and we’ve seen districts use it to coordinate meal distribution to families who qualify for free and reduced-priced meals.”
The variety of usage is evident in the numbers. During the onset of the pandemic, when a majority of schools began announcing they were closing and transitioning to distance learning, Kinvolved saw a more than 200% increase in usage of its KiNVO platform. “Twilio performed very well during that time and helped us meet the demand of the increased usage,” McLaughlin says.