WHDC Updates

WHDC and Kinvolved Bring Attendance-Boosting App to West Harlem Schools

September 23, 2014

Pilot in 16 Schools to Bring Real-time Communication between Parents and Teachers

West Harlem Development Corporation and Kinvolved, in collaboration with School Districts 5 and 6, announce an innovative app launch in West Harlem that promises to improve attendance records and grades by letting teachers swipe a child as absent or late on a device and immediately notify parents via text message or email.

The pilot program, Every Minute Matters in West Harlem, will be tested in 16 schools and four after-school programs in Community District 9 (CD9). The program uses Kinvolved’s unique app that allows teachers to mark a student absent or late with a swipe of a finger, sending out real-time messages to parents and tracking reasons for absence and number of minutes late to determine trends or crises. Class and school-wide messages, reminders, and announcements can also be sent out via the app; parents need only a basic phone that receives text messages. The app also supports safe and secure two-way messaging between teachers and parents so they can be in touch seamlessly.

“The best educational activities are useless to the absent student. This pilot project will ensure we set up West Harlem children for success by making sure that they are present and learning,” said Kofi A. Boateng, PhD, West Harlem Development Corporation Executive Director. “Every Minute Matters in West Harlem is poised to improve students’ grades by increasing attendance.”

Kinvolved’s app will link parents directly with their children’s attendance records and with teachers and after school program leaders. It provides a safety net that lets parents know if their child did not show up to school but also builds a better support system that will affect grades and communication across all parts of a child’s education.

“As a teacher, I learned that attendance problems are often overlooked, and that many parents are not informed by schools when their kids are absent,” said Miriam Altman, co-founder of Kinvolved. “By establishing communication and partnership with families, coaches, and mentors, we can change the status quo by sharing collective responsibility for students’ success. This has to start with making sure students show up to school on time, every day. While technology alone will not solve attendance challenges, we are raising awareness about the importance of tracking attendance information more effectively, and highlighting the extremely important role parents have in education.”

The attendance rates in 2013-14 in Districts 5 and 6 were 89 percent and 92 percent, respectively, compared to a 98 percent attendance rate at a selective high school in the area. While the percentage of third through eighth graders (excluding selective school students) passing the state standardized exams in Districts 5 and 6 for Math and ELA are 20 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

“Failure rates in excess of 80 percent for our public school children are simply unacceptable,” said Donald C. Notice, WHDC Board Chairman.“Our initiative with Kinvolved is a first necessary step to stem the tide.”

Research shows that attendance rates and high school graduation are directly linked. Citywide, 25 percent of students in NYC miss 30 or more days of school each year. At that rate, students only have a 20 percent chance of graduating. WHDC and Kinvovled’s Every Minute Matters in West Harlem program want to change that by increasing attendance records and student achievement.

“We want our kids to go to college, we want our test scores to improve, but more importantly we want our children to be present to learn,” saidReginald Higgins, principal of P.S. 125, which tested Kinvolved last year.

West Harlem Development Corporation funded the program with $30,000 with matching funds of $30,000 raised by Kinvolved. Each participating school makes a small contribution. Kinvolved’s app will be used across 60 sites nationally this fall, and in NYC through partnerships with the Children’s Aid Society, the Children’s Health Fund, ScriptEd, and Hip Hop 4 Life.

Kinvolved has trained teachers and other staff of the West Harlem schools and after school programs in the technology and best practices in improving attendance, which will be used throughout the 2014-2015 school year. If successful, WHDC could expand the pilot to additional schools and programs in the future.

On September 23, WHDC and Kinvolved will hold a kick-off celebration at P.S. 125. Attendance experts Peter Bergman, Assistant Professor of Economics in Education at Columbia University/Teacher’s College, Drema Brown, Vice-President of the School-Age Division at Children’s Aid Society and Principal Higgins will be part of a panel discussing the effect of attendance on graduation and future success.

Miriam Altman and Alexandra Meis met and founded Kinvolved while studying Public Policy at The Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU. They were inspired to develop technology to improve attendance and family engagement based on their first-hand experiences in the classroom and the community. Miriam, a former NYC Dept. of Education high school history teacher, witnessed the effects of attendance and family engagement on her students’ academic outcomes. A former project manager at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center’s Autism Center, Alexandra taught underserved parents to access and advocate for special education services for their children.

WHDC is charged with implementing the Community Benefits Agreement signed with Columbia University in 2009. WHDC has granted $4 million to 119 nonprofits that serve West Harlem/Community District 9 with programs in education, housing, workforce development and other important areas.

WHDC has also contributed $2 million in funding to youth and senior summer employment programs. WHDC’s mission is to promote increased economic opportunities and quality of life to sustain a vibrant West Harlem community.