The number of messages sent between schools, teachers and families exploded when schools closed last spring. Communications sent home are often split across an array of channels – websites, Facebook messages, phone calls, emails or text messages. While these methods are great options, new technology applications designed to communicate with families can reduce the administrative burden on leaders, staff and teachers.
What’s more, education apps or platforms that automate messages to families, alert them to schedule changes and connect them to resources also can be used to encourage improved attendance. While Attendance Works does not endorse commercial products, this blog offers a few examples of how new technology and apps can be leveraged to promote better attendance despite the challenges of Covid-19.
Many messaging platforms offer a basic service free of charge to teachers or schools, a real help today when many states and districts are cutting education funding. Free messaging services include Bloomz, ClassDojo and more. More complex services, including tailoring attendance interventions for individual students, or organization-wide messaging are available for a fee.
Most offer two-way messaging – using an online platform or software – so educators can communicate directly with students and families by text or an app, often without revealing personal contact information. Sending messages by text can improve the chances of the information being read, since many people have their phones at their side all day long.
The technology can easily deliver universal attendance supports that help build relationships among the school community. For example, one school sends daily motivational quotes to students to help them get to school, especially useful when parents are at work before kids are up in the morning.
Below are three services that are designed to help reduce absenteeism.
Before Covid-19, AllHere, a Boston-based company, focused on helping schools improve attendance by making sure educators were working with the right intervention for each individual student – work that was usually in person. When school buildings closed last spring, AllHere moved its approach to digital. The company developed AI-driven chatbots that “provide the information, resources, and self-motivation to nudge students and families — whether in the classroom, home, or both —to keep learning going,” the company says.
AllHere’s chatbot uses text messaging to improve attendance, based on research and techniques by Peter Bergman, Assistant Professor at Columbia University. AllHere acquired Bergman’s “EdNudge” technology and techniques that use text messages sent to families. This approach has been proven through randomized control trial studies to reduce chronic absenteeism by 17%. The program requires minimal district staff time and no involvement of school-based staff, said Cynthia Rogan with AllHere. Watch the September 1, 2020 webinar with AllHere and Attendance Works.
EveryDay Labs applies behavioral science, data analytics, and research to develop and refine strategies to reduce absenteeism. The platform, now used in 2,800 schools, partners with districts to develop a messaging program based on the district’s calendar, and a tailored intervention program. The tool expands on the absence report intervention developed by Todd Rogers, Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. The absence reports have been shown to reduce absences by 12% in one week. Watch our August 19, 20202 webinar with Todd Rogers.
The EveryDay Labs program analyzes districts’ attendance data and automatically enrolls families as their students become at risk of learning loss due to absenteeism. Like other tools, Everyday Labs uses automated chatbots, an artificial intelligence (AI) software. A short question and answer chat helps narrow in on why a student is missing school, such as a lack of food or digital access, and connects the family with resources provided by the district.
San-Francisco-based Remind’s two-way platform for educators, students, and families, is free to use at the classroom level. Teachers can send announcements and have individual conversations with families. Users can attach files, images and links, and can integrate with apps such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and SurveyMonkey.
Educators should think of the two-way communications “as a resource you can leverage to build those attendance interventions,” such as universal supports or positive engagement, “not just as a channel for delivering them,” says Jennifer Liu with Remind.
The company developed an attendance guide, with sections based on the Attendance Works strategies, to help administrators develop plans for tackling chronic absence. Remind also offers enhanced features with their paid plan. Watch the August, 2020 webinar with Remind and Attendance Works.