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  • Easing Back-to-School Stress Through Summer Prep

    Retailers focus on August as back-to-school season, but we know that behind the scenes, the real preparation begins long before families start stocking up on notebooks and markers. After two summers of uncertainty, school leaders have a better idea what to expect when students return to the classrooms for 2022-23. Some of the predictions are sobering. Prices are higher than projected when budgets were approved. Staff and teacher shortages are a formidable hurdle. Some students are still catching up from disruptions during the pandemic. But there are bright spots as well. Student well-being is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Technology continues to improve. Federal funding is helping many districts increase student support, bridge local budget gaps, and move ahead with needed renovations and new construction. As you take stock this summer and plan for 2022-23, here are some resources to help you prepare for the hot topics now and ease back-to-school stress later on. Centering Students’ Experiences Researchers have spent decades studying the evidence around student learning, school climate, and inclusive support for all—and the sheer amount of data can be overwhelming. The Annenberg Institute at Brown University has compiled evidence briefs by top experts in response to commonly asked questions on topics such as academic recovery, attendance, school counseling programs, and more. These make a great starting point in reflecting on current practices and making changes if needed. To create space for identifying innovative approaches that might work well for specific challenges, consider research-practice partnerships. These connect researchers and education leaders to ensure a two-way flow of ideas so best practices are applied effectively AND future research is informed by the actual conditions and perspectives in the classroom. Check out this guide from the nonprofit advocacy organization Digital Quality Campaign to learn more. We’ve mentioned the Whole Student Approach before, in blogs like this one. If your school or district is exploring this framework, there are many science-grounded self-assessment tools online, such as the Turnaround for Children Toolbox, that can boost your decision-making process. School Safety Physical safety of campuses is top of mind for all administrators right now. As you review your protocols and procedures, take look at the collection of research-based tools from Safe and Sound Schools, the nonprofit formed after the Sandy Hook tragedy. is a project of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that offers a wealth of resources, webinars, and links about both physical and psychological safety. Effective Use of Resources Every school has plenty of internal committees, boards, advisory groups, and programs focused on how to make the most of their people, time, and money—but sometimes those in-house groups can use an infusion of new ideas and big-picture thinking. One example is these ESSER Staffing, Spending, and Scheduling Guides from the nonprofit research organization ERS. Educators’ time is an especially precious resource. We recently recapped how chatbots save time when it comes to communication by streamlining two-way messages with families across an entire school or district. Individual teachers and staff spend less time replying to routine questions and can focus on the highest priorities. Communication with Families Stay ahead of families’ start-of-school questions by ensuring a smooth flow of outbound information. Text messages have higher open rates compared to email and postal mail, which makes them an optimal tool for pointing families to online information and reminding them of action steps and deadlines. (And if you use a chatbot like ours, text messages are also great for incoming questions and concerns.) In-person events are making a big comeback this summer as a proven way to engage the community. Especially popular are one-stop-shops like block parties where families can meet staff and teachers, receive school supplies, get services like haircuts and immunizations, and—above all—build enthusiasm for the coming year. For ideas on planning and promotion, check out Attendance Works’ 10th anniversary awareness campaign. And keep an eye out next month for more about the importance of communication in setting the foundations of family engagement over the summer! #attendance #backtoschool #stress #summer

  • Make an Impact for Youth During Mental Health Awareness Month

    Throughout the month of May, organizations boost their efforts to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues—and reduce the stigma people may feel when they talk about or seek help for those issues. This year, there’s a spotlight on young people. Many studies and surveys have pointed out the crisis proportions of mental health challenges in children and adolescents. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released survey data indicating that 1 in 3 high school students experienced poor mental health during the pandemic. Female students and those who identify as LGBTQ were impacted the most. Protective Factors for Youth With so much information available about students’ mental health—including AllHere’s webinar with David Adams, a board member at CASEL, recapped in this blog—we’d like to look at the many steps schools and districts can take to strengthen their students’ well-being. Build connections: The CDC survey showed that adolescents who felt more connected to people at their schools had better mental health. (Unfortunately, this protective effect was not found among students who had experienced racism.) They encourage school leaders to focus on establishing a safe and supportive space where all students feel connected to people who care about them. Provide accurate, reliable information: There’s plenty of research and expert knowledge about mental health—and also plenty of misinformation. Sites like are accessible, confidential, and full of helpful facts for those old enough to browse independently. It’s worth noting—as the National Institutes of Mental Health does in its sharable graphics and videos—that children and adolescents are also going through phases of development that can make it hard to understand what’s normal and what’s a cause for concern. Promote awareness: While static information on graphics and posters is helpful, peer voices are especially impactful. In May, organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Health are inviting people who have experienced mental health conditions to share their stories—and for those who have not to build compassion and empathy by reading their experiences. Offer programs and access to resources on campus: Studies have shown that comprehensive school mental health programs help students achieve academically and give them better access to experiences that build social skills and self-awareness. Many schools have already added social workers, counselors, psychologists, and other mental health professionals to address the effects of the pandemic. Some are also training their staff and teachers to recognize early warning signs and start the referral process. AllHere’s Commitment to Student Mental Health When we talk about our adaptive, evidence-based system, we often focus on the benefits of the AI-powered chatbot. But the human component—our Family Success Team—is crucial to ensuring smooth communication, especially in situations where a concern has become a crisis. The 24/7 availability of two-way text messaging reassures families and school staff that resources are just an SMS away. And the system is designed to escalate the most urgent messages to a designated person at the school. Connect with an AllHere team member to discuss how your schools can utilize tech to increase mental health supports. #behavioralhealth #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness

  • Strategies for an Equitable Approach to Attendance and Enrollment

    Chronic absenteeism continues to rise, and educators’ efforts to get everyone back on track have room for improvement at taking everyone—and their circumstances—into equal consideration. In our recent ebook Equity Matters in Attendance and Enrollment Recovery, we dive into who, exactly, is most impacted by these gaps, and provide tips and strategies on how to employ a more equitable method to get all kids back in the classroom, especially those furthest from opportunity. Here’s a sneak peek at the content. Who Is Most Impacted By Gaps? The number of families who said their child was on track to be chronically absent from middle or high school in late 2021 were nearly three times higher than before the pandemic, at 22%, compared to 8% in the spring of 2020. In addition to the impact on learning, they’re also missing out on access to meals, supplemental services, and physical activity. Students and their families who face significant hardships such as housing insecurity, language barriers, economic uncertainty, and other family stressors stand to benefit the most from equitable attendance and re-enrollment initiatives that use creative outreach strategies to go beyond a postal mailing. For example, they often experience basic communication barriers that schools can address by providing options in multiple languages and easily accessible formats like text messages. Equitable Strategies for Reaching Students Rather than taking a hardline tone (which is typically done in court summons or harsh letters), educators and administrators have an opportunity to approach communication with empathy and positively engage with parents in ways that will help resume daily attendance. Given the complex nature of chronic absence and unenrollment, schools’ approach also needs to be comprehensive. In the ebook, we outline policy recommendations and tangible tools that can be implemented at state and community levels. All of them align with these goals of an equitable attendance and enrollment recovery program: – Options to communicate in multiple languages. – A way to reach families and students outside of a postal mailing address. – A way to reach families and students in their preferred channel. – Encouraging, empathetic outreach that help nudge positive action. – Easily accessible information. – 24/7 communications availability—with an immediate response. Technologies such as artificial intelligence and chatbots can open up communication through two-way messages and 24/7 support in addition to automated reminders and research-inspired nudges. Best of all, they won’t add burden to school staff that’s already strapped thin, freeing them up to handle more urgent individual needs. Access and download Equity Matters in Attendance and Enrollment Recovery here. #attendance #education #enrollment #k12

  • How Chatbots Save Teacher Time and Help Meet the Need for Support

    As schools across the nation take a quick breather for spring break, educators are gearing up for what’s perhaps the most challenging time of the year. Teachers report that their stress level increases by nearly 20% from October to June, and their feelings of school connectedness and efficacy decline. This year they’re facing extra stressors, from COVID-related learning loss heading into the annual standardized testing cycle to upcoming school board elections that have contributed to a tense atmosphere in many districts. The risk of attrition is so high that states are taking unprecedented steps to keep teachers on the job in both the short term and for the future. For example, in early March, Iowa announced that it will pay full-time classroom teachers $1,000 to complete the remainder of their assignments through the current academic year. Around the same time, Texas launched a task force focused on teacher retention to address staffing shortages across the state. The pressure is on for schools’ human resource leaders, who rank their top three priorities as teacher recruitment, teacher/staff social and emotional well-being, and teacher retention. Spotlighting teacher recruitment and retention is bound to lead to innovative approaches and effective strategies … eventually. But meeting the immediate need for teacher support in day-to-day tasks is an urgent challenge. A Time-Saving Strategy You Can Implement Now One way that districts can relieve time pressure on teachers and staff right away is to add communication support in the form of two-way chatbot messaging. It’s a convenient, accessible channel for families to receive information from their children’s schools and get answers to routine questions—while decreasing front-line educators’ workload. This innovative, novel, and evidence-based solution was designed to increase student participation in school, reduce the dropout rate, and build school engagement with students and families. It also saves staff time. The chart shows examples from AllHere’s chatbot implementations within school districts of various sizes in the spring of 2021. AllHere’s team can set up its platform within weeks for new customers, with minimal extra effort or training on the part of school or district personnel. Once the chatbot is in place, families receive positive, conversational messages that contain relevant information or “nudge” them to take action. Families can also receive on-demand assistance by asking the bot questions—which are answered within seconds using information in the school’s customized, intelligent knowledge base. In the small percentage of instances where the chatbot doesn’t have the answer, it escalates the incoming text to a designated person for a live response. The new data is then added to the knowledge base, further enhancing its usefulness. This ensures that accurate, timely information continually flows both ways. Families are acutely aware of the challenges facing teachers, and most of them (73%, according to this poll released last August) are satisfied with their children’s education. They want to be part of the solution and support their schools’ teachers. When the Lansing School District in Michigan rolled out its chatbot, Mini, both educators and families started to look at two-way communication in a more positive light, said School Improvement Data Integration Specialist Dr. Liesel Carlson. “Families really appreciated that we were able to respond to them so quickly,” she said—but perhaps more importantly, given teachers’ current stress levels, “We were able to maximize our human capital, and AllHere was a key piece of that.” To learn more about implementing this time-saving technology as part of your comprehensive strategy to address teacher retention, connect with a member of our team. #chatbots #teachers #education #k12 #teacherburnout

  • SEL Day Discussion: Social Emotional Wellness for Today’s Students

    In honor of SEL Day, we wanted to take a moment to further discuss the topic of Social Emotional Wellness, which was the topic recently discussed by AllHere’s CEO, Joanna Smith Griffin and David Adams, CEO of Urban Assembly and Board Member at CASEL, during a District Administration webinar. Their conversation highlighted the need for institutions and individuals to partner as one society to make sure we are not only providing students with optimal learning environments, but also the social-emotional skills they need to go out into the world with the ability to solve problems and contribute to their communities. Here are insights they shared about the challenges and the solution sets during the webinar titled “SEL and Student Mental Health Support as Essential Components for Attendance and Enrollment Recovery.” An increase in stressors Academic stressors, social isolation, and family economic tensions are impacting the amount of attention students bring to their learning process. The result of these impacts can be seen in decreased attendance rates and enrollment loss, among other things. Additionally, chaotic learning environments, whether at home or in the classroom, reduce the amount of energy students can expend on learning. “The pandemic has everyone talking about learning loss and about students falling behind due to the disruptions of the past few years, but one of the things that we’ve heard more recently is the instinct to double down on academics. That is not the answer,” said Smith, who started AllHere after teaching in the classroom and directing family engagement at a school in Boston. “In fact, attending to the social and emotional wellness of the kids can help to create the conditions for learning to happen.” Equipping students to solve problems Social-emotional learning is how we relate to ourselves and how we relate to others in order to solve problems, which is why it’s such an important skill set—and not only for young people. The goal of school-based programs is to connect students, teachers, and parents with the tools and resources to get the help they need. However, many school systems treat social-emotional learning separate from academics, despite the need for it being more dire than ever. For example, they may focus narrowly on sending notifications and letters about things like “days missed” to parents rather than implementing the practices and policies that build relationships with students and create positive learning environments. “At the end of the day, everybody contributes to the social-emotional learning of young people. Even if you’re not teaching a social-emotional learning curriculum, you’re still impacting the social-emotional development of folks in your school—so let’s do it on purpose,” said Adams. “Let’s be intentional, come together in communities, and make sure young people can solve the problems we need them to be able to solve.” The connection to absenteeism and enrollment Absenteeism and enrollment are complex challenges that can’t be reduced to one single solution set. However, social-emotional learning can help in mitigating them, including through the development of high-quality relationships between students, teachers, and parents. “Parents have lost faith in our public institutions coming out of COVID with our ability to support learning,” Smith said. “It’s become incumbent upon us to prove to parents that we are the institutions that can develop the social, emotional, and academic outcomes for their young people.” This includes making sure parents and schools engage with each other in a positive way. When a school only communicates when a student is absent, for example, then parents start to associate school contact with negative outcomes. This is where tools like AllHere’s chatbot, which is programmed to use a conversational, approachable tone, can be a beneficial supplement to traditional communications. Additionally, parents are looking at the type of environments being created for their kids. “The more consistent the environment is, the fewer self-management resources students have to pull for themselves,” Adams said. Of course, he added, “We still need to teach students self-management skills, because not all environments are going to be perfectly conducive to learning. That creates flexibility in the learner. That’s why it’s important to both maximize your learning environment but also teach self-management skills so that students are flexible and can learn in different environments.” The unprecedented hardships facing students today also offer unprecedented opportunities for educators to support their social-emotional growth and help them develop the problem-solving skills they’ll need for the future. Would you like to continue the discussion? View the full on demand here or get involved via Twitter using #SELDay.

  • Tips for Preventing a Springtime Attendance Dip

    The term “spring fever” is very real. Daylight hours increase, the weather warms, humans’ energy surges, and classrooms everywhere are hotbeds of restlessness and distraction. The dip in motivation during this predictable period is exacerbated by other factors, from the onset of allergy season to the stress brought on by standardized testing and end-of-course exams. Keeping students engaged is challenging enough in a normal springtime. But two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, educators and schools have their hands full balancing competing demands. Chronic absenteeism is a prime example. While it’s important to cultivate a culture of attendance, it’s also important for children to stay home if they have COVID symptoms. That’s why even districts that are aware of the spring decline and have prepared plans to combat it may need an extra boost this year via creative strategies and new tools. Tips for Preventing This Year’s Attendance Decline -Raise awareness among staff. Even if numbers from the past couple of years are wonky due to the pandemic, they will give teachers an idea of what to expect. -Communicate with families about the negative impacts of chronic absenteeism (missing more than 10% of the school year). -Check in regularly with parents or guardians whose students are at risk to make sure they aren’t experiencing barriers (like lack of access to healthcare for conditions such as asthma that tend to be worse in the spring) or aversions (such as academic struggles, ineffective discipline, or unwelcoming school climate). -Ask for a helping hand from the local community. Even small steps add up—like reminding providers to schedule medical appointments outside school hours whenever possible. -Assess and address students’ social-emotional well-being. In December 2021, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory that described young people’s mental health challenges as “unprecedented and uniquely hard to navigate.” -Make it fun to be in school. Schools often offer extra treats, study sessions, and other amenities around standardized testing season for students feeling anxiety about their performance. Consider ways to expand these and broaden their appeal. The AllHere Spring Support Pilot Program Starting next month, districts across the nation will address the seasonal drop in school attendance through the 2022 AllHere Spring Support Pilot Program. It’s an opportunity for districts to try this award-winning approach via free student licenses for up to six months. Pilot participants benefit from a secure-AI powered chatbot that automates two-way messaging. This convenient, accessible channel supports communication both at the district level and the individual level, with a combination of outgoing texts that are proven to help students attend and engage in school and incoming texts that close the feedback loop with families. The chatbot messaging is designed to align with the two most effective and least costly levels of Attendance Works’ three-tiered approach to getting and keeping students in school. These tiers of intervention focus on prevention-oriented supports (Tier 1) and personalized outreach (Tier 2). Enrollment ends soon. To learn more, visit

  • Introducing AllHere’s New Look

    From day one, AllHere has championed a movement to combat the underlying causes of chronic absenteeism. But as a pandemic continues to disrupt the status quo in our education system, we see a need to support students, parents, and educators beyond the scope of attendance intervention. In fact, schools across the country already use AllHere chatbots to proactively “nudge” families towards all sorts of improved outcomes including attendance, student engagement, support for mental and physical health, and much more. In our effort to drive student outcomes across their K-12 journey, we’ve built a powerful combination of technology and human-powered 24/7 support for K-12 families, we’re starting 2022 with a new look. Our new look communicates the expanded capabilities of AllHere to help families navigate all learning barriers: – We’ve swapped a clipboard for a chat bubble, representing the behaviorally intelligent chatbot that now supercharges how we serve schools and families. -The curved dotted line mirrors the non-linear path that we help families navigate throughout a child’s education. -The colors–including a refreshed blue and a palette of vibrant secondary colors–bring a new energy to our brand that is both inviting and trustworthy. -Most importantly, the “all” appears inside of the speech bubble, representing our expanded mission to remove all learning barriers inside and outside the classroom for K-12 families. AllHere is evolving to support students and families from registration all the way to graduation. Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about new features launching on AllHere this year to support families throughout their journey to & through school.

  • Strengthening District Communication During COVID

    As the two-year anniversary of the pandemic approaches, many school districts continue to grapple with consistent, timely communication about COVID-19. Even basic best practices—like asking parents how they want to communicate and ensuring translations are available for multilingual families—can fall by the wayside when messages need to get out asap. And ever-changing protocols and rules have stymied administrators’ efforts to build a comprehensive communications approach that maximizes transparency. Organizations like the National School Public Relations Association offer their members a wealth of online resources and toolkits to assist with crisis response. However, given administrators’ overwhelming to-do lists, time to research and implement complex plans can be hard to come by. Meanwhile, parents are frustrated with the ongoing challenges. In particular, they want to see improvements in: -The quality of information shared. -Timely updates on protocols and schedules. -Ease of access to accurate COVID-19 resources. -The ability to connect with someone from the district to receive information or ask questions and receive responses in a timely manner. Leveraging the power of mobile messaging and AI Districts struggling to crack the communication code will be heartened to hear that it is possible to incorporate mobile messaging powered by artificial intelligence quickly, without huge new investments or months of planning. Since our bots are available to understand families’ needs and provide them support whenever a school related issue arises (and in the last year, families have needed more support around navigating the pandemic than any other topic), several of our clients have been utilizing the AllHere platform to keep their communities in the know about COVID. The benefits they’ve seen from incorporating a custom chatbot include: -Reaching parents instantly via their preferred platform (SMS text) in their preferred language. -Two-way communication with instant, 24/7 responses when contacted by learning guardians, parents, and students. -Our bots are available to understand families’ needs and provide them support whenever a school related issue arises (and in the last year, families have needed more support around navigating the pandemic than any other topic). -A knowledge base that’s unique to each chatbot—which districts can update anytime with the most up-to-date information on school schedules, virtual learning access, community health resources, COVID protocols, and more. Some districts have temporarily pivoted their chatbots away from other priorities toward COVID communications during the 2021-22 school year, and they intend to return to those priorities once the pandemic eases. The AllHere support team is set up to accommodate such changes with no disruption or downtime. To learn more about how the AllHere platform can help your district crack the COVID communications code, connect with a member of our team.

  • Addressing the Factors Around Unexcused Absences

    Not all absences from school are equal. Although any child who misses more than 10% of the school days in a year is at higher risk of low academic achievement, researchers are noticing differences between excused and unexcused absences. A recent study conducted in Madison, Wisconsin, found that students whose absences were excused—which means a parent or guardian notified the school they would be out and explained why—performed on par with their peers who were in class every day, even if they missed 15 to 18 days. On the other hand, children with just one unexcused absence performed much worse academically than their peers with no absence. In math, for example, the average student with no absences was at the 58th percentile. The average student with just one unexcused absence was at the 38th percentile. And the average student with 18 unexcused absences were at the 17th percentile. What these red flags may signal The researcher team in the Madison study included social scientists, an education researcher, and a school district leader. They weren’t convinced that simply missing school was the cause of the low achievement for the children with unexcused absences. So they looked into other differences unrelated to school attendance. They found that those factors—things like health condition, family income and education, and prior academic achievement—explained 88% of the relationship between having 18 unexcused absences and low test scores. In other words, the unexcused absences were “a powerful signal of how those out-of-school challenges affect children’s academic progress.” The researchers suggested that instead of putting additional pressure on parents, schools reach out with offers of support and provide additional resources to help those families and children with whatever is getting in the way—whether that’s transportation, housing, food, economic hardship, or medical issues. A helping hand from technology Two-way communication via an automated AI texting platform can help schools respond effectively to unexcused absences. Rather than simply reminding parents of how many days their student has missed, it can be programmed to query families of chronically absent children about their well-being. As families respond, the chatbot can provide appropriate resources and responses based on information that’s already part of its automated knowledge base. Importantly, platforms like AllHere can handle inquiries from families at any time of the day or night—making them a reliable, consistent source of support in times of need. When an incoming text message from a family contains a priority topic or a question the chatbot can’t answer, it’s sent to a designated staff member for a response. This helps educators and administrators prioritize the highest-impact communication with families who need it the most. AllHere’s innovative, novel, and evidence-based solution is proven to increase student participation in school, reduce the dropout rate, and build school engagement with students and families. Learn more about how it can help you address unexcused absences—and the challenges they signal.

  • Adopting Tools to Help Students Experiencing Housing Insecurity

    Housing insecurity is by far the greatest predictor of students’ chronic absenteeism from school. Researchers have issued many reports about the adverse effects of homelessness—such as this particularly extensive report in Michigan. It notes that: Unhoused students have the highest rates of chronic absenteeism of any group. Forty percent of them were chronically absent in this 2018 study, two-and-a-half times higher than the statewide average. Income is also associated with chronic absenteeism. Economically disadvantaged students were chronically absent at three times the rate of their higher-income peers. Students who are chronically absent are less likely to meet grade-level standards and more likely to drop out of school. Even when children are able to make it to school, homelessness and housing instability are widely recognized as determinants of academic success. That’s because other factors—such as unaffordability, crowding, and poor maintenance—can also adversely affect student performance. The impacts on learning extend from early childhood and kindergarten all the way through college. The current situation While homelessness and housing insecurity affecting school-age children is not a new issue, its urgency is growing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and more frequent natural disasters. The pandemic poses a threat to housing affordability and quality, particularly for families and children of color. Black and Latinx adults are reporting higher rates of income loss and missed rent or mortgage payments—but the ongoing nature of the crisis makes it hard to gather data about the repercussions. Millions of children are affected by natural disasters every year. Their frequency, intensity, and severity are all increasing, expanding their harmful effects. In the 10-year period from 2010 to 2019, 119 disasters in the United States met or exceeded $1 billion in damages and costs, affecting children’s homes, schools, and communities. Beyond the immediate trauma and harm caused by natural disaster exposure, children also may suffer longer-term physical, psychological, and educational deficits. After Hurricane Katrina, for examples, an estimated 196,000 public school students in Louisiana had to change schools, and approximately 50,000 students did not attend school during the remainder of the academic year. Further, trauma exposure can alter brain anatomy and functioning, inhibiting learning and memory processes—and both long-term homelessness and natural disasters can be traumatic. How mobile messaging powered by artificial intelligence can help Children and their families who face either chronic housing insecurity or an unexpected change in their living arrangements due to events like the COVID-19 pandemic and recent natural disasters—like Hurricane Ida, which left 1 million people without power in Louisiana and displaced tens of thousands from their homes—need every tool at our disposal. In an era when the problem of chronic absenteeism is growing more serious due to evolving and unique circumstances, AllHere offers a simple, powerful solution to help families overcome barriers and ensure their children are present and engaged in learning, wherever that learning is happening. To maximize the effectiveness of its mobile messaging platform powered by artificial intelligence, AllHere focuses on: 1. Simplifying content and reducing the effort it takes families to access support. 2. Personalizing information for recipients to make the communication more effective and increase academic impact. 3. Paying attention to the whole child and providing families with resources and support. “What’s changing outcomes is our emphasis on outreach to families, restorative messaging, strategic timing, and 24/7 unlimited support with any barrier to their child’s attendance,” said Joanna Smith, AllHere’s Founder and CEO. AllHere’s AI-powered platform for automated outreach represents a universal strategy for encouraging attendance in all students. It’s an innovative, novel, and evidence- based solution that increases student participation in school, reduces the dropout rate, and builds engagement with all families, regardless of whether they have a permanent mailing address and secure housing.

  • Low-Cost Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes

    Guest Blog Authored by: Phillip Shaver, VP of Client Success, AllHere While writing this post, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted school operations in the United States for 18 months. Many school systems across the country remained closed from March 2020, through the 2020/2021 school year, and plan to have all students return in-person during the 2021/2022 school year. Parents and educators have ongoing concerns about student safety, learning loss, and equitable access to resources. While we can’t change what’s happened over the last year and a half, communities can reassess how to move forward understanding lessons learned during the pandemic. Achievement Gap to Achievement Canyon The achievement gap typically represents a concept where non-white students are compared to white students on various metrics including reading and math assessments, graduation rates, dropout rates, and post-secondary education/training plans. During the most uncertain times of the pandemic students were expected to learn remotely while teachers were expected to learn how to teach remotely. Our team is dedicated to understanding the impacts of chronic absenteeism as a lead indicator for student outcomes. Among students who previously had barriers to regular attendance due to family issues, homelessness, poverty, and other resource scarcity, the access to school now relied on the student’s computing device and internet connection. For many, the achievement gap grew between students who had access and support versus those who had neither. Strategies for Change Most students attend school regularly. Most parents want their child to succeed in school. Students identified with the most severe chronic absenteeism are absent more than 30 days in a school year. In most states, it is the responsibility of the school district to promote and enforce compulsory attendance laws. What can a school system do to make a positive impact? Know your students. One of the first places a district can look deeper into the system-wide data of chronically absent students is demographics. Look beyond the outward demographics, like skin color, and into the poverty levels and geography. Many communities will find concentrations of chronically absent students in historically poor neighborhoods. Community engagement partnerships. The primary purpose of a school system is to educate students through graduation. For the students and families that are struggling to get to school regularly, there may be social services available but the family either doesn’t know or is hesitant to accept help. Many counties and local agencies are ready to invest where there is a need. Beyond the classroom, students need help. Consider transportation solutions beyond the traditional school bus. There may be room for a community shuttle, free/discounted bus passes for students, or partnerships with services like HopSkipDrive who operate with a focus on equity. Policy revisions. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, stakeholders in Broward County, Florida expressed concern about student attendance, equity, and district policies. District staff and advisory councils worked together to clarify language in the policy to ensure the application of policies were fair and consistent throughout the 220+ public schools in the system. The revised attendance policy provides clear language for parents and schools about how to excuse an absence with their child’s school. Mental health was added to the list of excusable reasons for an absence, combined under “Student Illness” to help people understand that a student’s health involves the whole student, mind and body. Suspensions. When a student is suspended from school, they also miss the direct instruction the school is there to provide. With vague language, some schools may have recorded students as absent rather than suspended, adding to the count of unexcused absences that count towards truancy with the potential to face further legal interventions instead of relationship-building. The revised language explains how suspensions are counted regarding a student’s attendance record to help avoid a double penalty. Emergency School Closures. Already deep into the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida remains in the potential path of natural disasters. A new section was added to the attendance policy to address the continuing pandemic and any other possible situation that could cause a school building to close with the possibility of providing instruction remotely. Later that school year, a wall collapsed in a school building (no one was injured), and the school was able to temporarily pivot back to 100% remote learning until another in-person solution was determined. Leverage technology for engaging curriculum. If the curriculum does not spark joy for the student, what is their motivation to pay attention? Veteran teachers who previously suffered an ongoing battle for student attention from their electronic devices found new ways to engage students and encourage the use of cell phones and tablets. Teachers who may have been late adopters to instructional technology found the help they needed through online tools like NearPod, Kahoot!, Mentimeter, and BrainPOP. For the teachers who were new to these resources during the pandemic, they are likely to keep these engagement tools in the toolbox for years to come. Absence prevention strategies include identifying root causes for absences, equitable access to school, family resources, policy implications, and engaging curriculum. Learn more about how AllHere can be a part of your community’s future student success stories.

  • Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions Webinar Recap

    On September 24th, AllHere Education hosted a webinar in conjunction with Education Week. The webinar featured Dr. Mike DeArmand and Dr. Peter Begrman, and was hosted by Kristen Diamond and Joanna Smith of AllHere. In recognition of Attendance Awareness Month, the team set out to share valuable insights around evidence-based intervention strategies. Dr. Mike DeArmand is a Senior Research Analyst at Center for Reinventing Public Education (CPRE) in Seattle. CPRE is an initiative supported by the University of Washington – Bothell, that examines efforts to rewire the system for school coherence, ongoing improvement, and excellence for every student—moving from the classroom to the school, to policy implications. Or, as DeArmand puts it “how adult practices need to shift to meet the needs of students.” Dr. Peter Bergman is an Associate Professor of Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Co-Chair of the Education Technology Initiative at Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at MIT. Bergman realized there was a communication problem in schools when he saw stacks upon stacks of return mail in the Los Angeles School District office. Report cards had just gone out – hundreds of students and families missed getting last term’s grades. Replay the webinar here. CPRE Pandemic Insights Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, DeArmand and CPRE have been tracking how schools and school districts have responded to all the changes required to keep students in school regardless of place. In the Spring of 2020, schools had to close and suddenly students were not required to physically attend school – district leaders had to figure out how to get online learning up and running. School is where students spend most of their time – without the common resources of being in a building together, other challenges became apparent. Attendance was affected by inequality in access to technology, housing, food, and economic security more than ever. A review of national samples suggested that many districts were not tracking attendance at all at this point. By Fall 2020 district leaders begin to notice “missing students.” Some districts began to implement tracking systems for attendance for online courses, but the vast majority of school districts struggled to track remote learning. As the school year progressed, these missing students became chronically absent – they were missing students, were they becoming lost students? Towards the end of the 2020-2021 school year, most schools had nailed down a way to measure attendance. Some districts measured hours of instruction, some measured based on task completion. When school went back in session during Fall 2021, districts were more prepared and proactive in handling instruction and administration. The reality was that they continued to work against issues of technology access and social equity. The chaos of the 2020-2021 school year made a lasting impact – schools now had to find and support their missing students. In addition to supporting missing students, districts must work to restore the pandemic’s negative effect on academic performance, especially among Black, Latino, and Native American Students. Social and learning conditions matter more than ever. District leaders are recognizing that something must be done to help all students. “Attending” school is not the same undertaking for every student. Meals, internet access, having an adult around to help, or having to self-motivate for an entire day or remote learning are all part of the attendance process. Attendance Works has a great approach to understanding how schools utilize intervention strategies within their student body. In this tiered system, we see the target group of students decrease in size but increase in terms of outreach and intervention intensity. The tiered approach taken by most schools requires administrators to get the right student, using the right approach, at the right time – every time. Due to the critical nature of Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions, it is common for school districts to over-invest in the tools and resources needed to manage higher tier interventions. Unfortunately, this “top loading” of resources has unintended consequences. What begins as a lack of universal prevention ends up being a “layover” where students are at risk, but the school has nowhere to direct them in terms of resources. Schools without adequate Tier 1 resources are rarely reaching students missing school here and there – and they aren’t looking for any patterns until students reach a level of chronic absenteeism. As a result of this misallocation of resources, more students end up in situations requiring Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions. You need Tier 1 for everyone. Universal prevention helps all students stay on track and attend school each day. Applying Tier 1 intervention strategies to all students, regardless of how often they miss school prevents students from going missing in the first place. Another critical aspect of keeping students from losing their way is investments in the whole school experience. Support for the whole school is the foundation on which all the other tiers rest, and it ultimately influences whether higher tier strategies work in a district. The combination of Tier 1 Universal Prevention interventions and accessible foundational supports help districts reduce barriers in getting students to school, keep families and students engaged, and address attendance in real-time. An Evidence-Based Approach Back to the academic story with Bergman and DeArmand, and how the tiers of intervention strategies relate. When looking at school districts – there is so much variability, down to every building operating in its own way. With such a diverse sample, what is “good evidence”? Casual information is more difficult to unravel when compared to correlational insight, but neither carries the weight that would satisfy our presenters. Randomized control trials are the pinnacle of evidence for ESSA. This level of rigor is a necessary approach given today’s challenges and needs. In these RCT scenarios, we can draw the strongest evidence of impact. We would consider this Tier 1 evidence – the most critical and substantiated. This is where Bergman and DeArmand have been directing their resources. Bergman’s research has proven that across the US, and even globally, parents vastly underestimate the number of missed school days and assignments. On average, 30% of parents thought their student missed zero assignments but in actuality, this is 20%. What is contributing to the difference between perceived attendance and actual attendance? Not news is NOT good news when it comes to school. In his initial trials, Bergman began sending texts every two weeks with attendance/absences and missed assignments (tests, class assignments, homework, etc.).  His belief was that when you reach out immediately, parents have the conversation with their students sooner. Engagement between parent and school increases interaction between parents and students with positive outcomes – and rather than wait for a report card, parents can follow along in real-time. The one-man-pilot program was a success in LASD where Bergman got started and this drove home the importance of meeting people where they are – updating existing approaches to meet current needs. Bergman’s research has proved that it is worth prioritizing texting because: It’s easier to track a phone number than address in many instances Texting is nonintrusive and familiar Texting establishes real communication between families and schools When we open up communication between schools and families, we can begin asking important questions. Do families feel supported and does the school district meet them where they are? Do we know what the attendance journey looks like for students? We can’t know what’s preventing kids from attending unless we ask. Assumptions and inferences do nothing to inform action. The Path Forward in Attendance Interventions If you’re considering introducing a text message-based attendance assistant within your district, we have a few tips from AllHere’s founder, Joanna Smith. First, conduct your due diligence – look for RCT-proven platforms that provide Tier 1 Universal Prevention off the shelf. Secondly, make sure that any platform you are considering is multi-lingual and interactive. This ensures that every student can be reached and any messages from your district provide value to students and families. Finally, don’t overlook the technical integration capabilities of your platform – make sure that your ATS and other student administration platforms are supported. The best virtual attendance platforms can help reinforce and simplify the attendance process for each student. If you’re curious about AllHere, don’t hesitate to ask us!

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