Attendance | News

Startup Kinvolved Ties Attendance to School Success

A start-up company working to improve high school graduation rates is beginning to expand its footprint. Kinvolved, which has won several start-up competitions and been profiled in multiple entrepreneurial forums, has developed a cloud-based system that simplifies keeping attendance records, creates contact with families and promotes the importance of school attendance.

The business idea for the company focuses on increasing classroom attendance, especially among disadvantaged youth. As one business proposal for Kinvolved lays out, the problem of poor attendance is widespread. In the New York Department of Education, for example, nearly a quarter of students miss the equivalent of a month of school each year. While 90 percent of freshmen who miss fewer than five days of school graduate on time, those who are absent six to nine days per semester graduate 27 percent less frequently.

The connection between "chronic absenteeism" and educational success were the topic of research by two faculty members at Johns Hopkins University. As authors Robert Balfanz and Vaughan Byrnes stated, "Students need to attend school daily to succeed. The good news of this report is that being in school leads to succeeding in school."

By engaging caregivers — families and others involved in a student's life — Kinvolved believes its technology can "radically improve" attendance. During 2012 and 2013 the company began piloting its first product, an application, among New York City high schools. The application lets teachers take attendance quickly and then sends an automatic text or email message to caretakers of students who fail to show up or arrive late. Now Kinvolved is working on being added to the New York district's approved vendors list for wider distribution.

The program runs on any device with access to the Internet. Parents who agree to receive the messages don't need a smartphone; they just need a cell phone with basic SMS capabilities.

The company was founded by two New York University Wagner alumna, Miriam Altman, a former teacher, and Alexandra Meis, a former Americorps volunteer. In the New York University Entrepreneurs Challenge, the company won $50,000; an earlier competition at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University garnered the team $15,000. Before that the team had also won phases of the BeMyApp Mobile App Olympics and was a semi-finalist in the Global Social Venture Competition 2012.

Teachers can sign up for use of Kinvolved's system for free use for up to six months. Pricing for schools is only available through the company at this point.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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