The Kinvolved story of its growing classroom management tool is one that illustrates the wisdom of starting with an easy to understand minimum viable product before expanding your suite of features. The two founders launched their startup with a vision to make a difference for public education. They have learned, since then, that their key constituency, teachers, frequently mentions fear of technology as a reason for not adopting modern tools in the classroom.
That’s a hurdle for all teacher-focused edtech tools.
Kinvolved‘s main innovation for classrooms is a simple attendance system that allows teachers to take classroom attendance much faster than existing systems. Some online platforms require drop down-windows for each student. The Kinvolved system shows them all as present, and teachers just have to tap the students that are late or absent. The real difference maker, though, is that it sends parents an email or text message when kids are late or absent. Alerting parents about student absenteeism, they have found in beta testing in Harlem, improves overall attendance.
Cofounder Alexandra Meis explained that the three person team has been working hard to make every facet of the basic platform work well. She explained that it’s important when the message goes to parents and what language is used in the message.
“There’s no tool that’s connecting schools and families and empowering them with information in these low income communities,” Meis said of her exploration of edtech directed at attendance. The team started with the goal of finding a way to use technology to improve education. Once they settled on focusing on attendance, they rolled out the very basic system during a summer session in 2012, then started a beta test in a Harlem school in November 2012, that went through the rest of that school year. They’ve gotten attention for the concept of attacking a single, focused problem: getting students to consistently be in the classroom.
Their feedback for the platform has been good and now they have about 2,500 students in the Kinvolved attendance system. The model, which is still being tested, charges $1,000 per year for schools to have a certain number of users, though low-income schools are discounted and individual teachers can use a free version. The irony and challenge here is that rich schools might be less focused on managing tardiness, while poor schools need the help the most.
As clients, including schools that are paying for the service, have become more comfortable with this basic system, they are starting to roll out other features.
Soon, they plan to have a platform for sharing best practices for classroom attendance and behavior among teachers. What Meis described as a sort of “Reddit for teachers.” That should go up soon.
This spring, they look forward to adding more student metrics to the platform, incorporating behavior and classroom performance. Attendance, behavior and test scores are the three variables that do the best job of predicting students will graduate. No other tool is collecting these data points in one place for educators.
Kinvolved is now part of Blue Ridge Foundation incubator on Court Street. It was formerly part of the NYU Poly Dumbo Incubator. Meis and Miriam Altman founded it together after beginning to explore the idea of an edtech startup while at School of Public Service at New York University. They currently have one developer on staff and the team is currently involved in a seed round of fundraising. They will hire a Lead Engineer and a UI/UX Designer by Feb. 1st.
Kinvolved is actively working to enroll schools in the immediate Tri-State area and recently enrolled its first Midwestern school, in Minnesota, through its partnership with PowerSchool.
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