The Benefits of Taking a District-Wide Technology Approach to Family Engagement

Based on what we know from sixty years of research, it’s not uncommon to see family engagement strategies incorporating things like Family Academic Socialization, Home Learning Support, Home Visits, Live Phone Calls, Parent-Family Conferences, Academic “Nights”, School Events, etc. A common missing component that allows families to consistently engage in their child’s learning in meaningful ways at home is a district-wide engagement platform.

As communication has evolved and changed in our ever-growing technological society, many schools and districts often forget to evaluate how their communication methods move the needle on family engagement, and consequently end up using one-way communication methods that don’t provide families the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations about their child’s learning.

For districts to further their family engagement efforts, it’s important to have a district-wide platform that provides a space for families to engage with educators and promote better learning outcomes for their students. This type of technology can help districts: conform to the needs of our younger-generation family populations, eliminate “app overload” and the sporadic usage of different tools, eliminate the burden of educators having to manage the setup of their technology, and provide everyone with a tool that is unified with the district’s overall family engagement strategies.

One of the growing benefits of using a district-wide technology is that it is becoming one of the easiest and most impactful ways to engage families. We cannot overlook the changing family culture as generations shift from away from Baby Boomers and into later Gen Xers and Millennials. Society is now in a time where 95% of people in the United States own a cellphone, nine-in-ten or more adults younger than 50 say they go online or own a smartphone, and young adults report preferring texting to phone calls. By accounting for these changes and adapting family engagement strategies, school districts can establish an impactful way through technology to have more meaningful two-way conversations with families that promote efficacy and engagement.

By accounting for these changes and adapting family engagement strategies, school districts can establish an impactful way through technology to have more meaningful two-way conversations with families that promote efficacy and engagement.

As Dr. Steve Constantino, a national family engagement expert, has said: we don’t need to do extra to engage families, we just need to “do what we already do, only differently.” In this case, a family engagement technology can help districts sustain their family engagement efforts, but through a new channel. (Read our previous blog for more on how technology improves family engagement)

Another benefit of a district-wide family engagement platform is being able to provide a consistent place for families to engage in their child’s learning from classroom to classroom, school to school, and year to year. Regardless of the classroom, grade, or school a child attends in the district, a family will always remain on the same unified platform. Without a district-wide platform, both schools and teachers are typically faced with using one of the many “teacher – parent” communication tools out there such as Remind, ClassDojo, or even social media, thus resulting in a number of sporadic tools and apps throughout the district.

This is important in regard to the concept of “app overload.” If one teacher is using a free EdTech app, and the next is on Instagram, and the school administration uses Twitter in addition to a website, it can be harder than ever for families to stay engaged. While these apps are typically helpful in providing messaging, behavior reports, or classroom pictures, their sporadic teacher to teacher usage consequently causes an “app overload” effect on families which leads to disengagement over time. By providing one consistent place for families to see what’s going on in the classroom, have conversations with their child’s educator, and view upcoming events from the classroom, school and district, engagement in their child’s learning increases (click here to learn more about App Overload in our Family Engagement Tech Guide).

By establishing a district-wide family engagement platform, the entire district benefits by saving teachers from the upkeep of classroom setup, rosters, and adoption associated with the number of free teacher communication apps. When schools and teachers resort to using free apps or programs, they are often tasked with having to setup their classroom, upkeeping the roster of students and families, and most of all, pushing for families to onboard and adopt the platform. This is a lot of time and energy that educators don’t have, nor is it something they should have to do.

By partnering with a family engagement platform like Livingtree Engage, classroom networks are built for every school, rosters are created and updated with SIS integration, and families are automatically onboarded through emails and text messages at the beginning of every year – thus eliminating the burden and saving time for educators throughout the district.

The final benefit of having a district-wide family engagement technology is being able to provide everyone with a platform aligned with the district’s family engagement strategy. Years of research, planning and development go into a school district’s family engagement process and being able to sustain those efforts over time is crucial. With so much time and money going into providing professional development and family engagement training for district members, it’s important to be able to have a single platform that they can then effectively use. So much of that can be wasted if families are becoming frustrated and disengaged due to the overwhelming number of apps. But when educators understand how to engage every family AND have a unified platform to do so, then meaningful conversations that lead to the trusting relationships crucial to family engagement can occur.

Livingtree Engage is a district-wide platform designed to provide a safe, secure space for educators and families to engage in a child’s learning – because engaged families ultimately produce better learning outcomes for every child. So, if families have one consistent place to see what’s going on in the classroom, have conversations with their child’s educator, and view upcoming events from the classroom, school, and district, school districts will see increased family engagement, and ultimately student success.

2018-19 K-12 Mid-Year Crowdfunding Risk Report

Crowdfunding has exploded in K-12 education. The number of campaign requests, as well as the number of donations towards these campaigns have significantly increased over the years. Data from one popular crowdfunding site for teachers showed that during the 2017-2018 school year, over 254,000 campaigns were funded, resulting in over $152 million in funds raised for K-12 classrooms, projects, and experiences.

This type of online crowdfunding has opened enormous opportunities for K-12 school districts to raise funds for projects, equipment and supplies. Crowdfunding is ultimately helping close the education funding gap and support the needs of schools and students. Its efficiency and effectiveness have been proven not only through the generous donation amounts, but also through the speed and ease compared to traditional methods like burrito or donut sales.

Despite the many benefits of online crowdfunding, school districts need to be aware of the associated risks and liabilities. Every single campaign that is posted poses serious liabilities for a school district, depending on how the campaign is pitched, what names are used, what the campaign is raising funds for, and what type of student information (photos, names, etc.) is displayed. Every donation made to the campaign also comes with financial liabilities for a school district, including where that money is routed, who controls or oversees those funds, who owns the funds, how inventory is accounted for, and how the school district manages to report those funds.

The lack of proper built-in oversight, tracking and reporting on crowdfunding sites – even education-specific sites, present significant legal and reputational risks for school districts across the country. Every school district should have oversight for any online fundraiser conducted in the name of the district, a district school or a district employee.

At Livingtree, it’s our goal to help school districts understand the risks of crowdfunding, and better manage the process within their district to ultimately raise more money. Due to the recent publications from state auditors and school board associations on crowdfunding, Livingtree decided to take a deeper dive and report what is happening right now. To provide a better picture of the current risks school districts are facing this year, we took the latest data from the earlier mentioned crowdfunding website to develop this Mid-Year Education Crowdfunding Report.

According to the crowdfunding website, over 145,000 projects have been fully funded so far in the 2018-2019 school year. At that pace, we expect to see around 290,000 fully funded campaigns by the end of this school year, an increase of 36,000 campaigns from the previous year. In addition, this year’s completed campaigns have raised over $77 million of donations for teachers and school projects. Based on that number, we’d expect to end the school year with around $154 million of donations, an increase of $2 million over last year. Since this data is only taken from one popular crowdfunding site, it’s likely that the overall crowdfunding totals are much greater.

To further understand this issue, Livingtree compiled all of the campaign data from the crowdfunding site for the 2018-2019 school year and composed lists to help identify which states currently have the highest risk when it comes to education crowdfunding. Below, we’ll examine the states with the Highest Average Amount Raised per District, the Highest Average Number of Campaigns Posted per District, and the Highest Average Number of High Risk Campaigns Posted per District.

Note: the data is organized to represent states in amounts per district to give the most accurate representation of every state. Hawaii and the District of Columbia are not represented in the data.

Highest Average Amount Raised per District

StateAvg Amount Raised Per DistrictTotal Amount Raised (Statewide)
Florida$57,479.91$4,253,513.32
Nevada$42,042.15$756,758.69
Utah$40,327.33$1,653,420.65
Maryland$40,118.36$962,840.74
North Carolina$32,785.70$3,770,355.42
South Carolina$22,163.51$1,861,734.46
Louisiana$18,089.54$1,266,267.86
California$13,182.13$12,404,386.71
Delaware$13,141.04$249,679.84
Virginia$12,485.71$1,648,113.87
Georgia$10,534.94$1,896,289.92
Massachusetts$9,805.79$2,333,777.15
Texas$9,486.36$9,761,468.95
Tennessee$8,855.31$1,248,599.03
Connecticut$8,411.12$1,421,479.43
Arizona$8,395.31$1,897,340.05
Rhode Island$7,415.36$259,537.51
New York$7,076.41$4,932,259.16
Alabama$6,898.59$945,106.61
Mississippi$6,152.57$929,038.73
Alaska$6,018.77$318,994.63
Idaho$5,595.59$643,492.62
Colorado$5,291.34$941,858.24
Oregon$5,030.50$905,490.29
Indiana$4,891.85$1,447,986.53
Washington$4,837.99$1,441,720.76
West Virginia$4,749.19$261,205.20
Pennsylvania$4,356.19$2,178,095.45
Oklahoma$3,841.52$2,001,429.55
Illinois$3,826.11$3,309,581.73
New Mexico$3,691.19$328,515.69
Kentucky$3,689.04$645,582.54
Minnesota$3,072.05$1,044,497.13
Michigan$2,960.27$1,628,147.41
Wisconsin$2,899.49$1,223,582.74
Missouri$2,734.23$1,424,533.66
Arkansas$2,624.42$624,611.88
Ohio$2,441.36$1,508,758.66
New Jersey$2,376.73$1,430,790.69
Wyoming$2,031.94$97,532.93
New Hampshire$1,898.28$317,012.57
Maine$1,731.74$412,154.09
Kansas$1,263.09$390,295.37
South Dakota$970.19$146,498.51
Iowa$890.90$310,032.83
Nebraska$613.40$152,735.74
Montana$552.87$229,439.89
North Dakota$319.74$58,192.12
Vermont$228.82$60,409.64

Florida made number one on the list for the highest amount of money raised from the crowdfunding site, averaging out at over $57,000 per school district. The next three states all averaged over $40,000 in funding per school district.

Regardless as to whether these donations reach schools in the form of funding or project items, a district must be able to ensure that every dollar is tracked and properly routed, and oversee the process to maintain accurate inventory and donation reporting. State-wide totals are also included in this report for reference.

Highest Average Number of Campaigns Posted per District

StateAvg Number of Campaigns Per DistrictTotal Number of Campaigns (Statewide)
Florida107.27931
Nevada86.11550
Maryland76.01823
Utah64.62648
North Carolina62.57185
South Carolina47.03947
Louisiana30.12107
Delaware28.8547
Virginia26.13442
California20.819562
Georgia20.03595
Massachusetts17.04053
Connecticut16.02710
Tennessee15.82229
Texas14.514963
Rhode Island14.4505
New York13.19097
Alabama12.01646
Arizona11.82674
Mississippi10.41574
West Virginia10.3564
Indiana10.33035
Oregon9.31680
Colorado9.31661
Washington9.22739
Idaho9.01032
Alaska9.0475
Pennsylvania8.84399
Kentucky7.21258
Oklahoma7.13685
New Mexico7.1628
Illinois7.06057
Michigan6.03304
Wisconsin5.82458
Minnesota5.71951
Missouri5.72965
Arkansas5.01185
Ohio4.93030
New Jersey4.32601
Maine3.5831
Wyoming3.5166
New Hampshire3.3547
Kansas2.7848
South Dakota1.9294
Iowa1.9659
Nebraska1.4339
Montana1.0414
North Dakota0.6106
Vermont0.5120

Florida again tops the list at number one for the highest average number of campaigns posted from the crowdfunding site, at 107.2 campaigns per school district so far this year. The higher the number of campaigns being posted, the higher the risks and liabilities for school districts without fundraising controls in place. And without the ability for school districts to review and approve campaigns before they go live, it’s almost impossible to be sure that the campaign meets all of school district’s requirements.

Highest Average Number of High Risk Campaigns Posted per District

StateAvg Number of High Risk Campaigns Per DistrictTotal Number of High Risk Campaigns (Statewide)
Nevada7.7139
Florida6.9513
Maryland6.3150
Utah4.8198
North Carolina3.8434
South Carolina2.6220
Delaware2.547
Rhode Island2.278
Massachusetts2.2519
Virginia2.0259
Louisiana1.8127
New York1.61107
Texas1.61631
California1.41345
Georgia1.4252
Connecticut1.2209
Arizona1.0223
Tennessee0.9130
Washington0.8229
Pennsylvania0.7373
Illinois0.7621
Oregon0.7120
Alabama0.791
Colorado0.7118
Idaho0.776
Indiana0.6190
New Mexico0.653
Alaska0.529
Minnesota0.5179
Kentucky0.589
Oklahoma0.5259
Michigan0.4224
Wisconsin0.4170
Mississippi0.459
New Jersey0.4233
West Virginia0.420
Missouri0.3173
Ohio0.3197
Maine0.361
New Hampshire0.240
Kansas0.258
South Dakota0.228
Iowa0.259
Arkansas0.240
Nebraska0.128
Vermont0.09
Montana0.014
North Dakota0.04
Wyoming0.01

Nevada leads the way for the highest average number of high-risk campaigns posted from the crowdfunding site, at 7.7 high risk campaigns posted per district so far this year. At Livingtree, we identify high risk campaigns as those classified on the crowdfunding website as either “Special Needs” or “ESL.” The classification of high risk is due to the fact that “Special Needs” campaigns have a high possibility of violating a student’s IEP, which a district would be legally required to fund through IDEA. There are also special services that ESL students qualify for that can’t be funded outside of the school district. These are all in addition to the existing risks that go along with crowdfunding, making them much higher risk campaigns. So far this school year, “ESL” and “Special Needs” are ranked as the 7th and 8th most popular project categories.

What to do next:

Again, it’s important to note that these statistics were generated from a single crowdfunding site, and that this is only a piece of the “crowdfunding picture.” We’d expect that total crowdfunding numbers are much larger, however it is difficult to collect data from every single site out there.

Because of these statistics and the associated risks, some districts take the easy route by setting policies that ban crowdfunding. However, this option forgoes the many benefits that crowdfunding has to offer for school districts, and creates a new task of having to police the large number of crowdfunding sites to ensure district members aren’t using them.

The other option is to evaluate online fundraising management options and adopt one that provides an automated district approval process for all campaigns, tracks all donations, routes funds through a district account, gives the district access to their donor information, provides aggregated reporting for every campaign, and has built in tools to make fundraising easy for any PTA/PTO, booster, club, team, or district member.

Once a management platform is selected, procedures and guidelines can be written to accompany the school district’s fundraising policies (no, you don’t actually have to re-write policies!). These should clearly outline rules for only using the district’s chosen fundraising management platform, campaign approval criteria, required campaign content, and ownership of the funds raised.

Once this is all in place, start fundraising! With your district overseeing the entire fundraising process and having official procedures to guide the process, fundraising becomes manageable and easy.

If you are curious about your school district’s risk potential on the crowdfunding site we used, check out the free tool created by Livingtree to evaluate your district’s risk potential, dollars collected, and number of campaigns posted so far this school year: https://learn.livingtree.com/risk-analysis

Is your school district ready to start evaluating fundraising management solutions? Then download our free Crowdfunding Considerations Guide for K-12 School Districts and know the 7 important areas to evaluate when looking at fundraising sites: https://try.livingtree.com/crowdfunding-considerations-blog/

Data Sourced from:
https://data.donorschoose.org/explore-our-impact/

How A School District Raised Over $10,000 via Email

When you hear the word “homeless” the first image that comes to mind probably isn’t a child, is it? And yet there are more than 2,300 students in the Austin Independent School District that experience homelessness each year. The effects of that are something that no child should experience, especially during the holiday season.

That’s why the Austin Ed Fund launched a campaign to raise funds for Project HELP, a program of the Austin ISD that supports students experiencing homelessness by providing material support like gift cards for food and clothing, bus passes and connections to other community resources.

After launching the campaign, the Austin Ed Fund sent out emails that resulted in over $10,000 in donations, but how?

The Austin ISD is in its third year of using Livingtree Give, a platform that allows members of every school in the district to launch online fundraising campaigns, while allowing the district to oversee the process, ensure that all campaigns are in compliance with district, state and federal policies, and report on all of their fundraising activities.

Unlike other mainstream education crowdfunding sites who maintain and own the donor’s information for future advertising purposes, Livingtree Give enables the Austin ISD to store and build their own database of donors. With this database, the Austin ISD can easily provide information to previous donors about other campaigns within their district, and that’s exactly what they did for the Project HELP campaign.

Using Livingtree Give’s built-in email communication functionality, the Austin Ed Fund sent emails about the Project HELP campaign to their database of donors. In just a week’s time, their community came together to support the campaign and raise over $10,000.00. With such a generous response to the campaign, they’ve now doubled the goal from $10,000 to $20,000 in hopes of truly meeting the needs of every family and student experiencing homelessness this holiday season.

To see the progress or make a contribution, you can visit the Project HELP campaign page here.

For more information on how Livingtree Give can help your school district, visit http://wordpress-153222-715006.cloudwaysapps.com/give

Who own’s your donor’s information isn’t the only thing you should worry about. Download our Crowdfunding Considerations guide to learn about the 7 areas that administrators should consider when evaluating crowdfunding sites & policies for the district.

Is Your School’s PTA/PTO Ready for #GivingTuesday?

Every year on Livingtree Give, we see projects from outdoor gardens to programs for the arts.  Every project has an outcome directly related to students. Where else can you have such an impact on the future of our country and the world to inspire a life-long journey of learning?

One of the biggest problems for schools is funding. Schools need resources now to support the over 51 million students across our country. Our school’s educators, clubs, orgs, teams, and PTA/PTOs work tirelessly to secure funding that supports the additional educational resources and experiences for our students, and that often includes fundraising. One of the best days of the year to fundraise is on #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday started off as an idea in 2012 and has turned into the largest single day of philanthropy in the world. This day provides an enormous opportunity for your school’s PTA/PTO to market their campaigns, involve the community, and bring in more money than any other day of the year.

Here’s why you should launch a campaign:

1. Education is the second largest category of giving on the #GivingTuesday. People are already looking for opportunities to give to education so take advantage of the momentum.
2. It is a great way to engage your community in what your school is doing. #GivingTuesday is about connecting people to your mission!
3. If you have an urgent need at your school it is a great way to raise the money you need.

Livingtree Give has innovated school fundraising, and provides modern online tools for school PTA/PTOs. Every PTA/PTO account has the ability to manage their school and donor contacts, launch a multitude of online fundraisers, promote their campaigns and activity portal through built in email and social sharing tools, and both reconcile and report on all transactions automatically.

To help further innovations and improvements in Education Technology, Livingtree is donating part of the proceeds generated on #GivingTuesday to Ed Tech non-profit StartEdUp!

For more information and to sign up for a free account, CLICK HERE.

You can also download our “GivingTuesday for Education Toolkit” that we created in coordination with PayPal and 92Y.

You can learn more about #GivingTuesday and our partnership with 92Y and PayPal in the video below:

#GivingTuesday 2018 + Livingtree Give

Take part in this year’s global day of giving!

#GivingTuesday (11/27) + Livingtree Give

What is #GivingTuesday and how is Livingtree Give involved?

#GivingTuesday is a global movement where campaigns happen in almost every country in the world.  For the past two years, Livingtree Give (Formerly Edbacker) has been proud to partner with PayPal and 92Y (one of the founders of #GivingTuesday) to help promote #GivingTuesday in education.  Watch the video at the end of this for more!

When is #GivingTuesday this year?

This year, #GivingTuesday is on Tuesday, November 27, 2018.

Who can participate in #GivingTuesday?

Anyone, anywhere can get involved and give back in a way that’s meaningful to them. There’s no minimum or limit to how people can do good.  All types of organizations are welcome to participate.

Does my campaign have to end on #GivingTuesday?

While #GivingTuesday is celebrated on November 27th, your campaign can be much longer than one day. We see a lot of campaigns that kick off before #GivingTuesday or that launch on #GivingTuesday and connect to a larger end-of-year or holiday campaign.

To help further innovations and improvements in Education Technology, Livingtree pledges to donate part of the proceeds generated on #GivingTuesday to Ed Tech non-profit StartEdUp!

How can I get started?

We’ve put together a “GivingTuesday for Education Toolkit” to provide you with some helpful resources that you can use to setup a successful campaign, including:

#GivingTuesday mega messages
Sample outreach emails
Ideas for getting involved
Social media tips

Livingtree Hires Leading Expert in Family Engagement and Former Acting State Superintendent of Virginia: Dr. Steve Constantino

As the leading engagement platform provider for K-12 schools, we are excited to announce the hiring of the nation’s leading expert in family engagement and former Acting Virginia State Superintendent, Dr. Steve Constantino who joins Livingtree after an esteemed career in the K-12 education space.

“Through the Engage Platform, Livingtree is shaping how teachers and parents communicate in school districts across the country,” said Gary Hensley , CEO of Livingtree. “Adding Dr. Constantino’s breadth of expertise to the Livingtree team will give parents and teachers the tools they need to be actively engaged in the academic lives of their children.”

Dr. Constantino has dedicated his career to sharing with audiences around the world the importance of engaging all families. As a result of his experiences and his practical approach to engaging families, Steve has authored four books on the subject. His first book, Making Your School Family Friendly (NASSP, 2002) was published after being selected by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the MetLife Foundation to create the first-ever family friendly schools workshop, held in Washington DC.  His second book Engaging Every Family (Rowman and Littlefield, 2003) soon followed. This book expanded on the conceptual framework of the four domains of family engagement. In 2008, Steve released his third book 101 Ways to Create Real Family Engagement (Engage Press, 2008). Steve’s fourth and newest book, Engage Every Family: Five Simple Principles is published by Corwin (2016) and quickly became a bestseller.

As the SVP of Strategic Accounts, Dr. Constantino will direct the focus of our training, implementation and sales team as we strive to meet the needs of every family and school district.

“I am thrilled to be joining the LivingTree team. I am impressed with LivingTree, their visionary CEO Gary Hensley, their product and their heartfelt commitment to family engagement. They are changing the face of family engagement and I am so very pleased to be part of this fantastic journey. I am excited to roll up my sleeves and get to work on ensuring every family has the opportunity to be engaged with their children’s learning through advanced, state of the art technology. This truly is Family Engagement 2.0!”

Dr. Constantino began his career as a teacher and moved through the ranks to award-winning principal and school district superintendent. At the State level, Steve served first as Chief Academic Officer and was then appointed to Acting State Superintendent by former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. Today, Steve continues to accept numerous invitations to speak and consult with schools, districts and educational organizations around the world and is also an adjunct lecturer at the School of Education, College of William and Mary where he teaches doctoral level classes in executive organizational leadership and planning and evaluation.

Photo by Kelly J Mihalcoe

LivingTree Education Sessions!

We’re thrilled to announce our participation in upcoming conference sessions. We’re sharing best practices and frameworks based on millions of conversations and points of engagement. The focus of these sessions will be using technology to create positive and inclusive environments. We hope you’ll join us in these important discussions!

Pennsylvania Family Involvement Conference – Harrisburg, PA

Engaging the WHOLE Community with Technology – Monday, 10/16 –  2:45-4:00 – Ballroom D

Texas Statewide Parent Involvement Conference – Houston, TX

Using Technology to Develop a Culture of Positivity – Saturday,12/2 – 8:30–9:45 – Alamo 2

National Title I Conference – Philadelphia, PA

Using Technology to Develop a Culture of Positivity – Thursday, 2/8 – 11:30-12:00 – Room A

National School Board Association Conference – San Antonio, TX

Closing The Engagement Gap – Using Technology to Build Trust and Partnership – Monday, 4/9 –  8:30-9:45

If you’re not attending the conferences but are interested in scheduling a webinar session for your school or district, contact us at info@livingtree.com.

 

 

 

New Year – New Opportunity

Unsharpened pencils, fingerprint free devices, clean notebooks, perfect crayons, unused erasers, clean desks, new class decorations – ahhh, the sights and smells of a new school year. It’s hard to believe a new one is already upon us. As a parent, I have the typical worries about what new teachers and a new school year will bring. Will the class be a good fit for my child? Will he stay on track in all his subjects? Will he continue to love learning? Will he make new friends? What can I do to make sure all of these things are ok? So many questions at the start of a new year….  It’s a time when parents are eager to begin anew and a perfect opportunity for schools and teachers to set a pattern for engagement that will positively impact campus culture and student achievement. Based on our work with educators around the globe, the LivingTree team has put together a quick list of best practices for building on the positive energy of a new school year. Here’s to taking family engagement to the next level in 2017-18!

  1. Be consistent! – Let families know what method you will be using for the year and stick with it. Communicate regularly for best results.
  2. Establish your class rules for communication – Let families know how to reach you and an expected response time. Most families are fine with not reaching out past a certain of day, waiting for an expected period, or using your preferred medium. They just want to know what to expect and how to engage!
  3. Set your calendar in the first week – include important dates and assignments. – Whew! We’re all busy these days – knowing what’s coming and having reminders if you’re using technology that does that can make the difference in a family checking out vs. being your partner.
  4. Share pictures the first week to build trust / openness – A picture is worth more than 1000 words. Pictures show us that the children are learning and happy. Families see the work you put into developing children and respond positively.
  5. Share pictures of important forms/slips that need to be signed/returned – Want a particular paper form returned quickly? Share a picture of it and let families know why! You’ll be amazed at the responsiveness!
  6. Share positive comments and accomplishments at the end of a good day – Nothing helps students and families more than knowing what’s going well. Students are super proud when families congratulate them for something done at school. The conversation goes from “I did nothing” to “YES! I did that!!!”
  7. Utilize your support resources if you’re having trouble – If you’ve chosen a technology or program for engagement, be sure to familiarize yourself with support resources. At LivingTree, we are available at support@livingtree.com or www.support.livingtree.com to make sure all users are connected and engaging.
  8. Teach your families – Using pbl? Let families know that that means with simple terms…define it, share the benefits, let them know what to expect. Families want to engage, but they don’t want to feel stupid! Helping families understand some of the changes to education methods is exciting. They love to know they’re children are getting a first rate education!
  9. Suggest questions for families to use with their students – Having families reinforce your teaching and stimulate additional conversation creates a true network of learning. We hear from families all the time that they want to help but don’t know where to start or what to ask.
  10.   Tips on helping with homework – Want families to help in certain ways? Let them know. Share web links or videos, give simple suggestions. Taking 5-15 minutes to guide families can make a significant difference in the amount and quality of work completed!

BONUS: Want families to download an app (like LivingTree 🙂), accept an invite, etc? Do a homework pass, free dress day, family recognition wall, or something that pairs students and families in connecting with your classroom. Students will help you connect their families if there’s something fun in it for them! Be sure to follow the consistency and media sharing suggestions to keep them engaged!

LivingTree Announces Attendance Alert Capability

LivingTree, a private social network for PK-12 family engagement, today announced the availability of attendance alerts, a new feature of its engagement platform. School and district administrators can now use LivingTree to quickly and easily share attendance alerts with families, extending the solution’s ability to build meaningful connections and accelerate student achievement.

With LivingTree’s new attendance alert capability, all home communications can be delivered via the LivingTree platform. Voice messages are delivered to a parent’s phone number of choice with opt in and opt out functionality in place, per FCC regulation. Additionally, the attendance alert is delivered via email and mobile push notification. Attendance alerts add capability to the phone, texting, multimedia, private messaging, and two way conversation features LivingTree has delivered to schools around the globe.

“An estimated 5 million to 7.5 million U.S. students miss nearly a month of school each year. This represents 10-15% of students in K-12 in the U.S. Absenteeism is a leading indicator that students will ultimately drop out of school. With the addition of attendance alerts to the LivingTree platform, we’re working to build deep partnership between schools and families to reduce this rate,” said LivingTree CEO Joni Carswell. “By consolidating all communication and engagement needs in a single place, administrators can easily connect with families through a platform they know and trust, building partnership to positively impact student achievement.”

School administrators can send attendance alerts quickly and easily, utilizing LivingTree’s data system integration. Based on parent preferences, attendance alerts are delivered to recipients as an email notification, mobile notification (for mobile app users), and/or a phone call — becoming a voicemail if there is no answer. With voice translation to 26 languages and text translation to more than 100 languages, recipients receive the call or message in their preferred language.

Working closely with customers on the design of the attendance alert feature, LivingTree has taken attendance alerts beyond a simple phone call or email. Messages will automatically show in the LivingTree inbox with the option to reply with absence excuses or questions. This further addresses the U.S. Every Student Succeeds Act mandate for two way conversation in native language.

The addition of attendance alerts extend the robust capabilities that LivingTree delivers to schools and parents. Features include SMS texting, the ability to connect into broader school, district, and community networks, enhanced media sharing, private messaging, directory, and analytic reporting. Parents within participating LivingTree schools can share media and announcements, send and receive private direct messages, access directory listings, volunteer for school activities and keep in touch with their children’s teachers.

Since 2012, LivingTree has been working with leading school districts, innovative schools and savvy teachers across the country to build Tiered Social Networks that enable conversations to flow up, down and across the education community. Designed by parents for parents, LivingTree’s one mission is unite educators and families by providing a private, safe and secure platform to facilitate easier and more organic conversations.

LivingTree was recently honored by the Stevie Awards for Women in Business, receiving the 2016 Gold Stevie Award for Community Involvement Program of the Year, and the Silver Stevie Award for the Smartphone App of the Year.

To learn more about how your district, school or classroom can get access to LivingTree, visit www.livingtree.com or call toll-free, 844-548-8733.

About LivingTree
Founded in 2012, LivingTree’s mission is to connect the people who raise, develop, and educate our children. LivingTree aims to include every member of the community regardless of preferred language or socio-economic status. LivingTree’s Tiered Social Network empowers leaders, organizations, educators and parents to connect, share, and coordinate up, down and across all levels of their private network to help improve academic achievement. LivingTree has been recognized for this work by the Stevie Awards for Women in Business as the 2016 Gold Community Involvement Program of the Year and 2016 Silver Smartphone App of the Year. http://www.livingtree.com

LivingTree Announces Third Round of Drako Grant Recipients

LivingTree Announces Third Round of Drako Grant Recipients

One Million Dollar Grant Helps PK-12 Schools Across the Country Deepen Family & Community Engagement via Tiered Social Network®

AUSTIN, TX, June 15, 2017 – LivingTree today announced that it has awarded $500,000 in third round Drako Community and Family Engagement Grants for Schools to districts and campuses throughout the United States. A diverse set of PK-12 school communities representing 27 different states and 80 different districts with varying socio-economic needs were awarded the Drako Grants.

The third round awards bring the total amount awarded to just over $1 million and complete the Drako Grant opportunity announced in April 2017. The grants provide a private, secure LivingTree Tiered Social Network® — including all engagement features, SIS integration, setup, upkeep, training, and support — at no cost for one year.

“We’re excited by the number of applicants seeking to change the way families are engaged in their communities,” said Dean Drako, grant benefactor and LivingTree Chairman. “It’s an honor to be part of improving student achievement by working with these committed and passionate educators.”

LivingTree is excited to share the third round recipients.

Third Round Grant Award Recipients Include:

  • Jefferson Parish Public School System – Harvey, LA
  • Sheldon ISD – Houston, TX
  • Sumter County Schools – Americus, GA
  • Narbonne High School – Los Angeles, CA
  • George Washington HS – Danville, VA
  • Hazel Crest School District 152.5 – Hazel Crest, IL
  • PS 114X Luis Llorens Torres Children’s Academy – New York, NY
  • Monte Alto ISD – Monte Alto, TX
  • Harding Middle School – Des Moines, IA
  • Crosspointe Elementary – Boynton Beach, FL
  • PS1X -The Courtlandt School – Bronx, NY
  • The Varnett Public Charter School – Houston, TX
  • Brentwood Middle School – Greeley, CO
  • Jersey City Community Charter School – Jersey City, NJ
  • Noel Community Arts School – Denver, CO
  • Margaret G. Scotten Elementary – Grass Valley, CA
  • Hilliard A Willbanks Middle School – Demorest, GA
  • Highland View Elementary – Bristol, VA
  • Blessed Sacrament Catholic School – Denver, CO
  • Bay Springs Elementary – Bay Springs, MS
  • Cornerstone Schools – Jacksonville, FL
  • Antioch Unified School District – Antioch, CA
  • North Main Street School – Pleasantville, NJ
  • Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia – Wynnewood, PA
  • Carrizo Springs Junior High – Carrizo Spgs, TX
  • St. Luke Catholic Elementary School – Stockton, CA
  • Dillon Christian School – Dillon, SC
  • Chicago Tech High School – Chicago, IL
  • Rockdale Academy – Cincinnati, OH
  • Cardinal Ohara HS – Tonawanda, NY
  • Robert F. Munroe Day School – Quincy, FL
  • Wallingford Family YMCA – Wallingford, CT
  • Nash Primary School – Weymouth, MA
  • St. John School – San Francisco, CA
  • Walker Memorial Academy – Avond Park, FL
  • Bridgeport Elementary – Bridgeport, AL
  • District 75 – Manhattan School for Career Development – New York, NY
  • St. Mary of Carmel Catholic School – Dallas, TX
  • Nespelem School – Nespelem, WA
  • Harvest Christian Academy – Wilmington, DE
  • St. Edward Catholic School – Minneota, MN
  • Passport Achievement Learning Center – South Holland, IL

“The Grant program has been a joy to share,” said Joni Carswell, CEO of LivingTree. “At LivingTree, we’re inspired by the passion and commitment shown by educators in sharing their desire to partner with families and communities for better student outcomes.”

Third Round Award Recipients Share Engagement Goals

Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia, Rachel Mazurek, Director of Communications and Community Relations:

“We believe that if we had a more accessible means of communicating with our parent body, it could improve our school tremendously. Parent contact is of utmost importance and there are so many ways Living Tree would help us expand and engage our parent body. We believe parents would become more active partners in their children’s education if they had more means of communication and had a greater knowledge of what actually happens in school. Also, we would use it to connect parents to one another and help parents get to know the other parents in their children’s classes and more broadly in the school, creating a better sense of community.”

Encinal Elementary, Menlo Park City School District, Jennifer Kollman, Principal:

“We have a huge need to directly increase the level of parent engagement for our English Learner families. We have set an audacious goal to reduce the number of LTELS in our district to zero in four years. We would be able to use Living Tree to completely engage our EL families in understanding and helping them to navigate the complexities of school, opportunities, announcements, etc. in their own language.”

Jefferson Parish Public School System, Christie Gomez, Director of Community Engagement:

“We will use LivingTree as a singular stop for district and school information. Making the effort to involve all parents by reaching out to them in their native languages and letting them know that we want them to participate will be amazing. Many of the families in our district choose not to use Facebook because it is public, so it’s difficult to engage those parents. LivingTree being private can eliminate some of their privacy concerns making them reachable in an informational as well as social context with two way dialogue.”

Sheldon ISD, Dr. Brenda Dearmon, Director of Federal Programs and Grants:

“LivingTree will be used to offer a communication tool that will inform parents and families of programs and events occurring on each campus and within the district. This will produce positive results, especially for campuses at the secondary level. We will also utilize LivingTree to facilitate a two-way dialogue between parent and school that will assist in establishing effective family – school partnerships.”

Wallingford Family YMCA, Cassandra Allen, Youth Support Specialist:

“With LivingTree we would be able to connect all of our families to not just the program and the staff that they see every day, but with the YMCA as a whole. With greater parent involvement, we would be able to make these programs even better and would be able to showcase exactly what the YMCA does each and every day.”

About the Drako Community and Family Engagement Grant

The Drako Community and Family Engagement Grant for Schools awards schools and districts with a private, secure LivingTree Tiered Social Network® — including all engagement features, SIS integration, setup, upkeep, training, and support — at no cost for one year. School grant recipients are those with a stated plan and need for using technology to engage families and communities. Eligible schools include accredited private and public schools in the United States: pre-schools, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.

About LivingTree

Founded in 2012, LivingTree’s mission is to connect the people who raise, develop, and educate our children. LivingTree aims to include every member of the community regardless of preferred language or socio-economic status. LivingTree’s Tiered Social Network® empowers leaders, organizations, educators and parents to connect, share, and coordinate up, down and across all levels of their private network to help improve academic achievement. LivingTree has been recognized for this work by the Stevie® Awards for Women in Business as the 2016 Gold Community Involvement Program of the Year and 2016 Silver Smartphone App of the Year.  For more information, visit http://www.livingtree.com, call 844.LIV.TREE, or email at: info@livingtree.com

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