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

LivingTree Announces Second Round of Drako Grant Recipients

LivingTree Announces Second 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, May 22, 2017 – LivingTree today announced that it has awarded $250,000 in second 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 11 different states and varying socio-economic needs were awarded the second round Drako Grants. 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.

The second round awards represent 25% of the Drako Grant total set at $1 Million as announced in April 2017. The first round of awards announced in early May also represented 25% of the Grant total. Schools and districts that wish to apply for the remaining $500,000 have until June 1st, 2017.

“The number and quality of applications demonstrates the need for technology in engaging families,” said Dean Drako, grant benefactor and LivingTree Chairman. “It’s an honor to work with the diverse group of schools and districts pursuing family engagement initiatives to improve student achievement.”

LivingTree is excited to share the second round recipients.

Second Round Grant Award Recipients Include:

  • Leander ISD – Austin, TX
  • New York Public Schools District 13/17 – Brooklyn, NY
  • La Joya ISD – La Joya, TX
  • Cobalt Institute of Math and Science – Victorville, CA
  • McIntosh Elementary School – McIntosh, AL
  • AKTIV Learning Academy – Virginia Gardens, FL
  • Grace Christian Academy – Port St. Lucie, FL
  • Willingboro High School – Making Visions Possible Program – Willingboro, NJ
  • Foster Elementary PTO – Hingham, MA
  • John J. Pershing I.S. 220 – Brooklyn, NY

“The excitement shown by the applicants from across the United States is contagious,” said Joni Carswell, CEO of LivingTree. “The LivingTree team is enjoying working with round one winners on their plans for next year and thrilled to begin planning with the round two recipients.”

To learn more and apply for the grant, please visit: Drako Family Engagement Grant.

Second Round Award Recipients Share Engagement Goals

Leander ISD, Shannon Lombardo, Community Services Director:

“Currently, campuses have a variety of resources they are using to attempt to communicate with their families: campus newsletters, teacher emails and district emails as well as all of the social media outlets. We are interested in seeing the impact if we streamlined all engagement to LivingTree.”

NYC Public Schools District 13/17, Pamela Payne, Family Leadership Coordinator:

“I have been working for almost 12 years as a parent advocate. Parents need leadership, guidance and ongoing support to deal with the many issues they face. Our faith-based program will partner with the local school community and assist them in planning specifically toward building parent knowledge in academics for their children with a university as our partner. We will also partner with local officials to address parent school concerns as needed.”

Willingboro High School – Making Visions Possible, Gary Nelson, Director:

“We plan to utilize LivingTree to show families a positive narrative of student success at Willingboro High School. Our goals are to create a school community that is heavily involved in the external community and to consolidate all of our resources into an easily accessible, private platform.”

AKTIV Learning Academy, Maribel Alvarez, School Director:

“We plan to utilize LivingTree for family engagement by integrating it into the school’s day to day duties that will keep our parents consistently informed such as: school events, school calendar, documents and links to learning tools for students. We believe it will make communication more accessible and look forward to communication improving for both the parents and the school.”

Cobalt Institute of Math and Science, Veronica Hill, Family Engagement Liaison:

“Family engagement is a huge priority at our school; LivingTree will be a great benefit to us. We are a Title 1 school and have found that the more engaged and informed parents are, the more likely students will do well in their studies.”

La Joya ISD, Velma Ochoa, Family and Community Engagement Coordinator:

“I am looking forward to using technology best practices when working with our families and community. Our entire academic community will benefit greatly from LivingTree. Our students and families are eager for progress.”

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.

To learn more and apply for the grant, please visit: Drako Family Engagement Grant.

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

LivingTree Announces First Round of Drako Grant Recipients

LivingTree Announces First Round of Drako Grant Recipients

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

AUSTIN, TX, May 3, 2017 – LivingTree today announced that it has awarded $250,000 in first 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 11 different states and varying socio-economic needs were awarded the first round Drako Grants. The grants provide a private, secure LivingTree Tiered Social NetworkR — including all engagement features, SIS integration, setup, upkeep, training, and support — at no cost for one year.

The first round awards represent 25% of the Drako Grant total set at $1 Million as announced in April 2017. Due to the strength and volume of applications, awards are being made in rounds. Early grant recipients have the opportunity to immediately begin implementation planning towards goals shared on their applications.

“It’s a true honor to help schools create family and community partnerships that will positively impact student achievement,” said Dean Drako, grant benefactor and LivingTree Chairman. “The variety of the schools that have applied demonstrates that family engagement is a universal objective regardless of the location, environment, or grade level.”

LivingTree is excited to share the first round recipients.

First Round Grant Award Recipients

  • St. Lucie Public Schools – Fort Pierce, FL
  • Union County Public Schools – Monroe, NC
  • Alexander City Schools – Alexander, AL
  • Crockett County C.C.S.D. – Ozona, TX
  • Southwest ISD – San Antonio, TX
  • Jacksonville City Schools – Jacksonville, AL
  • Edward Bleeker JHS 185 – Flushing, NY
  • Firelands Montessori Academy – Huron, OH
  • New Caney ISD – New Caney, TX
  • Holy Name Central Catholic Jr/Sr High School – Worcester, MA
  • Newberry Academy – Newberry, SC
  • South Clearfield Elementary School – Clearfield, UT
  • St Martin High School – St. Martin, MS
  • Sweetwater Elementary – Douglasville, GA
  • Waiahole Elementary School – Kaneohe, HI

“We’re thrilled to partner with a group of school leaders devoted to building trust and achievement within their communities,” said Joni Carswell, CEO of LivingTree. “Many applicants shared their desire to consolidate engagement efforts into a single platform and reach all families using translation and mobile. The LivingTree team is ready and enthusiastic to help these schools realize their vision.”

To learn more and apply for the grant, please visit: Drako Family Engagement Grant.

Initial Award Recipients Share Engagement Goals

St. Lucie Public Schools, Kimberly Roberts, Program Manager:

“Living Tree will help us improve communication between the school and families by sharing options and ideas. Living Tree will provide support and ideas that will engage family and community members. The professional development LivingTree offers will help us improve our relationships between the school and families which in turn will help us build a stronger overall community to support our young in their education. Schools need to build bridges with our families and community that will last. We will engage families – not just involve them for today.”

Waiahole Elementary School, Alexandra Obra, Principal:

“We will communicate with families on a daily basis! Next school year, our focus is on the relationship between the school and home. We want to engage our families in their child’s learning. We would like to have all of our information in one spot so that families don’t have to look all over the place. We also want to make sure that our families have access to the information and can see what their child’s day looks like, as well as highlight what is taking place on our campus.”

Crockett County C.C.S.D, Janina Savala, Federal Programs:

“Living Tree will offer the two-way communication for all students in our district. Currently, most of our communication is one-way through the use of newsletters and notes that are sent home on a weekly basis. Having two-way communication will impact our school community positively by encouraging the parent to ask the teacher questions about concerns. Creating a platform where parents can talk to each other and to school staff and resolve differences early on will be a great benefit.”

Union County Public Schools, Tahira Stalberte, Chief Communications Officer:

“Living Tree has several features that will be extremely beneficial to UCPS and its families. We will use it provide ongoing communication with families, invite feedback and open doors for engaging with families in a non-traditional setting. LivingTree will provide a new and organized platform that can increase parent involvement in UCPS.”

Southwest ISD, Marie Cathryn Phelps, Student & Outreach Services:

“It is our sincere belief that families want to be connected to their children’s school community just as much as we want to be connected to them. We will utilize LivingTree as a district community…I literally picture a tree as a symbol of the district, strong and steadfast, reaching out to provide support, shade, or fruit to its stakeholders, and in this process, we will build and grow relationships where we will be connected and intertwined as we educate and grow our students. I believe that LivingTree will be a very powerful tool as we develop and grow a district wide family and community engagement initiative, that..can be a sustainable part of the community for generations to come.”

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 NetworkR — 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.

To learn more and apply for the grant, please visit: Drako Family Engagement Grant.

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

Proactive Family Engagement Efforts

As shared in District Administration Magazine – Q&A with Joni Carswell of LivingTree

Increasing student success with proactive family engagement efforts – Having a single platform to house all activity and conversation can help districts transform family engagement!

What are the benefits of an effective family engagement program?

Decades of research shows that family engagement is the number one driver of student success. Engaged families result in lower truancy rates, higher test scores, and higher graduation rates. Having positive relationships with families reduces teacher stress and increases their sense of community and belonging.

Many teachers engage with families via email, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media apps. What’s wrong with that?
Public social media can be problematic due to privacy, security, general noisiness and account setup. On public channels, school communication is competing with personal, political and a variety of content streams. It’s unruly—a parent with multiple children would end up trying to follow 20+ accounts that are not connected. There’s also limited promise of COPPA and FERPA compliance to protect our children’s images and information.

Why does a district wide or systemic approach matter?
For parents, a classroom by classroom or campus by campus approach is typically extremely chaotic. Each teacher may be using a different method or worse, a parent is going to a different website for every teacher. Teachers are charged with setting up the page or group as well as keeping after parents to pay attention or join. This wastes valuable time. With a district wide or systemic approach, these burdens can be alleviated for both families and teachers. Setting up classrooms for the teachers with all connections in place such that they simply log into their accounts and share as desired saves a tremendous amount of time. For a parent, presetting an account having relevant class, grade level, campus, and district content flow into a single place can be the difference in an engaged vs. a checked out parent.

How can districts ensure equity and participation in their family engagement initiatives?
Technology and Simplicity! Two of the biggest challenges of family engagement are reach and the unintentional chaos created by too many communication channels. Technology such as mobile applications and instant translation solve the reach dilemma by offering the ability to connect every family in a community regardless of preferred language or income. Beyond reaching every family, technology can simplify engagement for everyone. Families and teachers are frustrated and overwhelmed by the time spent trying to determine HOW and WHERE to connect. Consolidating efforts to a single, secure place easily accessible via mobile calms the chaos of managing many students, families, subjects, etc. Simplifying HOW and WHERE allows the school community to focus on actual engagement.

What is LivingTree’s Tiered Social Network®, and why is this model important to school districts?
LivingTree’s Tiered Social Network® provides a systemic solution for family engagement. It takes the burden off the teacher and parent and allows for two-way conversation in 100-plus languages on web or mobile. Each group (class, grade level, etc.) has its own private community which nests into the organizational layer above it. Conversation and content flow up, down and across the tiered network based on group membership and relationship to the community. LivingTree’s Tiered Social Network® uniquely gives administrators at each level the full view and analytics of the smaller community networks feeding into their part of the organization. LivingTree empowers communities to engage and ultimately achieve greater student success.

Digital tools help districts overcome language barriers to family engagement

As shared in Education Dive

Digital tools help districts overcome language barriers to family engagement – One social network’s automatic translation feature has helped parents better interact with teachers

Ensuring language barriers do not get in the way of parent access to essential school and district information is not just a strategy for increasing engagement, it’s required by federal regulations. And in districts with dozens of different languages spoken by families, meeting these obligations is no easy task.

Schools across the country have added interpreters and translators to their staffs, purchased subscriptions to telephone interpretation services, and coordinated with community agencies to make sure qualified interpreters from a range of backgrounds are available for important meetings and school events.

When it comes to basic family engagement, some schools have begun to take advantage of digital tools with built-in translators to go one step farther. The nation’s most diverse zip code, 75038, is in the Irving neighborhood of the Dallas metro area. It’s largest population group is Asian, and they make up just 25.7% of the neighborhood. The zip code is also 25% black, 23% Latino and 23% white.

The Irving Independent School District serves much of the 75038 zip code, and, like this neighborhood, has a particularly diverse student body. This year, its students speak a total of 52 different languages. Lesley Weaver, division director of communications, says the district has interpreters on staff who can interpret into and out of some of the most common languages while also coordinating services for families who speak other languages.

While the district website has long featured an automatic translation feature, which currently translates into more than 100 different languages, Weaver has been particularly pleased with a private social network the district debuted in 13 schools in the fall of 2014 and later rolled out to the remaining 25.

Living Tree can be downloaded as a free cellphone app or accessed online, just like Facebook. Teachers can post updates about classroom lessons or upcoming events, sharing text, photos and videos in a private network that— most important for Weaver — allows two-way communication. Parents can like and comment on posts and send private messages to teachers. Thanks to the automatic translation, every user can be reading and writing in his or her preferred language.

“We know that regardless of income, regardless of language, parents want to be connected to their child’s education,” Weaver said. “All parents want what’s best for their kids.”

Living Tree gives parents an easy and direct way to communicate about day-to-day classroom activities. But while it features automatic translation, computers will never be perfect at something so complicated as translating nuanced language.

“We remind teachers in trainings that they need to be cognizant of the things they’re posting,” Weaver said.

Among the best practices they are reminded of is staying away from slang or innuendo because it may not be translated accurately. One example Weaver offers teachers is based on a standard turn of phrase — it’s common to say “we’ve got a lot of great things ‘in store’ for the new year” but “store” will almost certainly be translated into business by automatic tools.

So far, Irving ISD has about 8,200 active users on Living Tree. In a district with 35,000 students, that’s far from 100% parent participation, but considering the last app the school marketed garnered just 1,400 users, Weaver considers Living Tree a success and an important addition to its family engagement efforts.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act says individuals cannot be discriminated against by national origin, and the courts have made clear that language barriers that prevent meaningful access to public institutions amount to exactly that. In January 2015, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released joint guidance to help schools and districts meet their legal obligations to English learner students and their parents and guardians with limited English proficiency. This document was the clearest and most comprehensive outline of school responsibilities on this matter to date.

From the joint guidance, schools and districts must make sure LEP parents get all the same school information provided to English-speaking parents including — but not limited to — information about: “language assistance programs, special education and related services, IEP meetings, grievance procedures, notices of nondiscrimination, student discipline policies and procedures, registration and enrollment, report cards, requests for parent permission for student participation in district or school activities, parent-teacher conferences, parent handbooks, gifted and talented programs, magnet and charter schools, and any other school and program choice options.”

Schools must also have a defined process for identifying parents who need translation and interpretation services and then providing it. And they need to provide language assistance with “appropriate, competent staff” or similarly qualified outside resources. That means asking bilingual staff members to translate in IEP meetings or pulling children in to translate for their parents during parent-teacher conferences is not allowed.

“Some bilingual staff and community volunteers may be able to communicate directly with LEP parents in a different language, but not be competent to interpret in and out of English … or to translate documents,” the guidance reads. School districts can be — and have been — found liable for relying on untrained or unqualified interpreters.

While app-based, automatic translators cannot fulfill a district’s responsibilities under the Civil Rights Act, Irving ISD has found its chosen tool can at least round out engagement efforts across a diverse community.

“We want families to feel like they have good, accurate, current information about what is going on in their child’s school as well as how they can help them,” Weaver said.

Its social network can at least do that.

 

 

Dean Drako Acquires LivingTree, a K-12 Family Engagement Company

Drako to Amplify LivingTree Tiered Social Network® Development and Cybersecurity Strength

AUSTIN, TX, November 30, 2016 – LivingTree, a K-12 family engagement platform provider, today announced that Dean Drako, founder and former CEO of cybersecurity firm Barracuda Networks, has acquired the company. Drako’s multi-million dollar investment will accelerate LivingTree’s customer growth and development of its Tiered Social Network®, which provides a secure, community-wide platform for educators and parents to engage – facilitating and improving ongoing communication and student achievement.

“Parent-teacher engagement is vital to student success,” said Dean Drako, LivingTree’s owner and executive chairman. “LivingTree is the strongest platform I’ve found to interactively connect teachers with parents in an organized yet secure way. The fact that LivingTree doubled its user base in the past twelve months and continues to onboard new schools each week demonstrates that they are meeting a critical community need.”

LivingTree Tiered Social Network Meets U.S. Government Parent Engagement Guidelines

The LivingTree Tiered Social Network enables family engagement regardless of language preference or socio-economic status, and addresses the directives set by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA requires extensive parent-teacher communication including two-way native language conversations with every family. These requirements must be met to receive Federal funds allocated for low-income environments (Title 1).

LivingTree enables school-family engagement in an organized, flexible manner that maps to the relevant view for each community member. The typical LivingTree classroom has 120 interactions per family each month. Standard family / teacher interactions include classroom updates, photos, family questions, and calendar events.

LivingTree has been embraced by schools across the country for its unique ability to connect parents and teachers, helping them achieve more than 4 million online conversations. Lesley Weaver, Irving Independent School District’s director of communications, shares that “In Irving ISD, we started out with 13 campuses as early adopters of LivingTree. The feedback we received from parents, principals and teachers has been incredible. It’s helped solidify parents’ trust in our schools.”

Launched in 2012 to bridge the family engagement gap, LivingTree’s level of transparency and partnership moves beyond classroom involvement, giving teachers, school, and district administrators the ability to send and receive messages, media alerts, push notifications, event reminders, and volunteer opportunities to parents and students. Users can share photos, documents, files, emails, texts and posts automatically translate into more than 100 languages.

Dean Drako, LivingTree Executive Chairman

Dean Drako is a well known serial entrepreneur with more than five successful ventures; he holds 29 U.S. patents. In additional to being founder and former CEO of Barracuda Networks, he is currently the CEO of cloud video surveillance company Eagle Eye Networks, which provides video surveillance solutions to K-12 schools and districts.

Mr. Drako will use his extensive business, cloud software, and cybersecurity expertise  to scale LivingTree and continue to deliver a robust, reliable, and cybersecure solution for school and family engagement.

“We are honored to have a new partner in our mission to transform engagement for administrators, educators, families, and students alike,” said Joni Carswell, CEO of LivingTree. Dean has been working with us to enhance our functionality and security, as well as to reach more communities in our mission to positively impact student achievement.”

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

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Contact:

Laura Wooster

APC Collective

202-681-4010

laura@apccollective.com

Tiered Social Network

LivingTree builds trust and partnership between schools and families by providing private, social networks to enable family engagement. LivingTree builds these communities using the LivingTree Tiered Social NetworkR.

What is LivingTree’s Tiered Social NetworkR?

It is a private social network that is built as a hierarchy, or ‘tiered’ – like an organization chart or feeder pattern. Each group (class, grade level, etc.) has its own private community which nests into the organizational layer above it. Conversation and content flow up, down, and across the tiered network based on group membership and relationship to the community.

Users are given relevant content based on their relationships or connections to the community. For example, a kindergarten parent receives their class, kindergarten grade level, school, and district level content. They are not disturbed with irrelevant information from other classes, grades, or schools within the broader community.

hierarchyLivingTree’s Tiered Social NetworkR uniquely gives administrators at each level the full view and analytics of the smaller community networks feeding into their part of the organization. LivingTree empowers leaders and organizations to connect, share, and coordinate up, down and across all levels of their private Tiered Social NetworkR.

With all engagement efforts (announcements, texts, alerts, photo sharing, volunteer management, two way conversation, private messaging, etc.) in a single network, administrators, teachers, and parents experience less chaos and frustration, save time, and can focus on engagement!

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 introduced many updates regarding family engagement. Anne T. Henderson of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform released an excellent brief detailing the updates. LivingTree uniquely addresses the need to implement campus and district wide collaboration – allowing for two way conversation in native language. Below are relevant excerpts from Anne T. Henderson’s brief and ESSA.

The purpose of Title I: “To provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps.”

FROM ESSA:

Title I: Parent and family engagement

District policy: (1) In general — A school district may receive funds under this part only if:

  • It conducts outreach to all parents and family members;
  • Implements programs, activities, and procedures to involve parents and family members in Title I programs.
  • Plans and implements such programs, activities, and procedures with meaningful consultation with parents of participating children.

Reservation of funds for parent and family engagement – Minimum 1 percent:

  • Each district shall reserve at least 1 percent of its Title I allocation to assist schools to carry out the parent and family engagement activities (except for districts where 1 percent of the district grant is $5,000 or less). This provision shall not limit districts from reserving more than 1 percent.
  • Parent and family input: Parents and family members of children receiving Title I services shall be involved in the decisions regarding how these funds reserved are allotted for parent involvement activities.
  • Distribution of funds: Not less than 90 percent of the funds reserved shall be distributed to schools served under this part, with priority given to high-need schools.
  • Use of funds: Funds reserved by the district shall be used to carry out activities and strategies consistent with the district’s parent and family engagement policy, including at least 1 of the following:

a. Professional development: Supporting schools and nonprofit organizations in providing professional development for local educational agency and school personnel regarding parent and family engagement strategies, which may be provided jointly to teachers, principals, and other school leaders, specialized instructional support personnel, paraprofessionals, early childhood educators, and parents and family members.

b. Home-based programs: Supporting programs that reach parents and family members at home, in the community, and at school.

c. Disseminating information: Informing on best practices focused on parent and family engagement, especially best practices for increasing the engagement of economically disadvantaged parents and family members.

d. Collaborating with community-based organizations: Providing subgrants to schools so they can collaborate, with community-based or other organizations or employers with a record of success in improving and increasing parent and family engagement.

e. Other activities: Engaging in any other activities and strategies that the local educational agency determines are appropriate and consistent with such agency’s parent and family engagement policy;

Shared responsibility for high student academic achievement: School-Parent Compact

As a component of the school-level parent and family engagement policy developed under this section, each school served under Title I shall jointly develop with parents for all Title I children a school-parent compact that outlines how parents, the entire school staff, and students will share the responsibility for improved student academic achievement and the means by which the school and parents will build and develop a partnership to help children achieve the State’s high standards. The compact shall:

Describe parent-teacher communications: Address the importance of ongoing communication between teachers and parents through, at a minimum:

  1. Parent-teacher conferences in elementary schools, at least annually, during which the compact shall be discussed as it relates to the individual child’s achievement;
  2. Frequent reports to parents on their children’s progress;
  3. Reasonable parent access to staff, opportunities to volunteer and participate in their child’s class, and observation of classroom activities; and
  4. Regular two-way, meaningful communication between family members and school staff, and, to the extent practicable, in a language that family members can understand.

LivingTree addresses every aspect of parent-teacher communication, enables campus and district wide dissemination of information, encourages collaboration with community organizations, and grants every community equitable access.

 

Teaching Tolerance

Families join our teachers from a variety of circumstances and cultures. Moving beyond beginning of school introductions to partnership takes planning and effort. True family engagement is a year long process.

Teaching Tolerance has excellent resources available to guide teachers in partnering with ALL families throughout the year to achieve ultimate student success. From this attitudinal survey to guidance on respect, their resources can simplify planning. Attitude and respect are paramount to developing and maintaining family relationships. Three key respect takeaways:

  1. Value the cultural knowledge children bring to school by acknowledging family diversity through discussion, affirmation and celebration.
  2. Build cultural continuity between home and school to encourage parent involvement in school activities.
  3. Explore your own family background as well as the diversity specific to your classroom community.

Communicating in home language, reaching every parent where they are, and allowing two way conversation between all families are key steps in realizing respect and transparency. Technology in the form of a single, secure platform can provide this and be a cornerstone in achieving your engagement plans, transparency, and mutual respect this year.

Engagement & Fundraising

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