The Platform Built for Family Engagement

In our increasingly digital world, there’s an app (or a dozen) for every need and/or want we can imagine. Education technology is no different. Every week, it seems like there is a different app for behavior, communication, attendance – you name it. With limited direction from the school or district, teachers are left to sort through and drive these apps to try and find the best tools that work for their students’ families. But when is enough enough? When does one more app become too much for families? Why are we placing more burdens on our teachers, families, and students with too many single-purpose applications? Are we trying to use an app when a platform is needed? A resounding “YES” is the answer when it comes to family engagement.

Family engagement is the number one driver of student success, leading to increased attendance, better behavior, and improved academic performance. Yet, when it comes to technology, we’re letting the two-way conversations flow on public social media or offering classroom-level private social media that teachers, families, and students set up and manage themselves. Maybe we’re even doing single-direction notification apps instead of anything that approaches a conversation. These methodologies change from year to year, and there’s a lack of consistency from classroom to classroom within a school, and campus to campus within a district. We lose parents and families on the sheer basis of confusion and time to connect. Families become frustrated and experience “app overload” when there are too many places to check for information about their child. This then results in teachers become frustrated with the lack of participation and amount of time required to upkeep all the information.

At Livingtree, we created the technology to solve this. Taking a school or district-wide platform approach resolves the engagement barriers of time and consistency. Livingtree takes care of the set up for staff AND families while integrating with the school information system to keep classrooms up to date daily. This takes the time burden away and allows our educators, families, and students to focus on positive conversation and partnership. Providing a school or district-wide platform with engagement features (two-way conversation and messaging, translations, media sharing, volunteer and event management, etc.) can truly take family engagement to a whole new level.

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 platform that promotes engagement.

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 recognize that in our increasingly digital society, families are expecting to communicate with their child’s teacher through technology in a way that is familiar and safe. Using a district-wide platform that allows this type of interaction 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 own 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 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 that is familiar to families. (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, rostering, and the adoption associated with the number of free teacher communication apps. However, when schools and teachers resort to using free apps or programs, they are often tasked with having to set up their classroom, upkeep the roster of students and families, and most of all push 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 using 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 typically 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 use 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.

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.

 

 

 

Hurricane Relief

When Hurricane Harvey came ashore August 25, 2017, an estimated $180 Billion in damage across 300 miles resulted. The damage included 200,000 homes and over 300 schools. As the school year progresses and the initial and incredible rush of support depletes, there are still many educators and families in need. Many students have lost everything and are trying to start a new school year with no supplies and limited clothing. This is near and dear to our hearts as many of these school communities have been part of our LivingTree family for years. At this point in time, these communities are asking for gift cards and/or funds to help students in need return to a sense of normalcy. Allowing these students to purchase uniforms, choose their own backpack, and select school supplies will help them return to the classroom ready for the year. A few communities have shared their needs with us. Please see below for requests and more details.

Crosby ISD  – Crosby ISD has a few unwanted distinctions from Hurricane Harvey including the highest rainfall ever recorded for a storm – 55”. They also had the ARKEMA plant where evacuations occurred due to chemical explosions. 51 student families and 9 staff members were severely impacted by Hurricane Harvey – many have lost everything they own. The district has been able to help with food and is beginning to address clothing needs. However, they still have students existing without roofs or beds (tents). They’re working to pair each family with a sponsor – the need is that great. Contact: Karen Walthall, Principal – kwalthall@crosbyisd.org

Calallen ISD – Calallen ISD is in Corpus Christi, TX close to where Hurricane Harvey first came ashore. Calallen has had an influx of new students who lost everything in the storm. These students are in need of uniforms and supplies. Calallen ISD has requested Wal-Mart gift cards in $25 increments to provide to families as children come back to school. The local Wal-Mart carries uniforms and supplies needed by these students. Please send the gift cards to the address below:

Attn: Annie Swetish-Rivera
Administration Building
4205 Wildcat Drive
Corpus Christi, TX 78410

Port Aransas ISD – Port Aransas had damage to the majority of homes and structures. They’re looking for gift cards and funds to help students return to school. Donations can be made directly to the district:

Meghan Zigmond
zigmond@paisd.net
100 S. Station Street
Port Aransas, TX 78373

Houston ISD – Houston ISD had 200 school facilities sustain damage from Hurricane Harvey. As some students were welcomed back to school September 11, 2017, many facilities were still inoperable. HISD has asked for funds to be donated centrally at: http://www.houstonisd.org/Page/164281

Mandarin Immersion School – The Mandarin Immersion School is part of Houston ISD and has many families who lost everything in the Houston flooding. They have set up a fund to provide these families support for clothing and supplies as families wait for up to two months to work with insurance adjusters to chart a path forward. Donate here: Youcaring.com/MIMS

Horn Elementary – Horn Elementary is located in Houston ISD with many families impacted by Hurricane Harvey flooding. Their Parent Teacher Organization is distributing funds to families in need to purchase clothing and supplies: http://hornpto.org/sunshine-fund/

Msgr. Kelly Catholic HS – Msgr. Kelly Catholic HS in Beaumont, TX is a co-ed school of 440 students.  The school sustained water damage in nearly every classroom resulting in all the carpeting and floor tile being removed. The school has 6-8 staff and about 25 students/families who sustained significant flood damage to their homes. They’re seeking financial assistance in the form of money or gift cards to help families rebuild. Contact: Roger Bemis, Principal – rbemis@mkchs.com

Katy ISD – 75% of Katy, TX flooded during Hurricane Harvey. 15,007 students and 2,600 employees of Katy ISD are recovering from direct impact of the storm. Funds are needed to rebuild schools (16 flooded campuses) and immediately to help families with clothing and supplies. Donate here: http://tinyurl.com/pledgecentskatyisdfamilies

Diocese of Beaumont – Diocese of Beaumont is a mission Diocese with five schools. The high school and two schools PK3 – grade 8 had floodwater. About 50 staff members lost everything to flooding along with 130+ families. They have removed floors and wet walls, abated asbestos, sanitized and cleaned everything. It’s not pretty, but they’ve worked hard for students to return to school the week of 9/12. Many of their families still need significant financial help. Contact: Marcia Stevens, Superintendent of Catholic Schools –mstevens@dioceseofbmt.org

As we work together to support communities in need, please let us know if Hurricanes Harvey or Irma impacted your school community and you have specific needs by emailing info@livingtree.com. We share specific needs on our public social media channels – Facebook and Twitter. Thank you!

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 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

Nurture International School – “Go For It!”

Dr. Stella Pandhare, Principal of Nurture International School, says “Go for It”

Nurture International School is in their second year using LivingTree. During this school year alone, Nurture International has shared 5600 posts, 440 files, 160 events, and 4800 photos. They are realizing their vision of building a strong and vibrant community. Dr. Stella Pandhare shares more of her school’s story below.

Describe your parent engagement strategy and methodology prior to LivingTree. Prior to LivingTree we used conventional methods such as sending printed newsletters to parents.

Why did you decide to use a new method or tool for parent engagement? We wanted to build a strong and vibrant community in our school. Schooling does not happen in a vacuum. We deal with parents, children, and teachers day in and day out. We deal with their emotions and apprehensions. Every stake holder of the school needs to be on the same page for the child to benefit the most. Our relationship with the parents is very important for us to help the child in the right manner. We were looking for an elegant and scalable technology platform for our solution. After much careful consideration, we adopted a new innovative social communication platform called LivingTree.

What are some of the positive outcomes your school has identified with LivingTree? LivingTree has united all parents, students, and staff and created a vibrant, engaged community with a true sense of togetherness. It has enabled us to provide transparent, on-time communications to parents and allows feedback on all school related activities and information. Information is easily accessible to parents on the web, iPhone and Android devices. Parents are “always connected” to the school and the staff is easily accessible to the parents. The staff is aware of parent concerns and can take immediate measures. Daily activities in the class are captured by the teacher and shared with the parents. Teachers share lessons plans, special activities, and notes with parents and students.

What LivingTree feature is most useful to your staff? Creating events.

How do you encourage teachers who are hesitant to use LivingTree for engagement? We ensure that all teachers are brought together on the platform. To accomplish this, the school senior staff collaborates with all staff to create awareness about the initiative at all levels. We discuss how LivingTree can eliminate clerical work and create a good rapport between the school and the community.

What would you do if LivingTree went away? It would leave us significantly handicapped.

What one thing would you say about LivingTree to others? LivingTree can help bridge communication gaps and bring your community closer. It is a secure platform for positive communication. It will increase parent involvement in school wide activities. So, go for it!

Drako $1,000,000 Family Engagement Grant for Schools

LivingTree Executive Chairman Dean Drako Announces $1,000,000 Drako Community and Family Engagement Grant for Schools

AUSTIN, Texas. April 4, 2017 – Dean Drako, LivingTree owner and executive chairman, announced today that he has funded the Drako Community and Family Engagement Grant for Schools for up to $1M; individual schools and districts who are awarded the grant will receive their own private and secure, Tiered Social NetworkR — including all engagement features, SIS integration, setup, upkeep, training, and support — at no cost for 1 year. Eligible schools include accredited private and public schools in the United States: elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.

Schools Report Improved Family Engagement with Private Social Networks

A recent survey showed that that only one in five schools reported having greater than 50% of families engaged. Districts cite using more than 12 methodologies to engage families and frustration with results. One hundred percent of districts using private social networks report improvement in family engagement. The top reasons for increased family engagement are based on student achievement and include: higher literacy rates, better attendance, higher test scores, and increased graduation rates in addition to a culture of partnership for educators and families alike.

“We are funding this community and family engagement grant to make it easier for more schools to use the latest technology to build trust and partnership within their communities,” said Dean Drako, Executive Chairman, LivingTree. “LivingTree’s private and secure Tiered Social NetworkR offers many benefits to improve engagement and awareness, including two-way translation to 100+ languages, native mobile apps, media sharing, volunteer management, emergency alerts, and simple implementation.”

$1,000,000 Drako Community and Family Engagement Grant for Schools – Details

Grant winners will receive a grant for one full year of funding for their custom LivingTree Tiered Social NetworkR and associated planning, implementation, and training. The solution includes SIS integration, emergency alerts, SMS texting, two-way translation, mobile apps, media sharing, all other LivingTree engagement features, and community partner networks. LivingTree also provides marketing and awareness materials as well as best practices for using technology to engage families and community. LivingTree social networks are private and secure and offer weekly analytics at the class, campus, and district level.

The Drako Community and Family Engagement Grant for Schools is appealing to help schools use the best technology to consolidate and simplify engagement efforts. Research shows that engaged families can offset as much as $1000 in needed funding per year for each student. Further, some states require objective measures of family engagement while the national Every Student Succeeds Act mandates two way conversation in native language.

LivingTree is a hosted service and requires no additional technology at the school sites. LivingTree is COPPA compliant, FERPA compliant, and a Student Data Privacy Signatory. At the end of the 12 months, if the school chooses to continue using the LivingTree Tiered Social NetworkR, they would purchase the annual license and continue with uninterrupted service. The school / district also has the option to shut down their network, at no charge.

Grant applications will be accepted starting April 4, 2017.  Application deadline is June 1, 2017. Grant winners will be selected based on the merits and timeliness of their application.

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

Case Studies on Family Engagement and LivingTree

Briargrove Elementary School: Houston, TX  

Briargrove Elementary serves ~900 students in the Houston School District. Nearly half the school’s population is Latino and Asian-Pacific, and 23% of students are in ESL programs. Prior to LivingTree, the school relied heavily on room parents and the PTO to relay information and volunteer opportunities to parents. Despite the combined use of flyers, email blasts, and newsletters, parents felt uninformed. Results from a 2011-2012 survey showed parents felt excluded and disconnected from the school. As of Fall 2016, 100% of classrooms were engaged on LivingTree and fully 60% of network members were contributing content, commentary, or appreciation! Briargrove has successfully resolved the disconnect parents originally felt with the school.

Briargrove’s Principal, Eden Hinds, shares: “Using the LivingTree platform, our school  was able to build a much tighter community and meaningful engagement with our families. It has truly changed our level of transparency with parents and how we converse, share, and coordinate in the context of educating our children.”

For the full case study, please visit 100% Participation = Real Results.

Irving Independent School District: Irving, TX

Irving ISD, a district serving approximately 35,000 students in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, began using LivingTree in November 2014. The district has earned a number of accolades, including being named the 2015 national Advanced Placement District of the Year; an “amazing CTE program” in the U.S.; and having its high schools recognized among the top 10% of high schools nationwide by U.S. News and World Report. The district was looking for ways to share those success stories and continue its parent engagement efforts after opening Parent Centers in each of its schools. Like many school districts across the state, Irving ISD serves a diverse student population and wanted a way to reach ALL families, regardless of home language (54 languages are spoken in Irving ISD), the parent’s education level or socioeconomic status.

Irving ISD has strong belief in the benefits of parent and community engagement, and has a stated district goal of enabling and ensuring community engagement and collaboration. Based on the results of district wide surveys of teachers, parents, and students in spring 2014, Irving ISD sought to establish digital two-way dialogue accessible via mobile application. That’s when Irving ISD decided to implement LivingTree to meet their two-way dialogue, translation, mobile, and privacy needs. “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,” says Lesley Weaver, Irving ISD’s Director of Communications.

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, 844.LIV.TREE, info@livingtree.combanner-980x550_c

 

NSBA Innovation Showcase 2017 – LivingTree Selected!

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve been selected as a member of the 2017 National School Board Association (NSBA) Innovation Showcase.

National School Boards Association Announces 2017 Education Technology Innovation Showcase

March 21, 2017

Alexandria, Va.  (March 21, 2017) – The National School Boards Association (NSBA) announced today the four companies selected for its annual Technology Innovation Showcase.

“NSBA has a long history of serving as a bridge between the entrepreneurial community and the school leaders charged with making critical decisions,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director & CEO, National School Boards Association. “The Technology Innovation Showcase highlights how new solutions have the potential to address critical challenges in education just as innovations have transformed other industries from entertainment to transportation.”

The 2017 Technology Innovation Showcase includes the following companies:

Allovue
Allovue, a K-12 education finance technology company, empowers educators to strategically and equitably allocate resources. Their software platform, Balance, integrates seamlessly with existing accounting and data systems to help educators budget, manage, and evaluate spending.

FreshGrade
FreshGrade, a portfolio and assessment platform for teachers, students, and parents, brings a new level of transparency to the classroom. The suite of mobile and browser-based applications provide solutions that include modern assessment practices to support personalized learning.

k12itc
k12itc, founded by a former district director of technology, allows educators to focus on learning while the company manages the unique technology challenges and pressures, identifies cost-saving efficiencies and helps districts remain on the cutting edge of innovation.

LivingTree
LivingTree has revolutionized how educators and families connect, collaborate, and coordinate by leveraging the power of their private and safe social network specifically designed for the K-12 education system.

Submissions were solicited from start-up companies providing new approaches to challenges across the K-12 curriculum, administrative operations, and communication channels. Reviewers included educators from NSBA’s “20 to Watch,” a recognition program that honors emerging education technology leaders.

“The nation’s 90,000 school board members work with their local communities and district administrators to create a shared vision for learning and align resources that involve the intersection of education policy and technology practice,” said Ann Flynn, NSBA’s Director of Education Innovation. The Technology Innovation Showcase offers a forum for school leaders to explore new technologies and think through the tough questions they need to ask before embracing any new entrant to the K-12 marketplace.

The 2017 class will be featured in an exclusive area of the exhibition and participate in a Tech Innovation Showcase panel during the NSBA Annual Conference in Denver, March 25-27, 2017. Later this summer, they will be featured in NSBA’s magazine for school leaders, American School Board Journal, and participate in a webinar hosted by NSBA’s Technology Leadership Network (TLN).

TLN, launched in 1985 by NSBA and its state school boards associations, helps advance the wise use of technology in K-12 education to support learning, operations, and communications.

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The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is the leading advocate for public education and supports equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. NSBA believes public education is a civil right necessary to the dignity and freedom of the American people, and all children should have equal access to an education that maximizes his or her individual potential. The association represents state school boards associations and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S. www.nsba.org 

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