by LAURA WELLINGTON on JUNE 17, 2014
Merging Education & Technology!
If you ever doubted the power “parent involvement” plays in impacting students’ own academic commitment, watch this awe-inspiring performance presented by Daniel Hand High School’s show choir “VIBE”:
Ranked amongst the top twenty-five show choirs in the nation, the students participating in VIBE don’t resemble “high school kids” at all but rather seasoned professionals baring the confidence and talent of those well beyond their actual years. It’s the kind of EXCELLENCE that occurs when teachers, school administrations, and parents work closely together to educate children – communication, understanding, involvement, and leadership at its finest – to produce individuals who will continue to own the stage throughout the rest of their lives.
Unfortunately, this stage is not the one so many of our nation’s students find themselves on. Unlike the kids at Daniel Hand, children who arise from families of lesser-means find themselves singing very different tunes when it comes to their own educations and futures. Currently, academic equity continues to fall dramatically short of actual equality — widening the achievement gap between the “have’s” and “have not’s” to forty percent over the last thirty years. And you wonder why our nation is in crisis!
Cultural barriers, economic constraints, lack of understanding, and time limitations play an integral role in keeping children living at or below the poverty level from attending college. And yet – given that we found ways to overcome these walls – the bridges we would replace them with would increase these students’ likelihood of overcoming the cycle of poverty by eighty percent. It’s a reality that entrepreneurs like Cullen Childress are no longer willing to accept, knowing full well that no one will go unscathed given that the continued injustice prevails.
Making the Connections
“Our goal is to connect every parent into the daily lives of their children’s education, no matter language spoken or placement on the socio-economic curve,” says Cullen Childress, CEO of LivingTree. “We call it Raising the Pride, with a mission to help strengthen opportunity for all of our children and our schools – which will yield greater economic growth across the world.”
Combining unique vision with cutting-edge technology and a common-sense approach, LivingTree has already “Raised the Pride” of over seven hundred schools in their first year of operation, including within the same county where Barack Obama’s namesake public elementary school resides — Prince George’s County Public Schools.
With the definition of “parent participation” deriving itself from the efforts both the middle and upper class put forth to-date, LivingTree’s school communication solution ventures to make up for the shortfall lower-income families have been experiencing within mainstream education all along. Beginning with a drastic expansion in the meaning of the word “communication” and all that this renewed understanding entails, LivingTree offers a technology that replaces single directional information pushes with two-way communication and speaks to both teachers and parents in prevalent ways and primary tongues so that no child will, indeed, be left behind for lack of a broadband connection at home or a limited proficiency in the English language.
Breaking Down Financial and Technological Barriers
It should be noted that less than half of all American households with incomes below $25,000 have broadband connections at home, compared with 93 percent of homes earning $100,000 or more. To that same end, about 40 percent of people in households earning less than $30,000 say they go online mostly through their phones, compared with just 17 percent of those earning more than $50,000. Additionally, by 2025, twenty-five percent of the student population in the United States will be made up by ELL students. Stands to reason why LivingTree developed their technology to be fully available as web plus native iPhone and Android applications while also integrating translation to more than 40 different languages on web and mobile alike. Effective communication begins with getting everyone through the door – so to speak – and onto the same page.
Rest assured, though, the LivingTree door is one fully secured and governed by an “invitation only” basis. Not just anyone is let in; each school and district network is safe, private, and secure. But those who are invited will be granted full access to every aspect of students’ academic lives…and maybe even their extra-curricular activities as LivingTree believes that the more information the most important people in students’ lives share, the more helpful, supportive, and effective schools can be in educating children. And there is vast evidence to prove this thinking to be true, including that of Booth & Dunn (1996) who noted that academic success may be predicted by the quality of these connections.
It seems to me that – given the United States currently ranks number thirty-six on the PISA (Program For International Student Assessment, 2012) scale – tools designed to promote academic success comprise smart investments into our nation’s future – especially at a price tag of one dollar per child – the cost of signing each child up onto the LivingTree system for a school district. Somehow, I think that if we really looked, we could find that dollar within the $71 billion designated as discretionary funding by the U.S. Department of Education’s 2014 budget committee.
I think if we did, we might find more kids standing on similar stages to that of the Daniel Hand High School kids. They might even feel proud enough to sing “God, Bless America” within their soliloquy. Wouldn’t that communicate a powerful message to the rest of the world while comprising a pertinent first step in truly demonstrating the unity of this country from the ground up? In my opinion, both remain long overdue … and I hasten to add that LivingTree and many others would agree.