Investors learn how to babysit in the classroom


How technology is dealing with the increase in absenteeism fueled by Covid-19.

By Marlene Givant Étoile

When U.S. schools closed during the Covid-19 pandemic last year, many students failed to attend virtual classes or enroll in new schools after their families moved due to personal issues .

Now, as schools reopen in person for the fall, several companies are devising technology to deal with the alarming rise in absenteeism and declining enrollment. Unsurprisingly, companies are also gaining the attention of investors.

Before the pandemic, federal data from 2017-18 showed that more than 8 million K-12 students were chronically absent, defined as missing 10% or more of the school year, according to Education week. Now there is evidence that rates have exceeded those in the 2020-21 school year, as students shy away from lackluster distance learning, care for loved ones, or seek employment to keep families afloat. , according to the report. More than a million children who were required to enroll in school did not show up, either in person or online last year, according to government data shared with The New York Times. Missing students were concentrated in the youngest classes, with the largest decline in kindergarten – more than 340,000 students, according to the report.

According to “Present Danger: Solving the Deepening Student Absenteeism Crisis,” a recent report from Georgetown University, Covid-19 has resulted in declining student attendance rates in underfunded communities, even though attendance rates in better-off students have increased.

Everyday Labs, a technology provider based in Redwood City, Calif., To improve attendance and other student outcomes, sends out electronic “nudges” or personalized messages to prevent absences. Emily Baillard, CEO, said Merger market in August, up to 5 million children did not enroll in school in 2020-2021 in the United States, either due to serious family issues like homelessness or increased mobility due to Covid-19 .

Baillard said his company frequently receives openings from investors.

“I feel inundated with private equity firms reaching out. This is probably true for most edtech companies, ”she said in an interview. “I tell them, ‘We’re focused on scaling now. »» Everyday Labs works with more than three dozen school districts or more than 1,500 schools.

Another company in the space, Graduation Alliance in Salt Lake City, offers flexible pathways to high school graduation for youth and adults; promotes college and career exploration; and connects employers with skilled workers. Since 2007, Graduation Alliance claims to have worked with more than 650 state agencies, school districts, community colleges and workforce boards across the country to recruit, re-enroll, educate and mentor students across more than one million student interactions. In addition to its aligned program offerings, Graduation Alliance’s approach involves recruitment, transcript analysis, technology, coaching and mentoring, socio-emotional learning assessment and intervention. and robust support services. The company did not respond to maintenance requests.

A third company in space, ChallengeU, a Montreal-based educational technology company, was founded by Nicolas Arsenault, who previously formed the Mobilys Foundation, a charity focused on reducing dropout rates. Arsenault said Merger market last year that the company could consider a sale to capitalize on the shift to distance learning brought on by the coronaviruses.

“The pandemic could [attract] a strategic desire for an e-learning presence and the possibility of creating an e-learning center within a [school] district, ”as well as contenders“ seeking to launch e-learning in the midst of Covid-19 without doing it alone, ”he added.

The company had sales of nearly $ 7.5 million at the time of the report.

In Canada, ChallengerU’s curriculum is aligned with state and national government standards and focuses on grades 11 and 12 math and English: subjects at-risk students need to keep them from dropping out. The program is free to students and sold to school districts. ChallengeU’s approach in the US is even more comprehensive than in Canada, where it only provides a technology platform. In the United States, “we are responsible for the graduation. We provide teachers, coaches and administer exams statewide and report to the district, ”he said.

Ryan Lufkin, senior director, higher education product marketing for Instructure, said Covid-19 has changed the metrics needed to measure student engagement.

“The traditional idea of ​​dating is a bit outdated,” Lufkin said. The publicly traded company’s learning management system is used for both K-12 schools and higher education.

The real problem, he said, is whether they “consume the materials and engage with the content,” as opposed to traditional “end-to-end metrics”.

Marlene Givant Star is the cover of the US editorial sector for Mergermarket. She can be reached at [email protected].


Norma A. Roth