During Joanna Smith-Griffin’s time at Excel Academy Charter Schools in Boston, working as a student engagement director, she noticed the glaring truancy her school suffered from and became determined to do something about it.
After realizing this was a nationwide issue across all K-12 schools, she came up with a plan to develop an app that would predict children at risk of truancy.
The 24/7 automated two-way texting chatbots proactively encourage student attendance and draw from “a customized knowledge base to ensure each family and student receives the right support at the right time,” per AllHere’s website. This new attendance tracking tool fights chronic absences and aims to increase academic performance through tailor-made interaction with struggling students.
The AI-powered system has since raised $8 million of venture capital financed by Spero Ventures. Additional investors include Rethink Education, Gratitude Railroad, Potencia Ventures and Boston Impact Initiative, among others.
Currently, AllHere has grown and impacted more than 8,000 schools in 34 states, having reached over two million students.
While Smith-Griffin has discovered that there are other environmental variables that come into play with absenteeism, such as complications with health, housing, food and transportation, her approach has been demonstrated to reduce truancy by 17%, lower course failures by 38% and increased student retention through randomized, controlled trial research.
“Most families tend to underestimate the number of days that their kids miss, and how that impacts student achievement,” Smith-Griffin said to EdSurge.
“We foresee that post-COVID, the scale of this problem will increase dramatically. We envision a world in which nearly every student will need some kind of assistance to re-engage in brick and mortar learning,” she said.
After AllHere’s next round of investments, Smith-Griffin plans to add new features specific to each school that would fight truancy in remote learning.