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Startup uses behavioral science to combat student absenteeism

EveryDay Labs CEO Emily Bailard joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss the outlook for back to school amid COVID-19.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

SEANA SMITH: Millions of students are heading back to school over the next couple of weeks, and there's one company that's helping school districts boost their attendance rates, something that we have seen slip over the past year and a half during the pandemic. They also announced a funding round of $8 million today. So we want to bring in Emily Bailard. She is EveryDay Lab's CEO. We're also joined by Yahoo Finance's reporter Reggie Wade. Emily, congratulations on this new round of funding. We'll talk about that in a second, but first, just give us a sense of some of the trends that you are seeing just in terms of how many students are attending school and what that compares to historically speaking.

EMILY BAILARD: Sure thing. And thank you for having me on the show. So what we're seeing, so historically, we've seen absenteeism be a pervasive challenge. So even before the pandemic, 1 in 6 students missed 10% or more of school days. Now since the pandemic, that's really spiraled. And so we've seen those rates double, particularly amongst more vulnerable students and disadvantaged students. So this is a really critical challenge that has the potential to have unfortunately profound impacts for student learning this year.

REGGIE WADE: Reggie Wade here. I was a former teacher, and I remember calling parents' houses when kids would continually to be absent, and some parents were receptive to this and some were not. How do some of the work that you're doing help schools kind of have these interventions with these parents?

EMILY BAILARD: Yeah, that's a great question. And you know, what you're talking about, having, forging a real relationship between school staff and families is a really important strategy. As you mentioned, not all family, it's always easy to reach families. So what we do is, we really unite behavioral science and data science to have effective family engagement. And the way, I can give you some examples of what that looks like if that would be helpful.

REGGIE WADE: Yeah, go ahead.

EMILY BAILARD: So for example, one thing that we know is that, so my daughter Jane is in third grade, and most parents, and I'm the same way, really lose track of absences over time and have no context for what's normal or abnormal. So what EveryDay Labs does, is if Jane starts missing too much school and is getting off track, I'll start receiving nudges through snail mail and through texts that show me, help me keep track of Jane's absences, shows me how it compares to her classmates. And then also really critically, helps me connect to resources to help me address barriers to attendance that we might be facing.

So for example, just this week Jane had a potential COVID exposure. I didn't know what the policy was. Should I keep her home? Send her to school? So that's what these nudges and supports really help with. Another thing that they do is they really help families to see like, oh, there's a problem, and help families come to the school or come to their teacher and ask for help.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Emily, so you do have this latest investment round. It's got participation of Reach Capital, Gary Community Investments, a bunch of other teams as well. What do you hope to do in terms of expanding what you're already working on? Are there efforts to try to go even maybe beyond K to 12 maybe to colleges at some point? I'm just spit balling here. But what do you aspire to do with this latest round?

EMILY BAILARD: Yeah, that's a really good question. And we're really excited to have support from leading investors in this space, including Rethink Impact, who's leading the Series A. And we are working to really scale. So currently, we support about a million students nationwide. So this funding will really enable us to scale our work to support students across many more school districts in the country.

And then from a product expansion perspective, we're really focused on K-12 education. And so we're also going to be using this funding to expand into other related areas to improve student success, like enrollment and accelerating learning for students.

REGGIE WADE: Emily, within the data that you receive, where do you see the biggest problem in absences being? Is it in the high school level or is it more the elementary and junior high school level?

EMILY BAILARD: Prior to the pandemic, we saw that absences were a bigger problem in high school than the other grades. Now with the pandemic, we're actually finding that it's as pervasive of a problem in the early grades as well. And that's really concerning, because we know that when students miss even just two days of school a month in kindergarten and first grade, they're far less likely to be proficient readers by the time they get to the third grade. So attendance in those early grades is just as critical as in the later ones.

SEANA SMITH: Emily Bailard, thanks so much for joining us. We wish you all the best. CEO of EveryDay Labs. And of course, our thanks to Reggie Wade as well.