Sep 16, 2019

Schools turn to texting to help parents keep kids on track

Photo: Maciej Luczniewski/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Text message reminders for parents have led to an increase in reading to toddlers and a rise in Head Start enrollment and school attendance, new research shows.

Why it matters: Despite emerging technologies in early childhood education from Big Tech, researchers say that behavioral targeting via text is the most affordable option for parents — especially low-income ones — to help their children stay on track, USA Today reports.

The big picture: Several studies show that text programs have a "big impact on parental decision-making."

  • A study from a Head Start center in Chicago showed parents were more likely to read to their children if they received text alerts that encouraged them to follow through, per USA Today.
  • In 2018, the Bezos Family Foundation created a weekly text program that gives parents ideas for free, on-the-spot activities to engage the minds of their children.
  • One study from the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans sent personalized texts to parents on how they could enroll their children in Head Start, which led to more sign-ups compared to families who did not receive the reminders.
  • At the high school level, text reminders to parents led to teens skipping fewer classes, completing more homework and earning higher grades, per a study from Columbia University.

Go deeper: The digital babysitter generation

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College admissions scandal: Judge moves to cap prison sentences at 6 months

Consultant William Singer. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani ruled this month that prison sentences for parents accused of taking part in the college admissions scandal will not be based on how much money they paid to William Singer, a consultant who led the bribery scheme, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Why it matters: Under the federal guidelines that Talwani will consult, parents can face a sentence ranging from no time in prison to 6 months. The ruling has frustrated federal prosecutors, who tried to convince her that larger payments should draw longer sentences. The judge will sentence 10 more parents this week under these new guidelines.

Go deeperArrowSep 23, 2019

Schools face backlash for "shaming" students over lunch debt

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Schools across the country are cracking down on school lunch debt, and some are getting public and political backlash for "shaming" low-income students who haven't paid their lunch tabs with tactics such as threatening to put them and their siblings in foster care and using collection agencies.

Why it matters: Children from low-income families can qualify for free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch at their schools, which receive federal funds for the meals served. As national demographics shift and budgets are stretched, some school districts are seeing an influx of eligible students, creating enrollment delays, errors and negative balances.

Go deeperArrowSep 18, 2019

Doctors can sometimes struggle to identify child abuse

Photo: Buero Monaco/Getty Images

Some pediatricians who are stationed at major hospitals across the country are working with child welfare and law enforcement officials to help protect abused children from additional harm.

Why it matters: These doctors' conclusions check out most of the time, but murky evidence can risk the breakup of innocent families when doctors misidentify child abuse, an investigation by NBC News and the Houston Chronicle found.

Go deeperArrowSep 20, 2019