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Kidappolis Communities for Early Education Equity and Family Stability

A mobile platform for equity, academics, and family stability, with personalized home learning for children led by parent/teacher partners.

Photo of Debra Coltoff
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The kidappolis family app is LitLab’s existing mobile portal sourcing the top free bilingual learning resources for children, aged 2-10. Kidappolis uses frequent mini assessments to understand each child’s needs, measuring improvement against age-appropriate benchmarks. We track usage and provide personalized learning plans to improve skill gaps and accelerate academic success, targeting the specific needs of emergent bilingual and low-income individuals. Families receive easy to understand on- and offline activities via SMS/text message that extend learning beyond the screen.

Kidappolis Communities provides LitLab mobile tools along with necessary family support services, across targeted local partner agencies, family centers, and medical offices. Families receive free books and activity prompts upon visiting partner locations, along with free kidappolis mobile app access. Community agencies gain remote direct access to their clients, sharing local resources/services through kidappolis SMS/text message delivery. Parents gain awareness of/access to local support services in a timely, convenient, and safe way, building increased utilization of resources. By activating networks of support providers, local agencies become a tight web of safety, supporting traditionally at-risk under-served families. As partners engage with clients via LitLab tools, their client base and our impact grow.

LitLab programs originally aimed only to foster academic skill development. In 2018, we pivoted to do so while removing the barriers that keep families in the poverty cycle. Now, during the time of COVID-19, the kidappolis mobile app is once again pivoting to provide vital home learning to low-income families that may not have home internet, devices, or printers. Parents access kidappolis on their mobile phones in their home language. We send SMS/text messages about skill development, safety, ways to provide for key family needs, emergency information, resources, and live/virtual events, all by location to target providing families with local support. Families receiving such resources stabilize and our partner agencies reach a broader range of clients. Our objective is to empower all parents to make use of available resources to increase their stability, giving them more bandwidth to partner with their children in academic skill growth.

But the world has changed significantly with this COVID-19 pandemic. LitLab is pivoting again, even further, to partner more closely with teachers in bridging the gap between the classroom and low-income, bilingual parents. Many low-income families are not connected at home or lack personal devices. Most online learning options are in English only. Kidappolis is one of the only options available that helps to bridge the academic divide between the haves and have nots. With this next step, we aim to maximize kidappolis effectiveness for at-home learning and as a quality content source for skill development, while reinforcing bonding in celebration of co-learning and interactivity. In partnership with the Teachers Guild and Ravenswood School District in East Palo Alto, we will explore kidappolis as an opportunity for a user-centered, parent-centered, teacher-centered tool connecting low-income and bilingual families to a future forward learning system that fully supports children in academic skill growth, and parents in academic partnership, no matter where families learn.

What is the need are you focusing on?

Kids unable to read by 3rd grade are 13x more likely than their high-income peers to drop out of high school. Thousands can't attend school, exacerbating the trend known as ‘summer slide’. Low-income/emergent bilingual families, those likely to have children behind in school, are at greater risk from instabilities endemic to poverty exacerbated by shelter-in-place orders: crowded housing, poor nutrition, underlying health conditions, and job loss. Kidappolis will provide:

A Mobile Platform. 90% of our families have smartphones/data plans; mobile phone learning is critical during this crisis and beyond.

Empowered Caregivers. Parents struggle to teach; we provide the skills/tools for parents to become their kids’ best teacher, in their home language.

Strong Safety Nets. Millions need help to survive the economic impact of COVID-19. Kidappolis is a web of resources stabilizing families, so kids can stay school ready.

Which type of submission are you sharing?

  • Sharing a pivot idea your organization is considering or could consider

Describe the business pivot or adaptation in 3-4 sentences.

“It’s hard to find twenty minutes a day to read to my daughter when I don’t know where we’re going to sleep tonight.” Many families struggle to find critical resources; with a global pandemic and recession, such resources will be in greater demand for years to come. Beyond basics, kids must also have quality learning and parents need strong instructional support, during and beyond the emergency. Future learning may look different, so LitLab is asking the question: How do we connect teachers (learning experts/educational innovators), closely with caregivers (at-home instructors/coaches), to provide children with the best tools for equitable academic success (kidappolis platform)? Our pivot will create updated content/design for kidappolis to facilitate a ‘sticky’ teacher and parent partnership when parents may not be highly educated, English fluent, or academically skilled. This will facilitate each child's age-appropriate school growth, while enhancing families’ long-term stability.

Do you plan to implement this solution?

  • Yes

Describe the impact that this solution will create in the world.

4M US kids begin kindergarten this fall. All will have been out of school for at least 6 months. Normally, 1.8M start school unprepared for success. This year’s numbers will be far greater. Economic effects from COVID-19 will be deep; we must provide families with resources for success. Kidappolis is uniquely positioned as an innovative solution teachers, families, and service providers can depend on for quality learning and collective impact. Our pivot targets a pilot with LitLab partners: The City of East Palo Alto, Ravenswood USD, and Teachers Guild professional community, from 6/2020-6/2021, to see how kidappolis can support home learning in cooperation with individual school districts, schools, and teachers, and to focus on academic equity for bilingual/low-income families. We will work with 650 families who have students at Ravenswood elementary schools. 95% of users qualify for FRP meals and are bilingual/low-income. We are creating a large-scale social impact learning model.

What is the name of your business or organization?

Literacy Lab (DBA LitLab)

What does your business/company do? Whose needs does your business/company address? Who do you serve?

Our mission ( provides for urgent needs of low-income/emergent bilingual families. The kidappolis mobile app fosters academic skill development at home, and increases family stability. Impoverished parents face disproportionate burdens, impairing positive parenting. Unsafe living conditions, lower levels of education, and elevated adult health problems compound the burden. With data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Birth Cohort, the Brookings Institute found that 75% of US kids in moderate-high income families were prepared for school, compared to 48% of kids in poverty. 15M+ US kids live below the federal poverty level. Parent involvement in learning improves outcomes, closing the gap in school success.

What is your profession?

Fundraising Lead

Where are you located (country)?

United States

Where are you located (region)?

  • North America

What industry is your business/company in?

  • Education Technology

How many people does your business/company employ?

  • 0-10

How old is your business/company?

  • 5-10 years old

Which classification describes your organization/business?

  • Nonprofit/NGO

What kind of stakeholders and partnerships are needed to pursue this solution?

  • Funding- Grants
  • Funding- Loans
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- NGOs
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Private Sector
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Grassroots/Community Groups

Do you need help building partnerships and finding partners?

  • Yes

If Yes to the above, please share 1-2 sentences describing the specific help you desire.

Currently, our impact is most limited by our need to find local and national distribution partners. We could also use help finding additional philanthropic partners to seed our expansion.

What do you think are the main barriers to implementing this solution?

Our work has been at the forefront of technology that delivers well-designed, iterative content, resources, and support to children and families to narrow the achievement gap. Our interventions receive positive reception from partners and participants. However, the barriers to implementing our solution include: - The timeline to develop and release an updated version of the app that is even more successful for families - An uncertain fundraising future as we enter a recession - The unclear roles of schools and parents in public education this fall and beyond - Our staff can support the linguistic needs of our current population (almost 80% English and Spanish speakers), but we’d like to offer program content in other languages

If you are currently working on a pivot, what have you learned so far?

Since the start of California’s COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, LitLab has been working to pivot kidappolis to fit the current emergency needs of our target families. We have learned that parents need daily, easy to implement educational activities to keep their children engaged, and that many in low-income and underserved communities still need basic resources for survival. We have learned a lot about centering teachers in the conversation about what school will look like moving forward, through our friends at the Teachers Guild. Gia Sudaris, Superintendent of Ravenswood Unified School District, and the City of East Palo Alto have requested that LitLab become a district partner over the next 12 months to provide free kidappolis access to all community families. Through these new partnerships we will design and pilot a new model for supporting successful connections between the classroom and the home.

Are you aware of any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to your solution? Are you participating in these efforts?

We are partnering with the Teachers Guild this Summer in East Palo Alto to participate in Learning Circles with local educators and parents, and to use design thinking to develop new ways of engaging children and families in successful learning at home.

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Isaac Jumba

Welcome to the challenge Debra Coltoff  , really exciting to learn about your pivot and your focus on working with low-income families.

We thought it might exciting to have you be part of the COVID-19 Reimagine Learning Challenge: where you could share your concept, learnings and connect with other community members (such as schools, educators, students and innovators) re-imagining learning at this time and beyond.

Photo of Debra Coltoff

Thank you for your recommendation, Isaac. I have now created and published our information in the COVID-19 Reimagine Learning Challenge. I look forward to continuing the conversation. My gratitude for your assistance.