Bridging the Gap: Using Gen AI to Get Parents Engaged in Their Children's Education9 min read
America’s Students Are Falling Behind
Headlines across the nation paint a bleak picture of American education.
The pandemic undoubtedly worsened the learning loss experienced, but now students are slipping even further behind.
A recent federal government survey revealed that, on average, an alarming 50% of public school students are behind their grade level in various subjects. Test scores have also declined across socioeconomic and racial groups, further emphasizing the gravity of the situation.
However, what's even more concerning is that despite the headlines, many parents are unaware of how far their children have fallen behind. While testing data shows a significant number of students off track, almost 90% of parents believe their child is learning at the appropriate grade level.
Addressing this learning gap is complicated, especially in subjects like math that require sequential learning. Accelerating lesson plans for sequential subjects is not a viable solution.
Parents who want to support their children face a daunting challenge. Assessing what the child needs support in, determining how best to provide that support, and finding the activities and resources that can deliver improvement can be overwhelming and time-consuming. It will also vary significantly by student, and many parents may not even know where to start looking.
The Power of Parental Involvement for Student Success
Yet, while parents may struggle to know how best to help, studies consistently show that parental involvement is crucial for maximizing student success. Across different ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses, when parents and families actively engage in their children's education, academic results improve significantly.
Research proves that school-supported efforts to increase parental involvement correlate to higher math and reading scores. Additionally, family involvement enhances reading comprehension, boosts student interest in reading, and increases attention levels in the classroom. Parental engagement doesn't stop at academics; it also improves a student’s participation in school, their motivation, and their social-emotional skills, while reducing instances of delinquency.
AYO: When Technology Meets Education
While many school districts struggled during the pandemic to expand their use of technology, the Mesquite, Texas Independent School District (Mesquite ISD) and SoftServe had already made moves to incorporate tech into learning. Their mission was to:
- Make tailored education effortless.
- Engage each student to ensure they are seen and supported.
- Dynamically pave pathways for students to discover greater potential.
- Cultivate a community where families are involved, districts are better prepared, and the learning process is improved.
The result was AYO, an innovative platform leveraging AI to make education effortless. No longer was education one-size-fits-all, as AYO provided students with personalized educational information aligned to their interests and aptitudes. Now that learning was tailored to each student's unique needs, AYO helped spark curiosity and increased engagement.
Dr. Angel Rivera, Superintendent of Mesquite ISD, praised AYO as a game-changer that caters to the passions and talents of every student. Through intelligent algorithms and recommendations, AYO introduces new interests, activities, certifications, and resources that match individual aspirations and pave the way for future success.
Outside of learning, AYO nurtures social-emotional development, empowering students to become leaders. It also fosters collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills — all of which are essential for thriving in today's workforce.
Designed to grow with students throughout their elementary and secondary education, AYO utilizes data such as grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities to build a holistic student profile. Alongside additional information provided by parents and educators, students themselves further customize their experience as they interact with AYO via surveys or user feedback.
Using AI to Streamline Parental Engagement
Thanks to AYO, Mesquite ISD and parents understood that AI can improve learning processes. With AI's continual improvement and growth, SoftServe regularly introduced new features to make AYO easy to use while continuing to improve educational outcomes.
That's why SoftServe implemented the Family Feed in 2023 as part of a broader functionality designed to keep Mesquite ISD parents and students informed. This latest AYO feature now allows communication between district stakeholders, students, and families and provides district-wide news and alerts.
Yet, SoftServe's team wanted to ensure parents weren't just informed but also engaged. Mesquite ISD needed a way to help parents meaningfully participate in their child's learning, but without it being complicated.
Incorporating Generative AI to Maximize Student Success and Family Involvement
With Mesquite ISD stakeholders needing a way to support parental engagement, SoftServe’s experts incorporated an additional Family Feed functionality called Family Activity Suggestions.
Leveraging AYO's algorithms and Generative AI, this feature meant parents could actively participate in their child's learning without added complexity.
While advancements in Gen AI's ability to curate information have captured the attention of the tech world, few organizations have the capabilities to integrate it into their products or platforms due to its many complexities.
The Family Activity Suggestions Functionality
For the Family Activity Suggestions, SoftServe combined AYO’s algorithms with Gen AI to produce an extensive range of activity options tailored to individual student skills, passions, location, and schedule.
To do this, SoftServe experts interfaced with the Google Palm 2 model as the main LLM engine using Vertex AI Studio. The team also set up a custom translation service to maintain consistent quality and lessen LLM biases. They integrated this service with the Vertex AI Model Registry and Vertex AI Endpoint to deliver the best possible performance.
The outcome was a functionality that suggested activities meticulously curated to align with an individual student's skills and passions. These activity suggestions also factored in the student's location and schedule to ensure the suggestions were convenient. Quickly becoming a cornerstone of the AYO ecosystem, these Family Activity Suggestions empowered parents to nurture their children's talents with diverse and convenient activity recommendations.
Since its launch, this functionality has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from parents and Mesquite ISD stakeholders. Generating nearly 2,000 distinct activities from 400 student interests, our team collaborated closely with Mesquite ISD staff to meticulously evaluate each one. This vetting process ensures each suggestion is meaningful and suitable for students and their families before it’s approved and included. Close to 27,000 individual users have already benefited from this tool, receiving over 234,000 activity suggestions.
SoftServe’s Support Now Fosters Meaningful Parental Involvement
Over the last few years, AYO has become integral to Mesquite ISD’s overall educational strategies.
AYO's comprehensive scope fosters holistic student development and encourages parental engagement while supporting educators and Mesquite ISD stakeholders. This new feature aligns with AYO's thorough product development strategy, with elements designed to enrich the educational experience and better serve AYO users.
Now, with AYO's Family Activity Suggestions functionality, Mesquite ISD remains dedicated to elevating parental engagement levels and ensuring connectivity with families and students across the district.