For busy families, navigating the education system can be intimidating. This is especially true today, because as education systems continue to grow, support for parents to understand those systems is not necessarily keeping pace.
A nonprofit called EdNavigator launched in 2015 to help address this very challenge. They began by taking a close look at what barriers families faced to engaging in their child’s education. Not surprisingly, they discovered that low-income parents are often overwhelmed with responsibilities, unable to miss work, and face difficulties maneuvering through the changing and complex education system.
“We put the demand on parents to access and interpret more information about their child’s education,” said Tim Daly, Founding Partner at EdNavigator. “And the stakes are increasingly higher.” Based on current trends, U.S. colleges and universities will produce 11 million fewer degree holders than our economy will require over the next decade.
Guided by the belief that everyone wins when parents and families are better informed and more engaged, EdNavigator designed a solution: they would bring the support directly to parents and caregivers at work. EdNavigator, which is currently being piloted with families in New Orleans, partners with socially conscious employers who provide EdNavigator support as a benefit to their employees at low or no cost.
By pairing an advisor—called a Navigator—with caregivers, EdNavigator helps families understand and track their children’s progress, supporting learning at home and advocating for their children’s educational needs. Navigators have an expert knowledge of schools and the community and can decode education jargon. They offer individual, tailored, and honest advice and provide hands-on support to families with whom they build trusting and lasting relationships.
This hands-on support might include in-person meetings, texting and emailing, and even joining parents in meetings with teachers at the school. By collaborating with school districts like Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish, EdNavigator is able to make it far easier for parents to stay in the loop on their child’s academic progress.
In addition, Navigators and families talk about how to support students outside of the classroom. For example, they explore routines, like morning and evening schedules, and brainstorm ways to infuse learning opportunities in those everyday moments.
“EdNavigator has produced remarkable results for the human beings with whom I work,” said Sean Cummings, owner of International House, one of EdNavigator’s employer partners. “Since August 2015, EdNavigator has helped our employees move kids to far better schools and overcome a gauntlet of education obstacles, small and large.”
In most companies, any employee who wants to support a student in their life can sign up for the program. And employers in New Orleans are jumping on board—today, EdNavigator has 14 employer partners including 12 hotels, a university, and a medical center. That means these companies are providing EdNavigator as a benefit—much like a medical or retirement benefit—to roughly 700 employees across the city.
EdNavigator is currently working to increase the number of languages offered and building out their digital tools (including a new mobile app) to better keep parents connected with their child’s Navigator and school. EdNavigator is continuing to expand to thousands of more families in New Orleans and, eventually, hopes to reach children and families in other cities.