August 9, 2023

Present at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting: Scaling a Behavioral Intervention

This week, management and organization scholars from across the globe convened for the 83rd Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management. This year’s theme was Putting the Worker Front & Center, and given our tumultuous post-pandemic world of widening income gaps, anti-work movements, and AI, it’s a topic more timely than ever. 

So much of worker success and the strength of our economy hinges on a strong education system. In the midst of unprecedented levels of chronic absenteeism and unfinished learning, innovative solutions to get our nation’s students back on track are a must.  Fortunately, our co-founder & Chief Scientist Dr. Todd Rogers was in attendance in his capacity as a professor of public policy at Harvard. He shared the story of how EveryDay Labs and the proven-effective EveryDay Intervention was born, how it was scaled across the country, and the impact of better attendance on future worker earnings.

Building a Behavioral-Science Based Intervention

As a behavioral scientist, Dr. Rogers was inspired by behavioral interventions like mail nudges that leveraged the behavioral science concept of social proof. Particularly, letters sent by electric & water companies showing customers their usage and comparing it to their neighbors. This personalization and comparison motivated people to shift their habits to be more energy and cost efficient, benefiting both themselves and the larger community. 

These successful programs didn’t end with utilities—what if they could help reduce absenteeism in our nation’s schools? 

After testing personalized mail nudges to families of students who were chronically absent or at risk of being chronically absent in several large urban districts, Dr. Rogers and fellow researchers were encouraged to find that the nudges reduced chronic absenteeism by 11%-15%. The evidence was there. But the question remained— how could this promising intervention be scaled?

Scaling Up

After offering this evidence-based approach to districts to implement on their own, and even attempting to launch a non-profit, a lack of traction led Dr. Rogers and co-founder Avi Feller to create the startup EveryDay Labs. Securing funding was easier, and made scaling up a top-tier team and expanding to districts in need a lot more sustainable. 

In 2016, the co-founders set out with three goals for the new startup: 

        1. Reduce absenteeism as much as possible

         2. Culture of continuous testing, and transparency about causality and impact

         3. Sustainable, profitable social enterprise

Today, we’re proud to partner with over 40 districts nationwide, reducing absenteeism by 11-15% through the proven effective EveryDay Intervention, and continuously testing our offerings to make them better and better.  We’ve sent nearly 10 million mail and text nudges this year alone and over the years have saved districts and the students they serve 1.4 million days of instructional time. 

Never losing sight of the goal of continuous improvement, we tested text nudges during remote learning and found that it significantly increased our impact. It has become a key part of EveryDay Intervention, not only keeping families informed of their student’s attendance, but also connecting them to the 24/7 Family Support Bot. 

We also tested different phrasings and language to hone in on the nudge content and ensure it was accessible to all families and pushed them into positive action. For example, sharing an exact number of days missed vs. a vague “more than” led to a 22% improvement in the nudges. 

So What?

But what does good attendance really mean for today’s managers and tomorrow’s workers? Of course we are happy to see more students have access to instructional time and critical resources that their district has invested heavily in. However, attendance can have serious implications for the nation’s future workers. 

Poor attendance means students are more likely to miss key academic milestones like reading by third grade and high school graduation. And not going to college, let alone dropping out of high school, can cost them big time. 

Let’s crunch the numbers: 

  • Research has shown that the total lifetime earnings for a student with high school-only or some college amounts to $1.5-$2.4 million. 
  • Assuming that each additional year of school can increase lifetime earnings by 10%, then an additional 180 days of school can increase lifetime earning by $150-200,000, about $800-1,000 per day.  
  • Adjusting that amount of future earnings into today’s dollars, an additional day of school leads to $500 to $600 in additional earnings.
  • Based on our model informed by 14 RCTs and our numerous district partnerships, EveryDay Intervention has increased attendance by 1.4 million days, amounting to, as of 2022, an increase of future earnings of current students by about $1 billion

From academic and emotional well-being in childhood to building an empowering future career, it’s evident that attendance counts, beyond the simple raising of a hand. 

Ready to reduce chronic absenteeism by 11-15% and get your students on track for success in school and beyond? Learn more about EveryDay Intervention here

Getting students on track starts with attendance. We can help.