Blog Post

The Family Trust Network launches in Memphis

Education never rests. Streets, buses and stores are all classrooms. Neighbors, coaches, and siblings are all teachers. A holistic education supports the whole child—academics, behavior, social and emotional learning, and health and wellness—in school, at home, and in the community. RyeCatcher and the Achievement School District, Memphis, TN are building a digital “Community of Trust”, that brings together parents and families, support teams, in-school staff, and community caregivers.

The Family Trust Network

In our project, the interdisciplinary team will build a set of tools to empower parents and families in coordinating and communicating with schools and service providers to support positive learning outcomes for their children. The system will be comprised of:

• A parent consent and communication platform

• Action plans and reports

• A case study covering the effect of the tool, content and resources on the delivery, access, and usage of services 

• An Information Graphic: A Community of Trust in Education that illustrates the system, and elements of security and trust


Our Connected Learning Laboratory: The Achievement School District, TN

This August, The RyeCatcher team traveled to Memphis, TN to launch the Family Trust Network project on Enrollment and Registration Day at the Achievement Schools. We visited 5 schools on the 04 August. At each school, parents and families completed the Needs Mapper on paper, online, or as in-person interviews. 

Senchel Matthews, Director of Student Support Services, while conducting Mapper interviews at WestSide Achievement Middle School on Registration Day, August 4, 2015.

The Needs Mapper

The Needs Mapper is the first step in the process of identifying services for students and families. The Mapper is a 13 question survey that asks families to provide information about their needs in a simple, and easy to use format. Upon analyzing the results, student, school and cohort level reports are provided to initiate the referral, consent, and parent engagement process. Results also enable school-wide programming to be developed to address larger, systematic needs. To facilitate completing the case study, the team provided information and resources for parents and families about participating in the project. 


User Research: Parent consent application

Once the Mapper had been completed, families and parents we invited to participate in interviews with me and the design team, Ashley Deal and Raelynn O’Leary. Ashley and Raelynn developed a set of design concepts to illustrate key components of the consent and engagement application. We conducted user research sessions to review concepts with parents, families, and school stakeholders. 

Ashley Deal, Designer, reviewing the consent and engagement application concepts and designs with a parent. 



User research is eye-opening. Every time. It makes us better designers.

This time was no exception. We learned A LOT in Memphis, but we will listen to Steve Krug’s sage wisdom[1] and focus on 3 things that we can work on now:

“Permission” v.  “Consent” 

We have been focused on and thinking about consent forms for service providers, but when we talked to our end users, we learned the word “consent” didn’t resonate with end users.  The easiest example, and most common situation, for parents to think of was a “permission” slip for a field trip. We realized that our consent application was a more complex version of a permission slip. Our solution needed to facilitate the one of the most common use cases for data collection and sharing—permission slips, and needed to further test the language of “permission” versus “consent”. What does each mean, and how does the use of this language impact users’ decisions?

Multiple consents or permissions at the same time. 

Schools, parents, and families need to collect a lot of different information at the beginning, and throughout the year. Immediately upon speaking to our stakeholders, we learned that a solution that only facilitated one-at-a-time entry of forms would not serve the true needs of the end users. The app we build needs to facilitate multiple consent and permission forms for each student, and easy ways to duplicate . 

On my phone: in any or all formats. 

We asked parents and families if they preferred to receive and share information via SMS, app, online platform, or paper. Our users told us that they would like consent, permission, day-of-trip/service updates, and notifications on any and all formats available on their phones. Most users said that they would utilize both SMS and app notifications. They stated that because they needed to access information on the go, their phone was the most common format used. 

We are using what we have learned from our end users to update our design concepts, language, and information architecture. We will be entering data from the Needs Mapper to facilitate building the data dashboard and other engagement tools for parents, families, schools, and network leaders. 


Stay tuned for our next post where we will share the results of our Design Workshop from the June DML Conference, and the first draft of our Information Visualization: A Community of Trust in Education.


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