The University of California, Berkeley, and the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) will strengthen their existing partnership and aim to reduce inequalities in chronic absenteeism. Students missing at least ten percent or more of the school year—chronic absenteeism—is an indicator of academic difficulties and school dropout. SFUSD’s rates of chronic absenteeism are 2–3 times higher for African American students, students with unstable housing, students in foster care, and students receiving special education services, than for other students. The partnership will analyze administrative records and conduct in-depth interviews with youth to deepen understanding of the barriers to and facilitators of attendance and perceptions about the district’s current interventions. The team will also use youth-led participatory action research with three peer resource sites to leverage youth perspectives about school climate and help the partners develop and implement new interventions. SFUSD leaders are committed to using the study findings to address high and disparate rates of chronic absenteeism as they revise attendance policies and provide resources to district staff. The grant will also allow the team at Berkeley to advance a plan with the potential for significant institutional shifts, including confirmed support for community-engaged scholarship as part of the promotion, tenure, and merit advancement process from the Chair of the campus-wide Budget Committee and the Berkeley Academic Senate Committee; the creation of a campus-wide advisory group for research-practice partnerships; and increased valuation of research done in partnership among deans from three different schools. This project will also receive support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Spencer Foundation.
The University of California, Berkeley, and the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) will pursue a research agenda to reduce inequalities in chronic absenteeism, and, in turn, academic difficulties and school dropout.