No Student Develops in a Vacuum: An Ecological Systems Approach to Breaking the Cycle of Chronic Absenteeism
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CitationWilliams, Christopher. 2019. No Student Develops in a Vacuum: An Ecological Systems Approach to Breaking the Cycle of Chronic Absenteeism. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Abstract“There is no such thing as a dysfunctional organization, because every organization is perfectly aligned to achieve the results it currently gets.” So say Jeff Lawrence and Ron Heifetz. From an ecological systems view of development, individuals within a system are acted upon by the system while simultaneously acting upon the system itself. Therefore, any intervention endeavoring to alter the result achieved by the system, e.g. chronic absenteeism, must take into account the individual as well as the multiple tiers of the system.
Twin Rivers Unified School District, a mid-sized K-12 District on the North side of Sacramento CA, struggles with student chronic absenteeism: for the past several years the rate of chronic absenteeism has hovered near 15%. To intervene and achieve sustainable change in reducing the rate of chronic absenteeism, I examined the district as a whole, while also attending to the individuals within the system. I utilized a School District as an Ecological System paradigm, an interpretation of Bronfenbrenner’s 1977 Ecological Systems Theory of Development, to identify and target levers for change within the system. I focused on the interactions between and among staff at the mezzo level, Teacher-Student Relationships at the micro level, and the language and behaviors of the system itself at the micro, mezzo, and macro level. Concretely, I facilitated the development of two Research-Practice Partnerships with two different groups at HGSE: Proving Ground, at the Center for Education Policy Research, which addresses the system as a whole; and the EASEL Lab, whose new approach to Social Emotional Learning, SEL Kernels of Practice, is being piloted in Twin Rivers as a classroom (micro) level intervention.
This capstone tracks my entry into the district and how I identified the levers for change, the formation and implementation of the Research-Practice Partnerships, the relative success of both partnerships, challenges I encountered along the way, and implications of all of the above for further SEL and system-wide interventions aimed at addressing chronic absenteeism.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42063286