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Getting Students to "Be There" in School: The Be There Campaign and a Network Approach to Addressing Chronic Absenteeism in Pittsburgh

Childs, Joshua (2015) Getting Students to "Be There" in School: The Be There Campaign and a Network Approach to Addressing Chronic Absenteeism in Pittsburgh. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Due to the assumption that students are in class everyday barring illness or extreme life circumstances, chronic absenteeism is often referred to as a problem hidden in plain sight (Chang & Romero, 2008). Chronic absenteeism has been well documented as a persistent problem that impacts student achievement and long-term life success. In 2013, the United Way spearheaded the first use of an attendance campaign in Western Pennsylvania: the “Be There” campaign (BTC). The BTC was launched in Pittsburgh, an urban city with a predominantly Black student population, as an effort to address chronic absenteeism and improve student attendance across the city and the greater Allegheny County. Using social network analysis and semi-structured interviews, this dissertation investigates how the BTC inspired the emergence of an inter-organizational network to tackle chronic absenteeism in Pittsburgh.

The analysis suggested that the emerging “Be There” inter-organizational network (BTIN) has promoted a number of collaborations between organizations with different expertise and resources that could be activated to address chronic absenteeism. Main partners within the BTIN have considerable influence on the coordination of the BTC as it has sought to raise awareness throughout Allegheny County on the importance of having students attend school every day. To date, the BTC has produced a variety of products and implemented a number of strategies in several districts and schools; however after only two years of the campaign, it is too early to see the results in regards to reducing chronic absenteeism in local schools. Nonetheless, this study provides evidence to suggest the future use of county-wide attendance campaigns as a means for organizations to collaborate to reduce chronic absenteeism in local schools.

This study adds to education policy research by conceptualizing chronic absenteeism as a “wicked problem” and applying an inter-organizational network framework to investigate organizations working to reduce chronic absenteeism. Further, this research contributes to education and public policy literature by demonstrating the value of social network analysis to map an emerging inter-organizational network involved in a county-wide effort to address an education issue.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Childs, Joshuajdc63@pitt.eduJDC63
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairRussell, Jenniferjrussel@pitt.eduJRUSSEL
Committee MemberMilner, Richrmilner@pitt.eduRMILNER
Committee MemberBickel, Billbickel@pitt.eduBICKEL
Committee MemberDietrick, Sabinasabinad@pitt.eduSABINAD
Committee MemberWilliams,
Date: 28 September 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 29 July 2015
Approval Date: 28 September 2015
Submission Date: 1 September 2015
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 218
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Learning Sciences and Policy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Interorganizational networks, education policy, chronic absenteeism
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2015 13:48
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2020 05:15


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