New CERES Institute Study to Explore Pandemic School Attendance

A new study from BU Wheelock’s CERES Institute will explore the lived experiences of Black and Latinx high school students and English learners in Boston who have stopped attending school regularly during the pandemic. The study will be co-directed by Dr. Jonathan Zaff and Dr. Yasuko Kanno and has received an Early Stage Urban Research grant from BU’s Institute on Cities.

“Anecdotally, we hear that young people are juggling work and family responsibilities. They are facing loss, isolation, and mental health challenges, and these overwhelming barriers stand in their way of pursuing education,” says Zaff.

Kanno adds, “Despite these challenges, there has been little systematic assessment of how young people are navigating through life during the pandemic. We want to change that. Additionally, we don’t just want to focus on learning loss. If these youth have not been in school, they must have been spending their time doing something else. So what have they learned from these experiences?”

Kanno and Zaff will collaborate with youth-focused, community-based organizations that have an established history of work with Boston youth to interview 200 disengaged or tenuously engaged high school students of color and English learners. Following analyses of the interviews, Zaff and Kanno will brief Boston education leaders. They also plan to publish a white paper within the CERES Institute.

Jonathan F. Zaff, is a research professor in applied human development at BU Wheelock, and the Director of the CERES Institute for Children and Youth. Using a positive youth development framework, Dr. Zaff’s research has included studies, among others, of youth-focused comprehensive community initiatives, civic engagement, and the social and emotional competencies of young people who have left high school without graduating.

Yasuko Kanno is associate professor of language education at BU Wheelock, where she also serves as Chair for the Department of language and literacy Education. Her research focuses on English learners’ access to postsecondary education and how K-12 public schools shape ELs’ postsecondary trajectories. Her book “English learners’ access to postsecondary education: Neither college nor career ready” will be published by Multilingual Matters in September 2021.

The CERES Institute drives positive educational and life conditions for children and youth, especially those in historically disenfranchised communities, so that they may emerge from childhood as thriving adults. To accomplish this, they conduct, evaluate, support, and promote community-engaged, applied research on positive educational and developmental ecosystems for today’s children and youth. They are intentional about presenting insights that are clear and actionable. And, they are passionate about informing, influencing, and inspiring those who have the courage and the power to act: public leaders, influencers, educators, and parents. Learn more about the CERES Institute.