16% of urban teachers are ‘chronically absent’

teacher absences share

Teachers in the nation’s 40 largest school districts came to school 94 percent of the time in the 2012-2013 school year, according to the report by the National Council on Teacher Quality. On average, the urban teachers missed about 11 school days out of 186 for all reasons, including professional development.

However, 16 percent of urban teachers were “chronically absent,” meaning they missed 18 or more days per school year. Another 28 percent missed 11 to 17 days.

The study excluded long-term absences of 11 or more days “to ensure that any teacher who had to take extended leave for illness or family problem were not part of the sample.”

Teachers were not more likely to be absent in high-poverty schools.

Indianapolis teachers missed the fewest days — six — while Cleveland teachers missed the most — 15.

Policies to suppress absenteeism, such as requiring a doctor’s note, appeared to have no effect, said Kate Walsh, president of NCTQ. “We have learned that it is not so much district policy but expectations which lead to high attendance. Teachers who work in buildings that are led by principals with high standards are much less likely to be absent.”

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  1. I would like to know how many of those days were for professional development or required meetings.

    I miss 10 – 15 days of school each year, NOT by choice: for trainings, meetings, and professional development. The needier the population and/or the poorer the student performance, the more trainings and such that seem to be required.

    In general, teachers would rather be in the classroom than in a meeting, at least where I teach.

  2. How many personal days are in the union contract?
    It’s common here for teachers who do not have small children to be on cruise during the Labor Day week start of school. They are entitled to take the time off per their contract.

  3. We never used to have professional development days for teachers when I attended public school, and the district here (nation’s 5th largest) and in the bottom five states academically have cut back on PD days to 4 or 5 a year.

  4. I’ve learned that districts manipulate the system. In Cleveland (where I once worked), it wasn’t uncommon for a position to be an Open one (no person was ever hired for that position) for a year or more. Technically, that (Open) position “teacher” was absent every day. But, it wouldn’t be considered a long-term absence.

    So, no, these stats MAY be correct, but it’s just as likely that they aren’t. Keep in mind that Cleveland is the district that didn’t hire for many positions, not because there wasn’t interest, but because the Human Resources dept. putzed around, and didn’t actually start sending out contracts until the suburban districts had made their offers. Which means that even though there were qualified teachers who wanted to teach there, by the time they got off their over-padded butts, those teachers had signed with another district. I understand that they aren’t QUITE that bad now, but they still have Open positions every year at the start of school.

    Also, a few years ago, HR got caught dumping applications into boxes, and ignoring them for months, during the prime hiring season. Nobody lost their job, though, for screwing up.

  5. I would be one of those “chronically absent” teachers, though I’ve only called in sick once the entire school year.

    I had a few doctors appointments. Of course, if a teacher wants to get a substitute he or she must take off the whole day. An absence for just a few hours means farming my class out to the rest of the teachers on my team. That would be an unfair burden on them.

    I’m on a few committees at my school. About 4 training days worth.

    We get pulled out of our rooms once a quarter for a “data assessment meeting.”

    And in order to have the data for these meetings, we need to give tests. Not the ones where the kids all sit at their desks, but individual ones where I pull every student aside give them a very long quiz. The only way to do these tests is to take a sick day because it’s next to impossible to give an individual reading test in room full of 20 first graders.

    And then there is a charity cycling event that is every May. I take two days for that. But my kids learn quite a bit from the video updates I send while I bike 330 miles.

    And finally, I’ve been “out” the last 3 days. I normally go in for the week after school lets out, to get the room ready for summer cleaning. But this year I have a family obligation those days, so I decided to take sick days and get a substitute and do all my end of year stuff. I’ve been at school all day, every day. But it was getting charged as a sick day for two of them. The third will be “release time” because I’m helping with the 8th grade graduation.

    Needless to say, this story rubs me the wrong way. Just a little.

    • PhillipMarlowe says:

      EducationRealist seems to have been rubbed the wrong way, as well.
      His current piece addresses the attitude that produced this report:
      A growing conventional wisdom is forming among the elites—the opinion makers, business leaders, political leaders—that teaching should be a short term job, that they aren’t worth the government expense. While they probably feel this way about cops, too, current memes dictate respect to the men (and they are, usually, men) who fight—crime, terrorists, fires, and the like. Teachers, on the other hand, are mostly like elites except not as smart—because otherwise, they wouldn’t go into teaching—and far more female. Hence the emphasis on their supposedly weak qualifications and determined ignorance of all evidence showing the qualifications aren’t weak.


      • From the educationrealist post you linked:

        “The problem with teaching is that all “sides” of the debate accept as a given that we are failing to educate our kids, that we could do a much better job. *In fact, we aren’t failing, and there’s no evidence we could be doing much better.”*

        So the schools are just peachy. We all just have to reject our false expectations and it’ll become obvious that the schools are wonderful.

        Yes, do take that tack. I’m sure the public will eagerly fall in line and reject the “reformy” agenda when we realize it’s our perception and expectations that are actually at fault.

        That’s bound to work. Really.

        • PhillipMarlowe says:

          As is to be expected, no evidence to back up your objection.
          Atleast you didn’t use the Ted Bundy attack this time.

          • And as expected, since your source is shown to be every bit as tendentious as you, no response. Feel free to expand on the “Ted Bundy” reference since, even by your standards, it makes no sense whatsoever.

        • Roger Sweeny says:

          It is an empirical question whether “we could be doing much better.” The failure, or fairly small success of most school reforms, suggest that perhaps we can’t do much better.

          That hardly means that things are peachy. It may mean that we expect way too much from schooling.

          • That may be what those small success/failures suggest to you but to me they suggest that we ought to rethink some assumptions which, for quite a long time, have gone without re-examination.

            Phillip’s fellow traveler’s trying to ease through the conflation of education as a process with the public education system, an institution. The two aren’t the same thing and, I would offer, don’t really have all that much to do with each.

            While it’s called “the public education system” it’s the “public” part, the political underpinnings, that determine the extent to which it’s an institution of education. Some school districts could, on the basis of the importance that’s placed on education as measured by educational results, be seen as income redistribution mechanisms rather then institutions of education.

            As to what “we” feel we ought to be able to expect, I refer you to charter school waiting lists. Pretty clearly there’s a bit of contention about the what a parent can reasonably expect as well as a rejection of the idea that that reasonable expectation is being met by the district school.

  6. PhillipMarlowe says:

    Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuk points out in his solid overview of the report, the NCTQ findings “raises more questions than answers on this thorny issue.”
    Among those questions: Why aren’t interventions aimed at reducing teacher absenteeism having an effect in the districts that have put them in place? Why did this report, contrary to prior research, not find teacher absenteeism rates were higher in schools serving more children from low-income families? Why are annual teacher absences over 80 percent higher in Cleveland (15.6 days) than in Tampa, Fla. (8.6 days)?