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.”

‘Turnaround’ school hit by teacher absenteeism

Teachers at at a low-performing Rhode Island high school were fired last year, then rehired when they agreed to reforms designed to turn Central Falls High around. But teacher absenteeism is high at the “turnaround” high school, reports the Providence Journal. “More than half of the high school’s 840 students didn’t receive a grade in one or more classes for the first quarter” because they missed so much instruction, reports the Journal.

Since the school year started Sept. 1, there has not been a single day when all of the 88 teachers at Central Falls High School have shown up for work.

On that first day, two teachers called in sick and a third took a personal day.

In addition, several teachers resigned after the start of the school year.  Administrators have struggled to hire replacements and substitutes.

Bitterness remains over the mass firing of all the school’s teachers in February, jobs that were eventually won back through a compromise agreement in May. In exchange for their jobs, the teachers agreed to a list of changes administrators said were necessary to turn around the school, which has among the lowest test scores and graduation rates in the state.

Some teachers resent the new requirements, which include tutoring and eating lunch with students each week, attending after-school training sessions and being observed by third-party evaluators.

Fourteen teachers were judged “unsatisfactory” by outside evaluators out of 71 who were observed.

Student absenteeism also is a problem at Central Falls High. Students and teachers complain that the school is disorderly and dangerous.

Officials blame the union contract, which gives teachers 15 paid sick days and two personal days a year: Teachers can accumulate up to 185 sick days.  Teachers with six years on the job are “entitled to 40 days of extended sick leave at full pay,” which goes up to 50 days after 15 years of service.  Six veteran teachers are out on stress-related medical leave; they’ve been replaced by long-term substitutes.

Teacher absenteeism has gotten worse each month, reports the Journal. In recent weeks, an average of 19 teachers a day out of 88 positions have been absent.

Nationwide, 5.3 percent of teachers are absent on any given day, writes Walt Gardner in his Ed Week blog. Stress pushes up the absentee rate.