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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Absent teachers: Why learning is still disrupted


School leaders say their schools are short-staffed, but they're employing "more teachers than they did before the pandemic, while serving fewer students." Bilingual, special education, and STEM teachers may be hard to find, but there is no widespread teacher shortage.


Even before the pandemic, nearly a third of teachers missed more than 10 days of work, considered "chronically absent," and one in four students attended a school where more than 40 percent of teachers were chronic absentees, reports TNTP. "Lower-achieving schools and schools with lower achievement growth tended to have more disrupted classrooms."


Teacher absenteeism rose from 2019 to 2022 in two large districts TNTP analyzed. In one, chronic absenteeism was up by more than half, affecting more than one in four teachers.


Teachers should be able to miss work when they are sick or require a personal day, the report emphasizes. But students suffer when teaching is inconsistent. (Student absenteeism has soared post-pandemic.)

The one-teacher, one-classroom model is obsolete, TNTP suggests.

Teacher absences are so disruptive because . . . one teacher is responsible for everything — from planning to instructional delivery to grading to following up with students when they are behind. Expanding the teacher role to a team of adults with shared responsibility for the learning in a particular grade level or subject area would help make one educator’s absence far less disruptive.

For example, TNTP envisions "one skilled secondary math teacher may take the lead on designing instructional materials, while a small team of novice or student teachers delivers lessons."

7 Comments


phillipmarlowe
Aug 11, 2023

The people from The New Teacher Project ought to visit Prince George's County Public Schools in Maryland and find evidence to support this line of thought:

<i>School leaders say their schools are short-staffed, but they're employing "more teachers than they did before the pandemic, while serving fewer students." Bilingual, special education, and STEM teachers may be hard to find, but there is no widespread teacher shortage.</i>


I know a few schools that could use a Spanish teacher, an Art teacher, and a school librarian.

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Guest
Aug 05, 2023

This model already exists, and the 'team leader' gets add'l cash compensation for taking on the responsibility. Its just another reason why teachers are absent...they are in the team meeting daily rather than in the classroom. It also creates problems...when team leader is out unexpectedly, who gets the job and how long until they are effective? What happens when the novice teachers gain experience?


It would be more useful to expand the work day to a full eight hours plus lunch and use the additional time for team meeting and special education meetings. Expand the work year to full time and use the added time for professional development.


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lady_lessa
Aug 05, 2023

Before the problem can be solved, a cause or more needs to be discovered. sI can think of several possible causes each with different solutions.

Are the teachers less healthy than before;

Covid-either sick or fear of it;

stress-due to disruptive students;

stress due to not being able to help all the struggling students

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Guest
Aug 05, 2023

Anyone who claims that all of the schools should have opened in September of 2020 and that learning would not have been interrupted is a fool. The percentage of teachers who would have worked in a full classroom in Sep 2020 would have been too low to really maintain school. Also, the periodic outbreaks in school would have also slowed the process down and caused more teachers to quit. At best all schools should have opened in January 2021 when teachers were put on the list to get their vaccinations.

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Guest
Aug 05, 2023
Replying to

Our area too, though they did upgrade ventilation. All the outbreaks were weddings and slumber parties, not school spred.


As a result the kids faced very little learning loss and our school system is doing fine- kids never got out of the habit of going to school.


maybe other places are different, but our teachers loathed elearning as much as the kids! They are teachers because the want to be in a classroom, not glued to a screen.

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