Schools with tougher administrators have fewer problems

Jun 4, 2014 by

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new report by the National Council on Teacher Quality shows the most important factor with teacher attendance is the expectations of school officials.

The NCTQ analysis of 234,000 teachers in the nation’s largest school districts illustrates that the percentage of chronically absent teachers (missed 18 days or more in 2012-13) and those with excellent attendance (three absences or less) is roughly equal at 16 percent.

 

Teachers with moderate attendance (missed 4 to 10 days) and frequent absences (11 to 17 days) make up the majority of educators at 40 percent and 28 percent, respectively. On average, teachers missed 11 days out of a 186-day school year, and the average leave package offered by districts was 13 days, according to the NCTQ attendance report released today.

 

The numbers, however, are somewhat misleading because researchers included only absences of 10 or fewer consecutive days, which means teachers on extended medical leave or sabbatical would undoubtedly drive the figures higher.

 

“While these big city school districts are struggling to improve student achievement, they may be overlooking one of the most basic aspects of teacher effectiveness: every teacher being regularly on the job, teaching kids,” NCTQ President Kate Walsh said.

 

Ensuring teachers come to work certainly seems like common sense, but school districts across the country typically give teachers a very generous number of leave days. In Ohio, for example, state law requires districts to offer teachers 15 sick days per year.

 

School officials also often approve “district authorized” leave for teacher training, daytime meetings, union negotiations, union conventions and other activities during class time, which takes a toll on student learning.

 

“While professional development can be valuable, districts should avoid at all costs cutting into precious classroom time. Even ‘good’ absences have bad consequences for kids,” Walsh said.

 

The study compiled teacher attendance records from 40 public school districts in the country’s largest metropolitan areas for the 2012-13 school year.

 

“NTCQ calculated the average teacher attendance rates and the average number of days teachers were absent, categorized teachers into one of four attendance categories, and examined the data for differences between schools with varying poverty levels and between districts with varying attendance incentives,” according to a NTCQ press release.

 

Researchers couldn’t find any significant correlation between teacher absences and poverty rates, and didn’t notice any tangible impact from policies to suppress absenteeism, such as requiring a doctor’s note after a specific number of days.

 

What they did find was that “it is not so much district policy but expectations that lead to high attendance,” Walsh said.

 

“Teachers who work in buildings that are led by principals with high standards are much less likely to be absent,” she said.

 

Apparently, states with the expectation that teachers will miss a lot of days similarly produce teachers who miss a lot of days.

 

The top two cities with the highest teacher absenteeism rates – Cleveland (16 absences average) and Columbus (15 absences average) – are both in Ohio, which awards educators 15 days off each year. Other areas with a strong teachers union – which typically negotiate leave days through collective bargaining – also had high teacher absenteeism, including Nashville, Tenn., Portland, Ore., and Jacksonville, Fla.

 

Indianapolis had the lowest number of average teacher absences in the study with six days per year, followed by the District of Columbia, Louisville, Ky., Milwaukee, Tampa, New York and Philadelphia – which ranged from seven to nine days on average.

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