Teacher attendance is directly related to student achievement. Research has found that when teachers are absent for ten days, the decrease in student achievement is equivalent to the difference between students having a brand new teacher versus having a teacher with two years or more experience.
A recent study conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) in 40 school districts in the Country’s largest metropolitan areas for the 2012-2013 school year examined the issue of teacher attendance. The study found that, on average, teachers missed 11 days out of a 186 day work year, slightly less than the short-term leave available to these teachers. Additionally, 16 percent of teachers were classified as chronically absent, missing 18 days or more during the school year. These absences represented a significant cost to the school districts, with districts spending an average of $1800 per teacher for substitutes.
The NCTQ study also looked at the impact of attendance incentives on reducing teacher absenteeism. These incentives included the carrying over of personal days from one school year to the next, payment for unused sick leave at the end of the school year or upon retirement, rewarding attendance with additional compensation, and requiring medical certification for sick days. The study did not find any correlation with these policies and improved attendance.
Although the study did not find statistical evidence of commonly used policies improving teacher attendance, it did take note of some initiatives utilized by individual school districts. For example, attendance data expressly considered in employee promotions, teachers required to directly call the principal when reporting absences, not utilizing substitutes but distributing the absent teacher’s responsibilities to other teachers, and, in Providence, teachers who are absent 135 days or more do not qualify for sick leave the following year until they have worked at least 135 days.
As noted by the study, teacher attendance is an important factor for student achievement. And yet, teacher absenteeism continues to be a problem for most school districts. Given its impact on students and school finances, school districts should continue to focus on improving teacher attendance.