Monday, April 22, 2013

High Teacher Absences in Schools with Minority Students

OAG with another enormous problem: teacher absenteeism, which (surprise!) is far more prevalent in schools with the “highest percentages of black, Hispanic, and low-income children.”:

A new article in a scholarly journal is shining a light on a very expensive problem in public schools that most parents and taxpayers are largely unaware of: chronic teacher absenteeism.
Former Wall Street Journal reporter June Kronholz penned an enlightening in-depth look at the problem for the spring edition of Education Next. She highlights the prevailing research through the context of her son’s stint as a substitute teacher during his time off as a U.S. Marine.
“In the college town where he was living, an astonishing 47 percent of the school district’s 721 teachers were absent more than 10 days during the school year, according to data the district reported to the U.S. Department of Education for (the) 2009-10 study,” Kronholz wrote.”
“That number rose to 61 percent in an elementary school with one of the district’s highest percentages of black, Hispanic, and low-income children.”
While that might be surprising to some, EAGnews’ research shows it isn’t uncommon. In recent years, EAGnews has reviewed hundreds of teachers union contracts across the country and requested teacher absentee information from many of them through public information requests.
We’ve found that generous leave policies outlined in union contracts correlate to a high number of teacher absences, multi-million dollar expenses on substitute teachers, and five-figure retirement or attendance bonuses for educators who have accumulated unused sick days throughout their careers.
Researchers cited in Kronholz’s article have come to the same conclusion, pointing to evidence that some teachers are abusing their days off, particularly those in schools serving a high percentage of low-income minority students.
The union influence on chronic teacher absenteeism manifests itself in several ways, according to recent data in Kronholz’s report. Teachers in traditional unionized public schools, for example, take more days off than teachers in charter and private schools, which tend to be non-union. Teachers with union tenure protections also take off more days than probationary teachers.
Teachers in bigger schools (which typically have stronger teachers unions) also take off more days than their counterparts in smaller schools, according to the data.
But perhaps the most troubling aspect of chronic teacher absenteeism is the impact it has on student learning.

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