Friday, January 29, 2010

Teachers miss school more than students

A VERY provoking article from Camden about a terrible yet little discussed problem: teacher absenteeism.  If the apologists are right that "teachers are sick more often because they come into contact with more germs," then why are most days missed on "Mondays, Fridays or the day before or after a holiday"???

Students in Camden City Schools are having their education shortchanged by teachers who are absent from the classroom more than their colleagues across the country, and come to school less than their own students.

The Courier-Post reviewed teacher absenteeism data from the 2008-2009 school year and found teachers missed an average of 11 days of class time, and some schools had teachers miss upward of 17 days. In South Camden Alternative, teachers missed an average of 23 of their 187 days.

…While Camden's teachers as a whole were absent a median time of 10 days, state law allows it. But in Camden, teachers are granted more generous benefits including up to 13 sick days, two personal days and two days for professional development.

In addition, should other tragic or celebratory events happen in their lives, more paid days off are allowed including: five days for the death of an immediate family member, three days for in-laws, grandparents or grandchildren, one day for an aunt, uncle or cousin, one day for a co-worker, one day for a family member's graduation and five days if he or she gets married. There is no vacation time. However, teachers are off most holidays, the summer and a week during the Christmas-New Year holiday and a week around Easter.

With so many days off, Camden budgeted $2 million this year to pay substitute teachers.

Four calls to the leader of Camden's teacher's union, Ken McIntosh, were not returned last week.

Absenteeism and illness are inevitable, but some officials believe the teacher's contracts breed excessive absenteeism.

"It causes all kinds of chaos. Teachers are trying to cover for teachers. When they are short in staff you hear about security guards taking the teachers' place because there is nobody to cover the classroom," said Angel Cordero, a local education activist. "They are short teachers in Camden. It's a monumental problem."

…Besides the monetary impact, studies have found that for every 10 days a teacher is absent, test scores could drop by up to 3.3 percent. Other subjects saw decreases in achievement, too.

Raegen Miller, the lead author of one recent study produced by researchers at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, said students depend on their teacher for success.

"Teacher absences are causing the reduced achievement," he said. "If there is plenty of leave available, teachers will take lots of it."

The average teacher absenteeism rate nationwide is about 5.3 percent, Miller said, a rate about double the 3 percent for all private sector employees in 2008, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In Camden, teachers are absent twice as much, or 11.2 days a year.

Teachers also take their time off more often on Mondays, Fridays or the day before or after a holiday, Miller's research shows.


Teachers miss school more than students

Camden Courier-Post Staff

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