Number of chronically absent teachers on the rise in US

According to U.S. government data, the number of chronically absent teachers is rising in many areas of the country, with numbers reported by school districts themselves showing that one in four teachers are absent for more than 10 days each academic calendar. The problem appears to be more prevalent in rural areas with higher levels of poverty.

The cause of the increase is difficult to determine. Some teachers are using paid leave that have been awarded to them as part of their benefit package. Other teachers are just not coming to school. Regardless of the reason, it has been shown that chronically absent teachers have a detrimental effect on their students’ educational experience.

“Most teachers are there all the time, as they should be, because they want to be in the classroom,” said Nithya Joseph, director for state policy at the National Council on Teacher Quality.

“When the teacher of record is not in the classroom, it has an impact on student achievement.”

While the majority of teachers are not chronically absent, 27 percent are, according to Education Dive. This is leading to an increase in substitute teacher costs incurred by school districts as well as problems with teacher consistency.

In one example, a school district in North Carolina struggled with an 80 percent rate of chronic teacher absenteeism. The school attempted to curb the problem by improving morale and bumping up salaries. Now only half of the district’s teacher miss over 10 days of work per year.

“We still have too many days that our students don’t have that quality teacher in front of them,” Harrison said.

The teaching profession is already plagued with high rates of turnover, employee burnout, and complaints of low pay. Districts are struggling to address this new issue before it begets lower student test scores and increased scrutiny on individual schools.


[Washington Post] [Education Dive] [Chicago Tribune] [Image courtesy Associated Press via Mississippi Clarion-Ledger]