Study: 1 in 6 US Teachers Miss 18 Days of Work

A national study of teacher attendance and absentee rates made the punctuality of students seem downright acceptable. According to a study done by the National Council on Teacher Quality and reported by Carolyn Thompson of The Associate Press, 1 in every 6 teachers misses at least 18 days of work – more than 10% of the their yearly schedule – due to illness, personal reasons or professional development days.

That’s about 16% of teachers missing at least 18 days, however, the study noted, another 16% missed three days or fewer. Those 16% who missed more than 18 days on average were responsible for one-third of all teacher absences in the survey done among 40 large metropolitan school districts.

Another 28% of nation-wide teachers surveyed for the 2012-2013 school year were designated as ‘frequently absent’ – meaning they missed between 11-17 days of work. Nine major American cities had more than 50% of their teachers put in the ‘frequently absent’ category according to a report by USA Today.

Those cities are:

  • Columbus, Ohio  68.6%
  • New Orleans, La. 68.5%
  • Nashville, Tenn. 67.4%
  • Jacksonville, Fla. 67.1%
  • Cleveland, Ohio 67.0%
  • San Antonio, Tx. 63.2%
  • Portland, Ore. 61.9%
  • Buffalo, NY 59.4%
  • Sacramento, Calif. 51.1%

Columbus’ inclusion on the bottom of nearly every one of the survey’s rankings appeared to take its school district officials by surprise according to an article written by Collin Binkley of The Columbus Dispatch.

Columbus also had the third-largest share of teachers that the council labeled “chronically absent,” with at least 18 days of absences. Thirty-two percent of Columbus teachers were out at least that many days, trailing only Cleveland’s 34% and Buffalo’s 37%. Among all districts in the study, the average was 16%.

“I was alarmed when I received the information,” said Tracey Johnson, president of the Columbus Education Association, the union for Columbus teachers. “The question is: Why are teachers out? And once we know why teachers are out, then we can come up with the appropriate solution.”

The Council’s 22-page report is titled: “Roll Call: The Importance of Teacher Attendance.” Its opening statement is blunt and to the point.

While policymakers have been directing considerable attention to teacher effectiveness, one basic aspect of effectiveness has received relatively little attention: teacher attendance. No matter how engaging or talented teachers may be, they can only have an impact on student learning if they are in the classroom.  

The council asked for data from 50 of the nation’s largest school districts and had 40 participants respond.

Cleveland teachers were absent the most, an average of 15.6 days per year; followed by Columbus at 14.8 days.

On the flip side of the equation, teachers from Indianapolis, Indiana, averaged just 6.1 days missed per year, the lowest in the survey. The rest of the Top 5 in terms of fewest average days missed per year included: Washington D.C. (7.3 days); Louisivlle, Kentucky (8.1 days); Milwaukee, Wisc. (8.3 days) and Tampa, Fla. (8.6 days).