Teacher Absence Study Finds Significant Disparities Based on Type of School

A recent study comparing teacher absence nationally should generate discussion in statehouses, school districts and bargaining tables across the country. It is a worthwhile read for any employer in any industry interested in factors that may affect employee absenteeism.

The study compared teacher absence rates between traditional district-run schools and charter schools and between non-union and unionized charter schools.   The study uses the term “chronically absent,” which it defines as a teacher who misses more than ten days a year for sick or personal leave. Absences for school holidays, summer vacation and professional development are not counted.teacher-23304_1280

Some of the studies’ conclusions are:

  • More than one-quarter of public school teachers in the United States (28.3%) are chronically absent.
  • Traditional public school teachers are almost three times as likely to be chronically absent as teachers in charter schools (28.3% vs. 10.3%).
  • The difference in “chronically absent” rates is largest where school districts must bargain collectively but charter schools are not required to.
  • Teachers in unionized charter schools are twice as likely to be chronically absent as teachers in non-unionized charter schools (17.9% v. 9.1%).

The study notes that it is “descriptive,” that it “can highlight revealing patterns in rates of teacher chronic absenteeism, but it cannot establish a causal relationship between any specific policy or factor and absenteeism.”

Yet, the study’s content leads the reader to cry out: help me understand the reasons for these disparities so our political leaders could address them.  I suspect there are many diverse views about the reasons for the disparities. Creating a consensus about the need for change or the nature of the change needed would be a significant challenge.

The study was done by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which is not connected with Fordham University.