Absent Teachers

Last week in the Las Vegas Sun:

According to new research by the Education Week Research Center, Nevada has one of the highest rates of teacher absences in the country.

As much as 49 percent of teachers in the Silver State miss 10 or more days during the school year, the second highest number of absences of any state. Hawaii comes in first, with 75 percent of its teachers taking 10 or more days off. The national average is around 25 percent.

Comments on the article and on Facebook consist of teachers defending themselves, but facts remain facts. Teachers around here do miss a lot of work. If you don’t believe it, observe any principal’s secretary–the one who coordinates substitutes–on a Friday, and witness the frenzy as vacant spots are desperately filled last minute from a pool of subs where demand vastly dwarfs supply.

Many times those secretaries have to call other teachers on campus and ask them to fill in for their missing colleague on their prep periods, closing the gap that way. I’ve taken plenty of those calls over the years. Hey, it’s an easy way for me to make an extra few bucks.

While the teachers are right–there is a lot of exposure to sickness in our line of work, for example–it’s also true that absences spike around weekends and holidays, and get worse near the end of the year. Odd coincidence if all is innocent.

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4 comments on “Absent Teachers

  1. I used to call it a “mental health” day when I would call in sick and not really be sick. I figured my mental health was important too. I wasn’t a teacher, but being married to one I can sure see that teachers get bogged down too, even with all their time off in the summer. I don’t think it is the actual teaching that is so onerous, I think it is dealing with recalcitrant students, obnoxious parents and unsupportive administrators. I also believe that if attending school weren’t mandatory that it would become more valuable.

  2. A couple of things to keep in mind when reading articles like the one from the Sun.
    1) Just because its on the internet does not make it true or accurate. It seems to be missing a lot of information, like how they determined an absence or are only certain types of absences considered (personal/sick vs training out of the building)
    2) In scenarios like you described in this post, those absences may not necessarily be from teachers who are gaming the system and trying to get a free day off with pay. Be a little less judgmental. They could be legitimate absences for illness, bereavement, or even training.
    3) Those types of calls from the office manager are simply an indication of a lack of subs, not necessarily an overwhelming number of teachers taking the day off for no legitimate reason (as is implied by both your post, the Sun article, and the NCTQ report)
    4) Before accepting the NCTQ report as true and accurate, be sure to check its credibility. Based on its funding and mission I wouldn’t trust it to report anything public education related as accurate.
    5) I saw phrases in the Sun article and NCTQ using subs and long term subs together, as if they are used for the same thing. You and I both know that long-term subs aren’t there because teachers are taking too many absences. They are there because there is a teacher shortage. If they are being grouped together that is misleading and inaccurate.

    Before someone calls me out as making excuses for teachers, I see nothing wrong with a report like this. It makes for some good reflection and discussion. I would just like to see accurate data collection and analysis. Too much is left implied by the reporting or lack thereof.

    • Thanks, Mark–you make some good points, especially about critically reading the report. If its flaws are consistent from state to state, though, its findings are still valid. But I took it at face value, and that may not be justified.

      The reflex in response to negative reports about CCSD tends to be circling the wagons, but let’s not let supporting our colleagues make us blind to the problems in our midst–besides all the reasonable needs that take teachers out of work, there are also plenty of people who abuse the system. That’s all. Any CCSD teacher knows plenty of such cases. I’m sure the causes vary from site to site, but it’s certainly an area in which we could improve, right? No moral condemnation of anyone is meant; but it never hurts to look in the mirror and admit our organization is far from perfect.

      Not to minimize your points, though–you’re right–the article needs details and clarification to be really useful.

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