Achievement Gap: 1 in 5 Teachers Miss More Than Two Weeks of School

Highest teacher absences in poor NYC districts

Wednesday, Apr 28, 2010  |  Updated 4:01 PM EDT
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Achievement Gap: 1 in 5 Teachers Miss Two-Plus Weeks

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No more teachers ... no more ... oh, wait.

One-fifth of New York City's public school teachers missed more than two weeks of school last year -- and the city's poorest districts were most affected.

Teachers' absences affect student progress, and the less affluent districts particularly feel the repercussions, according to the Wall Street Journal.

More than 24 percent of teachers in Brownsville missed more than the allotted 10 sick days per year, as did 22.1 percent of South Bronx teachers, according to the Journal's analysis of the city's Department of Education data. By contrast, just 13.2 percent of teachers in the wealthier Upper East Side district missed more than two weeks.

Citing Department of Education data, the Journal said the city spent $119 million on substitute teachers last year.

United Federal of Teachers president, Michael Mulgrew, told the Journal that some of the absences include required professional development days and jury duty.
       
The DOE has noted that chronically late or absent teachers who have gone through an expedited disciplinary process -- one that imposes fines for poor attendance -- have dramatically improved their attendance.

Whatever the reasons for the high absenteeism rates, studies show that teachers' absences hamper student progress, particularly in higher-poverty areas. While the higher absenteeism tends to impact those districts more, it should be noted that some of them, including East Harlem, have above average attendee rates for teachers.

"It's one of those underbelly topics that no one focuses on, but contributes to the achievement gap," Raegen T. Miller, associate director for education research at Center for American Progress, told the Journal about teacher absences.

Miller cited research that found a significant number of absences affect students to the degree of being taught by someone with less expertise. For example, Miller said that every 10 teacher absences reduces students' math progress by an amount equivalent to having a teacher with one- or two-years on the job versus one with three-to-five, reports the Journal.

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