New research suggests that teacher absenteeism is becoming problematic in U.S. public schools, as about one in three teachers miss more than 10 days of school each year. The nation’s improving economic picture may also worsen absenteeism as teachers’ fears ease that they’ll lose their job over taking too many sick days, researchers say.
First-ever figures from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, compiled in 2012, also show that in a few states, nearly half of teachers miss more than 10 days in a typical 180-day school year.
Rhode Island: 50.2%
New Mexico: 47.5%
Schools serving larger proportions of African-American and Latino students are “disproportionately exposed to teacher absence,” notes researcher Raegen Miller, who studied the federal survey data for the Washington-based Center for American Progress, progressive think tank.
Miller noted that providing substitutes for all of those absent teachers costs schools at least $4 billion a year — about 1% of schools’ budgets. Absenteeism also lowers student achievement: A 2007 study by Duke University researchers estimated that for every 10 teacher absences, math achievement dropped by the same degree as if a school had replaced an experienced teacher with a novice one.