The power of effective teachers has been identified as the most impactful of all school-related factors when it comes to influencing student achievement. Unfortunately, student achievement is often negatively impacted when teachers are absent.. On average, 28% of the nation’s public school teachers are chronically absent, which is defined as missing more than 10 days in a typical 180-day school year. But in some schools, the rate of chronic absenteeism is much higher.
Sick time is often considered an employee right or benefit and is contractually mandated. While some districts offer teachers the incentive of financial compensation for unused sick days at retirement, others do not. This places district teachers in a “use it or lose it” situation that may encourage the use of annual sick time. In any case, chronic absenteeism can strain district budgets and pose the problem of potential learning losses for their students. For this reason, chronic teacher absenteeism has become an issue of discussion in many school districts across the U.S.
Assessing the Scope of Chronic Teacher Absenteeism
Studying teacher absence data is often part of a comprehensive school improvement plan and should not be perceived as punitive to teachers. Research could shed light on aspects of this issue that may be subject to improvement or change.
To begin addressing chronic absenteeism in your district, it is important to accurately assess the scope of the problem. These steps will guide the process:
- Analyze teacher attendance data for each building in the district to identify if and where chronic absentee problems exist. Determine if the problem is limited in scope or if there is a more systemic problem.
- Look for trends that indicate changes in teacher attendance. Do absences occur at certain times of the year? In specific buildings?
- Examine the reasons for teacher absences, as well as how absences for school business (workshops, in-service training, field trips) impact the totals.
- Survey district policies and collective bargaining agreements to determine how they influence teacher absences.
- Utilize absence management software to greatly enhance the process of examining and analyzing teacher absence data.
Addressing the Costs of Chronic Teacher Absenteeism
Though the daily rate for a substitute teacher is generally less than that paid to classroom teachers, the costs of teacher absences accumulate rapidly. For each teacher absence, the regular teacher receives their contractually guaranteed salary for the day. In addition, the district pays the substitute’s wages. On top of that, the numerous soft costs associated with staffing and managing an adequate substitute teacher pool pile up insidiously. When teachers are chronically absent, the monetary costs can strain the district’s budget.
Besides the financial cost, there are other consequences of chronic teacher absenteeism. When teachers are absent frequently, there is often an associated burden imposed on their colleagues and fellow staff members who must pick up the slack. This imposition may affect staff morale over time, particularly when the number of available substitutes is inadequate to cover the frequent absences.
One of the greatest concerns is the impact teacher absenteeism has on student learning. The cost to students of chronically absent teachers has been studied recently in light of the chronic absentee data. Minimizing the negative effects on students is a top priority for district administrators as they seek to address teacher absenteeism.
Finding a Balance
When addressing the costs of chronic teacher absenteeism, the best solutions minimize the fallout — to district finances and student achievement. One move can compensate for both. By partnering with a substitute staffing agency, school districts of all sizes are keeping soft costs down while ensuring continuity of instruction during teacher absences.
With an abundance of soft costs underlying the per-diem wages of a substitute teacher, it is logical and fiscally responsible to look for a better solution. Instead of managing all of the various aspects involved in the hiring, credentialing, training, scheduling, and ongoing management of a district substitute teacher pool, school districts across the country are finding relief in partnering with an educational staffing agency. With their singular focus and a multitude of resources, a staffing agency can provide the expertise needed to minimize soft costs while maximizing efficiency.
An education-exclusive staffing agency can also help schools address the impact chronic teacher absenteeism has on their students. With a dedicated staff of highly qualified, specially trained substitute teachers dedicated to the district and its students, you can count on expert classroom management and best-practice instructional techniques to bridge the gap created when a teacher is absent.
Addressing the costs of chronic teacher absenteeism is easier when you partner with a staffing agency. Specialists in data analysis, they utilize a variety of tools to help school districts solve their most persistent staffing problems. With soft costs and learning losses managed, school districts can minimize the negative impact of chronic teacher absenteeism on the bottom line and rest assured that students are in the capable hands of professional substitute teachers.
Contact ESS for a creative solution to your substitute staffing needs. With decades of experience and a multitude of resources, we can help you address the financial costs and potential learning losses that may occur when teachers are absent.
Phil has been supporting school districts across the country for more than 12 years. He works hands-on with districts implementing customized solutions to improve their substitute teacher and support staff programs. When he’s not increasing districts’ fill rates, Phil can be found swinging his clubs on a golf course.