He calculated the “chronic absenteeism” rates (teachers who miss more than ten days of school in a year) in both traditional and charter schools.
The report pulled data from several sources, including 2013-14 school year teacher absenteeism data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which defines chronic absenteeism as missing more than 10 days of work per school year. Absences are counted as instructional days missed for sick leave and personal time.
The Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute found that the gaps between charter and district teachers were largest in the states where the districts have to collectively bargain-or negotiate conditions of employment, including time off-but charters do not have to do so. Miller also pointed out that teacher absenteeism rates tend to differ greatly from school to school within a district-and that variation in absences mainly seems to be the product of differences in culture between individual schools. But comparing teachers with other unionized workers would be more helpful, as would comparisons with those in other high-stress occupations: police and firefighters, or perhaps nurses, rather than accountants and lawyers.
However, as the report says, the analysis was not able to show a relationship between “policies that address attendance directly (such as the number of sick and personal days teachers are guaranteed) and the likelihood that a teacher will be chronically absent”. Texas sets it at five.
For a while, the state reimbursed a percentage of that money to districts but no longer. Data from the National Council on Teacher Quality show that the average CBA entitles teachers to almost 13 days of paid sick and/or personal leave per 180-day school year (or the equivalent of 16 days over the typical professional’s 225-day work year).
The report also notes that many states, including Pennsylvania, are adding “chronic student absenteeism” to their list of school quality indicators as part of their plans to comply with the new federal education law. “Green Dot California has a chronic teacher absenteeism rate of 6% which is comparable with other CMOs in California and across the country”, CEO Christina de Jesus and Angel Maldonado, head of its teachers union, said in a statement.
The Fordham Institute report, “Teacher Absenteeism in Charter and Traditional Public Schools”, examines teacher absenteeism data from 35 states that have sizable numbers of charter schools, which are supported by taxes and overseen by a government body but operated by an independent outside board or organization. One study estimated the effects of having a substitute to be equivalent to replacing an average teacher with one in the 10th to 20th percentile of productivity, with larger effects in the days before exams.
“Telling a story with data is not the same as reaching a conclusion based on evidence”. “This administration has been committed to ensuring our students have more time in the classroom with their qualified, licensed, professional teachers“, spokeswoman Lida Alikhani said in an email.
Instead of complaining about stranded costs, districts should be anxious about the students who choose charters to avoid being “stranded” in failing public schools. In traditional public schools, just 8 percent fit that bill. Schools like Eugenio Maria de Hostos Charter and True North Rochester Preparatory Charter School simply blew away the district schools’ results. We welcome the day when all public schools are serving their children and families, and test scores aren’t in the single digits. Yet, despite the fact that the typical school year is only 180 days (or about 20-25 percent shorter than the typical work year in other industries), teachers in traditional public schools are entitled to an average of twelve sick and personal days.
“When people are in their 50s or 60s or 70s, they are more likely to have health issues than normally healthy people in their 20s”, said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. The rate of chronic absenteeism in charter schools past year was about 7 percent, the department said.
In a follow-up interview, Griffith defended his findings, but acknowledged that the study could have included more context.
“We could have controlled for a lot of things, right?”
“Teachers are human, they’re going to respond to incentives like anyone else does”, Griffith said.
The Fordham report also didn’t delve into the issue of teacher turnover, which is higher in the charter sector.
But, that’s an example of a fact that can be overblown by traditional public school advocates – as, in recent years, the turnover rates for the different sectors have significantly narrowed.
Carter said a variety of factors could help explain differences in the absence rate of traditional and charter school teachers. Utah had the lowest rate, at around 17 percent. “It’s like comparing a small shop to IBM”, she said.
“The challenge for me is: How do we build a system that recognizes that it’s tough to educate children, especially children in extraordinarily stressed families”, she said, “and create schools that have enough adults that can fill in when an adult is burned out or an adult is unable to be there because of a birth, a death, a family emergency or an illness”.