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Rochester teachers were absent an average of 17 days a year, according to a recent op-ed in a local paper. The piece, written by the director of a local parent group and a former Rochester school board member, says teacher absences must be curbed in order to improve student performance.

NCTQ has had the issue of teacher absences on our radar for some time. In our brief, A Closer Look at Teacher Leave Benefits, we found that about one-third of the 114 large school districts we track in our Tr3 database give teachers 15 or more leave days for illness or personal reasons.  By comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has determined that professional private-sector workers get an average of 11 sick days a year.

However, even if a district's average number of teacher absences is seen as a problem, limiting leave is just a first step to a solution. The real task is creating a culture of good attendance in which both teachers and administrators see the importance of having teachers in their classrooms and teaching their students, day in and day out.  For example, to help create this culture teachers might be asked to include a call to a principal when arranging for an absence instead of just reporting to an automated system.  A culture is also build if administrators are encouraged to schedule professional development on days when schools are not in session. Along with setting reasonable leave limits, small changes like these can go a long way towards creating a culture of good attendance.

Ginger Moored