A recent study shows that it is well within the power of districts to reduce teacher absenteeism. Researcher Brian Jacob examined rates of teacher absence before and after the Chicago Public Schools made it much easier for principals to fire probationary teachers.
Jacobs found that probationary teachers were less inclined to take a day off, and that even tenured teachers were absent less often. He also found some evidence that reduction in teacher absences improved test scores for elementary school students.
In a September 27, 2007 article we discussed evidence that student achievement decreases when teachers are absent, and that school culture can affect how often teachers take leave. Districts take a variety of approaches toward the amount of leave given teachers and the rules governing it: Jacob's work reinforces that the right leave policy can reduce the number of times that teachers are out of the classroom. Requiring teachers to contact their principal when they are absent, instead of using a more anonymous call-in system, has been shown to reduce absence rates.
Similarly, in our just-released report on Boston's teacher human capital policies, NCTQ found that teachers who have been placed in remediation take twice as much leave as other teachers, probably because the teacher contract stipulates that the remediation timeline must stop any time the teacher is absent.