Taking roll on teacher attendance

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“Bueller . . . . Bueller . . . . Bueller . . .”

Most of us are familiar with the classic “roll call” scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but did you ever stop to think what would have happened if Ben Stein’s teacher character had taken the day off, too?

Talking about teacher attendance feels a little like bringing up religion at the Thanksgiving table- it’s a sensitive topic that people have opinions about. Teachers have a job unlike most and more often than not, they work long past the scheduled hours of the typical school day. Of course they need a day off from time to time. But bringing up teacher attendance may mean implying that some teachers are absent more than what is acceptable; and that is a conversation that unnerves even the most stalwart teacher quality advocates.

Given that teacher attendance directly impacts student achievement, shouldn’t this be a topic policy, district and school leaders talk about? We think so.

Today, NCTQ released its first study on this topic, Roll call: The importance of teacher attendance. Using data from the 2012-2013 school year, we examined teacher attendance rates for over 230,000 teachers in 40 districts across the country.

Some districts stood out above the crowd, while others are clearly behind the curve. Overall, teacher attendance was a mixed bag for the districts in our study – teachers were in their classrooms vast majority of the time, but groups of frequently and chronically absent teachers that exist in every district unquestionably merit attention.

It’s clear this is an area where all school districts should roll up their sleeves and get to work. It may be uncomfortable to talk about, but the fact remains: teacher attendance matters. After all, no matter how much effort we pour into increasing teacher quality, it won’t matter much if teachers aren’t in their classrooms.