- The use of low-cost teacher incentive strategies and improving of school work environment has increased teacher attendance at Muhlenberg South Middle School in Greenville, KY, 57% and reduced student disciplinary issues by two-thirds over a two-year span, District Administration reports.
- Other schools have improved teacher attendance through strategies such as tracking employee absences more closely and sharing that data with employees, having school leaders set a better example by coming in early and staying late, having employees' excuses for tardiness and school absences go directly to principals rather than to school secretaries, changing the paid time off structure and eliminating black-out dates around holidays.
- Administrators also need to keep the lines of communication regarding absences open in order to seek better solutions and improve school substitution policies, such as hiring a full-time “guest teacher,” so that students have more consistent replacements when teacher absences occur, according to the article.
While much attention has been paid to the effect chronic student absenteeism has on student achievement, chronic teacher absenteeism is nearly as big an issue in many areas. In 2016, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights estimated that 27% of teachers in the nation are chronically absent, missing more than 10 days of regular classroom instruction.
These missed days are costly to school districts as they struggle to provide and pay enough substitute teachers to meet the demand. For some school districts, this substitute pay accounts for at least 1% of the entire school district budget. However, the cost can also be measured in terms of lost student achievement. The National Bureau of Economic Research states that the effects of a teacher missing 10 school days is similar to the difference between the impact of a first-year teacher and a teacher with at least three years of experience.
Some teacher absences, such as those caused by illness, cannot be prevented. However, there are ways school leaders can improve teacher attendance. For instance, allowing teachers to accrue sick days, rather than lose them at the end of the year, can encourage attendance. Creating a more positive school culture and environment can also relieve stress and encourage attendance. And some schools are trying a four-day work week as an alternative that allows teachers more free time. There are also a wide range of incentives that can spur teacher attendance rates as well. The cost of these incentives varies greatly, however, most are far less expensive than the cost of a substitute or the cost of lost teaching opportunities.